Fix My Thoughts, part 1 – Pastor David Welch
Updated: Jan 18
August 21, 2022
20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Ephesians 4:20–24 (NASB)
It’s possible to fix the most broken things in you – by fixing the ingrained thoughts that drain you and damage you every day.
If you fix your thoughts, you fix your life.
This is a promise embedded in the gospel.
Three Beginning Insights:
I. Your Thoughts Shape Your Life
and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
II. Your Mind Can Become New
and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
III. It Means: Deep Change Is Possible
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
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Fix my thoughts… your thoughts shape your life… your life grows out of how you think. Literally, you become your most repetitive thoughts. My problem and yours too, is that a lot of our thinking needs to be repaired, we need a way to fix our thoughts. And there is a way, this is how God can repair our thinking, and renew our minds and transform our whole lives
Hey, I want to add my welcome you. Welcome, I'm so grateful that you're a part of this experience, because God is doing some incredible things today, you know, we're in four Sunday morning worship services and in every environment, God has been moving. And I'm grateful that you're a part of that. So, if you're new to Bear Creek, welcome. And we hope that we can be a family; a family to you. And so, something important is going to happen near the conclusion of the service, I just kind of want to alert you to it. Today is back to school Sunday. And it just means so much. One of the things that means we're just launching so much ministry today, and then in the next few weeks, it's how our year begins. And so, we just think God is going to do great things in the months ahead. So, that's one thing that the day means, but also, back to school Sunday for us, we just want the chance to pray over our students, our parents, and educators that are in the life of our fellowship. So, near the end, we're going to call our sixth through 12th graders into this space here. And so, they're going to come over; a portion that meets at 9:30 and another portion meets at 11:00. And so that second portion is going to come in and we're going to call for parents and educators to come and we're going to declare God's faithfulness over us for this year, and then we're going to pray for that. And so, I think it's going to be a powerful moment. And I hope that you will be ready for that.
But let's turn now to the Word of God. There is nothing more supernatural than the Word of God; it speaks into our lives. And so, we're making this turn to a brand-new teaching series today. And honestly, it just keeps following what God has been doing. As you know, for the past several months, we did a series called “Our Real Enemies,” It was all about spiritual warfare: who our enemies are, how we do warfare, and utilizing God's power and weapons He’s provided in that warfare. And I think it was with some supernatural expression, that we saw God do some stuff. And this new series just flows out of that last series. Because this series is going to describe where the battle is, where the battle lies, and how to win that battle; the spiritual battles that we face over and over and over. That battle is the battle for the mind. And so, we're going to spend some weeks working our way through that.
So, it's a new series today called “Fix my Thoughts.” And here's what, here's just what I've discovered about me. The reason I need this series is because of what I know about me. And what I know about me is that the stuff that's wrong in me. I mean the stuff that hurts me most, that stresses me out the most, the stuff that drains the joy out of me, or whatever it is, that makes me make really dumb decisions, the stuff that that gives me my worst tendencies that discourage me most. Here's what I have learned: none of them come from outside of me; they all originate within me. They're there because of why? Because of how I think, or what I think. They're there because of my thoughts. And so, it turns out that my own thoughts can do real damage in me, and the slightly scarier thing is that is that I'm mostly not even conscious of it while it is going on. And maybe for you, that's true for you, too. Maybe if you are having an honest moment and you're saying, “Yeah, me too.” It can be compared this way: I think there is this like barely conscious podcast that plays in your mind, over and over every day, it’s just barely conscious. There are multiple episodes, there are three or five or seven episodes, they're like, pretty short, but they play. Just as things happen in your day, these podcasts just sort of play in your mind, just below the conscious level. For instance, when your boss, or your team leader calls you and he just sort of says sort of curtly says, “Hey, I need to meet with you later today, and then he hangs up the phone. And what happens to you, the first episode of the podcast begins to play in you, “It's going to be bad. They're going to tell me that I'm not getting the job done. And, just like my dad told me over and over when I was a kid, I'm never going to amount to much because I'm too lazy, or I'm not very smart. And so, what's the use of even trying at this job?” And then you meet, and they want to review really boring liability policies for your company. And what did you do? You just wasted a portion of your life. Your own thoughts wasted your day, your own thoughts drained you, your own thoughts just more deeply ingrained in you that you're something that you are not. It's the podcast that plays just right below the surface of the conscious, your conscious thinking, except it’s repeated over and over. Those thoughts build neural pathways in your brain, and they become strong; they become the only way you think about yourself. That's the power of your negative thinking, and what happens, your identity is formed, that identity is formed in you. That doesn't mean that it is even true about you. But you're making it true by how you think. And then episode two plays, about how unlovable you are. And then episode three plays about the excuses and justifications that you have your out-of-control debt that you're letting pile up or how justified you are when you’re out of control with anger. These podcasts play over and over and over every day. Maybe, it turns out the most important thing you could do to fix what is wrong inside of you, is to fix your thoughts; to fix how you think.
