This is the second of a four-part series about winning the biggest battle we all face in one way or another – the one in our minds.
The reality we each personally experience is one largely constructed by the filters in our minds, the thoughts we are stuck on.
It can be a truly horrific, terror-inducing nightmare.
But we are meant to be FREE, and this sermon series from Craig Groeschel of Life Church is a practical resource to help us realize and live in that freedom.
He’s also written a book, Winning the War in Your Mind – Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life
(Transcription below video.)
We’re talking about winning the war in your mind. And I want to start with one of the most important scriptures from God’s Word on this subject. The apostle Paul said in Romans chapter 12, verse 2, he said this, he said, do not conform to the pattern of this world. Don’t think like the world thinks. Don’t act like the world acts. Don’t behave like the world behaves, do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed, be renewed, be changed, and how are we transformed? He said, by let’s say it aloud by the renewing of your mind, we’re talking about winning the war in your mind. And I don’t know about you all. But I’ve been making some really dumb and irrational decisions lately. Have any of you done something similar? I just think making irrational decisions. You want me to tell you about one, you want to hear a little story that would embarrass me? So recently, Amy asked me on the weekend, what would you like to do today? And I said, I want to do two things. I want to go to church and one of the services I wasn’t preaching and let’s go to church, like regular people, and I want to go for a walk, let’s go to church, and I want to go for a walk. And she said, Great. Well, because our daughters are popping out babies like popcorn, she went over to see a couple of grandbabies. And she came back from Mandy’s house, her daughter, and she got home 15 minutes before church started. Well, our house is only 10 minutes away from church and she said, Let’s get ready to go to church and for some stupid reason. I decided it was too late to go to church. And she said, Well, if we leave now we can be five minutes early. But I dug my feet in double down on my stupidity and said, No, it’s too late to go to church. For a few minutes, we argued until we still could have left and been there on time. But I drug the argument out for a full 20 minutes until I was finally right. And it was too late to go to church. So Amy said I can’t take your irrationalities she said I’m going for a walk by myself. So the only thing I wanted was to go to church, go for a walk. And for some stupid reason, my brain misfired and I ended up self destructing in a very, very stupid moment. Do any of you ever do that? Maybe you like you want to be nice to your spouse, and you’re trying to make up and the next thing you know, you’re yelling, or you want to save money. But instead you go shopping. You want to trust God with something, but instead you just worry and you worry, and you worry? And it makes me wonder sometimes why is it that we want one thing but we decide to do something completely different? Why do we behave so irrationally? I want to try to answer that question today with a story or illustration that might give you a visual of why in our minds, we often make very irrational decisions. I’ll tell you about my very first car. If you’ve been here for a while you may have heard about the turbo coupe. It was a 1979 Buick Century. And I’ll show you the one on the left is me looking rather too small to play football, with my Ardmore Tigers sign on it. The one on the right is my sister. If you look down in the very left hand corner, you can see the eagle that looks like it’s flying. The one in the middle is not actually my car. But that’s exactly what it looked like with a spoiler and all so needless to say, at the age of 17 in Ardmore, Oklahoma, it was impossible to be cool in a car that said turbo coupe on the back and looked like that. So with great challenges against me, I decided to do my best to up my car game. And I could control the stereo system. So I bought a very high end used Alpine stereo system. Some of you know what I’m talking about. And you can almost hear the police a little audio Speedwagon, some Eagles or some outfield thumping right now with some Def Leppard on play next, okay, I put in I couldn’t afford to have it professionally installed because I spent all my money on it. So I installed the stereo myself, which was obviously a mistake. I didn’t know how to do it. It took me all day long. It was well into the evening, before I finally had to even turn on the lights of my car just to see what I was doing. And the stereo finally started to play Glory to God. All things are possible even with me, okay. The next day, I got up to drive my car to school and the stereo wasn’t working. I was devastated. Where is my REO Speedwagon? Oddly enough, the next evening when I was driving home, my stereo was magically working again. I was so confused. The next day, it didn’t work. The next evening it did. This went on day after day after day, I was so confused. Many of you have already figured out the problem because you’re much more intelligent than I am. Why was it that it was behaving so irrationally, it’s because I had the wires crossed. I had mistakenly wired my high end use Alpine stereo, to the power of the headlights, and had not wired it to the proper place. So therefore, every time that the headlights were on, my stereo would work. Honest to goodness, honest to goodness, my mom will tell you this. For the remainder of the car, I drove around with my headlights on all during the day, enjoying my music. Why is it that we behave so irrationally? So often? The reason is, because in our minds, we often have the wires crossed. If you were with us, last week, we talked about the neural pathways that take place in our brain. In other words, every time you think a thought, you’re creating a new pattern of thought, or a new pathway, almost like a mental trail, in your mind, your experiences or your thoughts are wiring or programming your brain.