And so that's what this series is, it's going to be nuts and bolts, the details for how to do that. And I promise you it's not going to be empty. It's not going to be evaporating cotton candy. Sacred Scripture shows us that God gives you the ability to significantly change the way your mind operates. It's powerful. And if you can change your mind, if you can change the way you think, you can change the way that you live, you can change the way that you experience life. That is a large part of what the gospel is. It's about how deeply change can come into your life. Because what is the gospel? The gospel is this: that Christ came into our experience as God, he came in flesh in order to break the bondages in our life. He came to break the bondage of sin, to break the bondage of what debt can do, to break the bondage of all of the lies that the devil pours into your lives, to break the bondage of all of that, and to give you brand new life, and that life is changed. It's transformational. It's not easy, not effortless, not conveniently delivered to your heart or mind’s door like an Amazon package but it’s possible. So, there's some research out there, that I read a while ago; that the vast, majority of people in our culture who want to change something significant in their life, never achieve it. That percentage is about 92% who want to change something significant in their life, but they never achieve it. And the researchers know why; they fail because they don't believe they have the inner strength to do it. Simply, they think they're too weak. Can I tell you that the Bible says? It says that God gives strength to the weary and to him who lacks might he increases power, which is a part of what it means to even know Him, to relate to him, and to experience Him; it is to experience His power for change. I know for some of us, we've been challenged over and over, and nothing has happened. But I'm just asking, would you risk opening your heart and your mind to believing that you could change in a really meaningful way? Can you just be open to it?
I want to show you your capacity, I want to show you your potential. I want to show you what you're capable of. And it's found in an explanation of what the gospel does to you in Ephesians 4, and it has to do with how to change the way you think. And so, listen to Ephesians 4, it's going to start in verse 20. This is the supernatural Word of God. And so, the Bible says, “But you did not learn Christ in this way.” That's thinking, that's a mental issue. “You didn't learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard him and have been taught in him.” That's an issue of the mind. “Just as the truth is in Jesus,” verse 20, “that in reference to your former matter of life, you lay aside the old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit.” Let’s say it's simpler, “the desires of lies, lying desires,” verse 23, the core of it all, and “that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind”, verse 24, “and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God, (which is like God, which in the likeness of God) has been created in righteousness and holiness, of the truth. And so, this is the word of God, it speaks with power. Look at what it is literally saying about the experience you can have in your inner life, that you can lay aside the old self, your old self. What that's describing is an identity, an old self is an old identity, you can lay it aside, the old way of seeing yourself, the old way of thinking, feeling, and choosing, that's an identity. And you can put on a new way of seeing yourself using a new way of thinking, a new way of feeling and choosing, that is a new identity. How - verse 23, by being renewed, in the spirit of your mind, that's what this whole series is going to roll out.
And so, I want to give you a big idea, this sort of describes the whole series, here it is in one big idea, and that is that it's possible to fix the most broken things in you. How is that possible? How do you do that by fixing the ingrained thoughts that drain you and damage you every day. If you want a shorter big idea than that you can walk out with; it is this: If you fix your thoughts, you can fix your life. It's a promise embedded in the Gospel. And we're going to work that out over the next few weeks. And look, this comes into your life, this transformation comes into your life, not all at once, not in one easy and convenient step but over time, believing not giving up, God can do some miraculous things inside of you. And so today, I just want to introduce it. Today is introduction, right? It is “Fix your thoughts meet Bear Creek, Bear Creek meet, fix your thoughts.” That's just introduction.
For how we start for you to start this process in your life, you start with some insights that you believe; you’ve got to start with some believable things. And I want to lay them out for you and just let you grapple with them. Because in order for this to happen, to fix your thoughts, number one, you have to believe that your thoughts shape your life. Now every major theologian and every major philosopher, they've all already said this. Just by observation, you can see it and feel it. That your thoughts shape your life. That's what's happening in the flow of these three verses, as you just walk through the three verses, you can just see this clearly. what I think shapes everything about me. And so, let's start even more basic: where do your thoughts occur? Not a trick question, not a hard answer, your thoughts are produced by your mind. But your mind and your brain are not the same thing. Your mind is your thoughts, your feelings, and your choosing. I will say that a few times, and I want you to carry that definition out of out of here: your mind is your thoughts, your feelings, and your choosing. And ultimately, your thoughts, your feelings and your choosing produce an identity, a way that you think about yourself a way then that you present yourself, a way that you live your life. And so, it's obvious in the contrast here of this passage, that the Bible is making a really severe contrast. In fact, here's what I want you to see. I want you to listen for an old self, a new self, and the difference between the two. And so, look, verse 22, that in reference to your former manner of life, that you lay aside the old self; do you know what the old self is? It's an identity. It's an old identity, it's your identity before you embraced Christ. It was formed by what you thought, felt, and chose to do in the past. And so, your identity was shaped by your old mind, shaped by what you had come to believe that was true, that was most important to you, you came to believe that the way you get what you really want, is you selfishly take it, and you don't really think about how it affects others. It's an old identity, an old way to think you came to believe that filling up all your broken desires, satisfying all your broken desires, is the way to fill the emptiness in you. And so, it comes with all its consequences. That is an old way of thinking, by an old mind that creates an old identity. But then Christ comes into your life, look at verse 24, from 22, now to 24, there is a new self, “put on the new self”, there's a new self, a new identity that is formed in you by learning Christ. By putting your faith in Him as the leader, the Lord of your life. By accepting all that he gives you, he pours grace into you. His grace and his mercy, to forgive you of all of your foul ups, all of the selfish stuff you've done, and to bring brand new life into your supernaturally. How: through your spirit, and in Christ putting his life in you by the presence of the Holy Spirit. And so, there's an old self, there is a new self. And then there's the difference between the two. In between the old way of thinking and feeling and choosing, and the new way of thinking, feeling, and choosing is verse 23. And in verse 23, is the step, the process, the movement from old self to new self. What is it in verse 23, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind? This is how you're transformed. And so, the point is pretty clear, that this is at a spiritual level; Paul calls it the spirit of your mind. In fact, neuroscientists are pretty puzzled about the human mind. There are all kinds of opinions. But it's a mystery to most serious scientists who look at it because we've got, they've got these incredible tools, the new generation of MRIs, and all kinds, all levels of brain scans. And so, they can see your brain, they can see neurons, they can see electrical impulses firing, but there is this energy that moves around the brain. When the tester says think about something depressing, think about something happy, think about something joyful, and suddenly, energy moves around like at quantum levels in your brain, and nobody has an explanation for that.
That is the spirit of your mind. So, your mind is your thinking, feeling, and choosing, but that's not your brain. Your brain is just the housing and so the point is this process is a supernatural process, the grammar tells you that “and be renewed.” When Christ comes into your life, you get an endowment, you get an ability, you get a capability. And that capability is for your mind to be renewed by embracing. And how do you do it? Here's how you do it, you embrace thoughts. You embrace God's Word, the thoughts, life giving thoughts that flow out of His Word into your life. You embrace the teachings of Jesus, the thoughts of Jesus, and the truth that's in them. These thoughts change you, in an incredible way; his thoughts can change your thoughts. And if your thoughts are changed, then they change your character. And they can change your ability to experience joy, peace, or hope. They can change your ability and capacity to love and be loved. And where's the root of all of that? Key insight: where's the root of all of that change is in the repetitive thoughts that begin to take over your mind. There's the power of it. And there's the principal, how you think, over time, shapes your life, they will come to define your thoughts will come to define who you are. And so, the beginning insight, the first insight in order to in order to move in this is to believe that your thoughts shape your life.
But there's a second insight. And the second insight is this, your mind itself can be made new. It's crucial to believe, to realize that your mind can become new. And I'm going to marry some spiritual principle here to some neuroscience. And so, in verse 23, it says that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind. So, look, here's what neuroscientists know; a thought is a real physical thing that occupies real space in your brain. I don't know if you can wrap your brain around that. Do you realize that neuroscientists know that a thought is a real physical thing that occupies mental real estate in your brain? How do they know it? They've seen it a repeated thought, one that you go over and over and over and over actually builds a physical structure in your brain. I can show that to you. Take a look at this image. That's, a Golgi stain from a slide slice of the brain. Just a little tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny little sliver of it. And do you see those structures? Do you see those tree-like structures? You know what those are? Those are neurons. And out at the end of those neurons are the dendrites. And this is what should be astounding to you. Do you know how they are made? By your thoughts, a thought repeated over and over and over and over builds a structure in your brain. And so, in the tree like structure is knowledge, concepts, and experiences. The dendrites up above, scientists know they know that memories are stored in the tops of those dendrites. I have very distinct thoughts about wasps. I've got really distinct thoughts. I'm telling you I got a tree in my brain that's dedicated to wasps. I’ve got a lot of knowledge and a lot of concepts about them. I've noticed this was unconscious to me. I just noticed the other day. I have Wasp spray in every convenient place at my house. I can turn at any given moment and grab a can of wasp spray. There's reason for that. When I was six years old, I was dumb as a stick, and I took a stick, and I opened a little box on the back of our little farmhouse. I grew up on the farm as you know. Twelve times, I should have died but opened I there was a big wasp nest there and I didn't want it there. So, I took a stick, and I jammed it in there. I got tagged multiple times on my face and lips. My lips swelled up so gigantically, I couldn't talk. And my brothers were merciless. I mean, they laughed, they laughed at me for a week. I have a very strong tree in my brain that's labeled wasps.