For example, it starts even very young, if a little baby smiles, and the mom smiles back and says googoo gaga, the baby’s brain creates a little pathway, that says smiling is good. If the baby touches something hot, the hot stove, and the body feels pain, the baby’s brain creates a pathway that says hot stoves bad.
If the baby wants a sucker, and says, I want soccer, and mom says no shocker, and the baby starts to cry, and the mom gives the baby a sucker. The baby’s brain says crying gets me a sucker. And that’s why some of you moms are the sucker right now. Right? Here’s what happens, when we think of thought our brain is creating new neural pathways. And the more we think, a thought, the easier it is to think that thought again, the more dominant that thought becomes, which is really good news, when we’re thinking on truth. But it’s incredibly bad news when so many of us are believing the lies. Why do we behave so irrationally? Many times, we have the wires in our mind crossed.
Let’s review some thoughts from the previous week. What do we know about our mind? Our mind is a battlefield. And most of life’s battles are won or lost in the mind. We looked last week at the powerful scripture from 2nd Corinthians chapter 10. I’ll summarize it for you. When the Apostle Paul said this, he said that we live in a world but we do not wage war as the world does. As followers of Christ, we have spiritual weapons, and they are not the same weapons of this world. Our weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds. What is a stronghold? It’s a wrong pattern of thinking. It’s a place where the wires in our brain have been crossed. Therefore, we demolish arguments, and every pretension, every wrongly crossed wire that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. And we take captive every thought, and make it obedient to Christ. Why does every thought matter? It matters because your life is always moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts. What comes into your mind tends to come out in your life. You cannot have a positive life when you have a negative mind. When the wires are crossed, if you don’t control what you think, you’ll never be able to control what you do. So today, we’re going to create some tools. And in the upcoming weeks, we’re going to build upon these tools. And what I want to do is talk to you about how do you train your minds? I’m guessing that a lot of you probably haven’t ever thought about training your mind, you might have thought about training your dog. You might have thought about training your body. And thinking of training your body actually can be a good leap to training your mind. For example, for years, I thought that training your body was all about exercise, you know where to run, where to jump. We’re gonna do push ups sit ups, we’re gonna do kettlebells I thought it was about what you would do with your body. But when I was about 40 eating anything that I wanted, I discovered that training isn’t just about what you do with it, it’s also what you put into it. This is such a good illustration of the mind. It’s not just on how we’ve been thinking, but it’s also what we pour into our mind that can either train our mind to continue believing the wrong thing, or we can train our minds with truth. It’s not just what you do with it. It’s also what you put in it. And I want to show you the Apostle Paul, whom I love, because you can watch the progression in his life and ministry, as he started to renew his mind. In fact, we’re gonna look at Philippians chapter four. We’re gonna start in verse eight. And to give you context, the apostle Paul was writing this from a Roman prison, he was locked up on house arrest, not an ideal situation, in fact, a very terrifying place to be awaiting possible execution. This was kind of like, worst case scenario. And here’s what he said. He said it now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing, and let me tell you what he didn’t say. He didn’t say, God led me down, which he could have thought that he didn’t say, I can’t go on with life. He didn’t say things couldn’t get any worse than this. No, he said this. He said, One final thing from a Roman prison. He said, fix your thoughts. Somebody say fixed your thoughts. Put that in the chat. If you’re watching the line, put it in the chat fix your thoughts, I’m fixing my thoughts. He said fixed your thoughts on what is true. Fix your thoughts on what is honorable, fix your thoughts on what is right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. He didn’t say fix your thoughts on worst case scenario, on what you hate, on what you’re afraid of, and what could go wrong, but fix your mind on what is good. He said, think about things that are excellent, and worthy of praise. I like the way the New King James Version translated the same verse. And the translators translated this way, if there is any virtue and if there’s anything praiseworthy, what do we do? Say it aloud. We meditate on these things. we meditate. Now, wait a minute, isn’t meditation, some kind of new age, you know, spooky, like become one with the universe cross your legs om, you know? Isn’t that what meditation is? Well, that can be meditation. But I want to give you another definition of meditation. And I want to show you show you just how scriptural and healthy the right kind of meditation can be. What is a definition of meditation? A simple definition is this, to engage in mental exercise, to focus one’s thoughts. It’s just to focus. In fact, if you look at scripture, there are many examples of godly people meditating on the things that are true and lovely and admirable and excellent. Meditating on the power of God’s Word. In fact, the psalmist in Psalm 119, verse 15, of God says this, I meditate, God, on your precepts, and consider your ways. In other words, I’m focusing my mind, God, on your truth, I’m training my mind to see your truth. Psalm 143, verse five, says, I meditate, God, on all your works, and consider what your hands have done. I like this, that eastern meditation may have a different focus. I’ve been told that oftentimes in eastern meditation, you empty your mind, and you try to focus on nothing and get into a state of calm and such. But Christian meditation isn’t emptying your mind, instead, it’s filling your mind with truth. It’s fixing your mind. It’s, it’s training it. And over the past few years, even working with a counselor, I’ve been on a journey, to learn to focus and fix my mind. One of the highest priorities in my own personal spiritual development is learning to focus my mind because focus is a skill. In fact, to quote the great theologian Jackie Chan, he said in the remake of the movie Karate Kid, which I’m sorry, but doesn’t live up to Mr. Miyagi and Ralph Marciano and Cobra Kai season one, two, and three. No Mercy sweep the live anyway, Jackie Chan said your focus needs what? More focus. Some of you if I can just say to you right now, your focus needs more focus. Your mind needs to uncross the wires that have been programmed to believe something that’s not true. And you need to focus on what is true. Fix your minds on the things of God because when our mind drifts… And I don’t know about you, but my mind can drift very quickly. It generally doesn’t drift to that which is true. It generally drifts to my own insecurities, my own fears, that my worst case scenarios and the lies that the devil’s been telling me about myself for years, you’re never going to be good enough. You’re incapable. You should be ashamed after what you, how could God ever use you? What we want to do is learn to meditate on truth, to focus and train our minds on God’s truth. And what I’m going to do, honestly, is give you an exercise that’s not real easy. In other words, it’s like, this isn’t something if you’ve been believing a lie, for 10 years, or 15 years or 30 years, sometimes it takes a little while to deprogram that mistruth and replace it with truth. And I’m going to give you an exercise that honestly, I believe can be a game changer in focusing on what is true. And then I’m going to show you how I’ve grown in my own thoughts and how I repeat some truth over and over and over again, to create new neural pathways to renew my mind with truth. And then I’m going to trust that the Holy Spirit’s going to do something in you. Are you ready? If you’re ready, say I’m ready? Put it in the chat right now, I’m ready, just type it in. I’m ready. The question. The first one is this first question. What stronghold is holding you back? What would you say is the top wrong mindset that’s holding you hostage? Identify where you have the wires crossed in your brain. For some of you, it could be just a lie, like you grew up in a household that struggled with finances, and you think you’re not any good with it. So you just believe we’re never gonna get out of debt. Or you might have the wires crossed and think, you know, I’ve tried for three years, and I can’t overcome this addiction. I’m just, I’m never going to be able to overcome this