Every significant thought, every repeated thought in your brain builds real estate. And so, it is the natural place that your thoughts go. And so, look, here's what's incredible. Listen, this should be the most incredible insight to you. God has given you the ability to direct that process. You can build up thought process, and you can tear them down; you can build up better ones in their place. God's given you that endowment. And this is the full participation you have in the making of your mind, your thinking, feeling, and choosing are shaping, pruning, and building your life. And the more you pay attention to it, the more you work to guide it, the fiercer you are about confronting the lies that you tell yourself, (the more you confront your own negativity, the more that you tell yourself the truth about your habits, maybe about how angry or envious you are, how petty you are. Do you get the picture? You'll need to keep going.) then the more control you take over your own thoughts, and the more you fix what is broken, or toxic inside of you. And so, we look at the word “renew” in verse 23; to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind”, it means to make something new again, in the spirit of your mind, where your mind intersects your soul. The Spirit of God can give you the ability to abandon the old trees, the old thought trees. A core part of the Gospel is that you're given this endowment to plant new ones that are full of truth, love, goodness, and purity and that in your mind, your thinking can be completely transformed, by having the thoughts of Christ grow up in you. It's a supernatural reality, that God gives you a new thinking power. And that's Insight number two.
If something significant is going to happen in fixing your thoughts, it's going to come with these first three insights. And that is that is you’ve got to believe that your thoughts shape your life, and you’ve got to believe that your mind can be made new again. But there's a third insight. It's like if therefore if this is true, and if that is true, then this is true. And what is it number three? It means that deep change is possible. Look at II Timothy 1:7 (We hear this verse often, but we don't fully engage it) It just says For God has not given us a spirit of timidity. But of power and love and discipline. That word for discipline is a hard word to translate, it's translated like all over the place on the spectrum in the translation, it's a hard word to translate. Literally, if you were to just break the word down, it has the word mind in it and it has the word save in it. If you just say it really literally, it means saving the mind. And so, he's given us this spirit, that's not timid and fearful, but it is powerful, it's full of love, and it can save our minds. The Spirit can save our minds, it can tear out the stuff that damages us and build brand-new, life-giving thoughts. Do you know what it means? It means that you can be transformed from the inside out, everything you think, everything you feel everything you choose can be made brand new. Do you know what that will produce? A new identity. And it can be true in you and I'm going to call on us to just deal with that in this moment.
I'm going to ask us to bow together; could we bow together? Because I want you to turn this inward. I want you to turn this inward. Would you do some internal work right now on just the first step, just some internal work? Would you be willing to identify the thought or the thought processes, or the mindset that's in you right now that you wish could be scrubbed from your heart and mind? Here's the first part of the work. Would you just begin believing that it's possible to kill that tree and to raise up a new one? But look, be specific: label it; say what it is. Is it your anxious thinking? Is it the discouraging thoughts that you just return to over and over? For you is it anger? Is it just the excuses you build up in your brain for how angry you let yourself become, or irritation? Is it thoughts that excuse a harmful habit that has crept into your life and now it's taken over? Maybe something that has grown into your character; maybe a cynical attitude or a negative way of seeing everything? I just want you to know that God has given you an endowment by His power, that you can change it. Not instantly, not all at once. But over time, as you confront it, there is a spiritual power in you that can slowly make that thought tree wither. And a brand new one can be built up by the power of a new life that God has placed in you. You can be changed. And God, I want to pray; I just want to pray for my life. That the stuff that I've identified before you, God that you will just do the work in me, help me focus, help me cooperate, helped me scrub. And God help me build a brand-new way of thinking. And we pray that now in Jesus’ name, amen. Amen.