addiction. Or you might think of yourself, I just, I’ll never be healthy. You know, people in my family aren’t healthy. We’re just never going to be healthy. Or I’ve tried to get close to God had been close to God for like five seconds, and then my mind drifted, I’m never going to be close to God. Or I worked so hard to get ahead, but I’m never gonna have a meaningful job. I’m always going to do something stupid, and beneath me. Or I’m never gonna get married. I’m never gonna have a blessed marriage. What is the dominant stronghold where your mental wires are crossed? Where the devil has trained you with a mental pathway to believe something that is not true about you? That’s the first part of the assignment. The second part is to answer this question, what truth? What spiritual truth from God demolishes that stronghold? What is the spiritual truth that demolishes, that obliterates that stronghold? Then what we’re gonna do is we’re going to take a scriptural truth, not just a truth, but a truth that’s empowered by God’s Living Word, his active word, powerful enough to bring transformation, we’re gonna let his word renew our mind. And what I want you to do is to write out some truth, very specific, whatever it is that demolishes that stronghold in your life. And I want to encourage you to don’t just write a sentence, but think about it, meditate on it, let it be born out of God’s Word, and write the statement that creates emotional energy toward the truth of God. Then what we’re going to do is we’re going to write it or type it or whatever. And then we’re going to start thinking on it. And I’m going to encourage you to confess it until God starts to renew your mind. I would say it like this, we’re going to write it, think it, confess it, until we believe it. We’re going to write it, think it, confess it, until we believe it. It may take time we’re going to write it, think it, confess it until we believe it. We’re creating new neural pathways. God is renewing our mind with truth. Now, let me give you some examples of what yours might look like. I’ll give you several, you might be struggling to know God’s will in your life. So you’re going to create a statement that could be like this. My life belongs to God. Daily, I seek Him, and daily he directs my steps. I know His voice, and He leads me to his perfect will. You’re gonna write it, you’re thinking you say it until you believe it over and over again. You’re gonna say that my life belongs to God, daily I seek Him, and daily he directs my steps. I know His voice and he leads me to his perfect will. You may be lacking confidence. Every time you come in, you feel insecure, you feel inadequate, you feel like you’re not enough and so your statement is going to be this. My confidence is in Christ and Christ alone. Because his spirit lives within me. I can do everything he calls me to do. You’re going to write it, think it, confess it, until you believe it. You might have a struggle with fighting lustful thoughts and you’re sick and tired of being hostage to images and, and shameful ideals. And so you’re gonna let God renew your mind. You’re gonna say this over and over again. I am not a slave to lustful thoughts. Because God has purified my mind, I will honor him with my eyes and thoughts. My God is faithful. Even if I am tempted, he will always give me a way out. You’re gonna write it, you’re gonna think it, you’re gonna confess it until you believe it. You might find comfort in food. And you don’t want to do this anymore. So you’re gonna declare, when I’m stressed, I turned to God not food. I come to Jesus because He is what I need. In him I find strength and comfort. You might find yourself battling worry all the time consumed with worry, but you’re gonna write it, think it, confess it to you believe it? What is it? Because of Christ, I’m not anxious about anything. I cast my cares on God because He cares for me. I have the peace of God dwelling in my heart and ruling my mind. What are you going to do? Identify it. What is the stronghold where the wires are crossed? What is the spiritual truth that will set you free? Then you’re going to write it, think it, confess it, until you believe it. You’re creating new neural pathways according to the truth, and God is renewing your mind.
In fact, I’m going to ask it all of our campuses today, if you wouldn’t mind just standing to your feet. In a few moments, we’re going to take some time, and I’m going to give you a chance to worship. But what I want to do is I want to show you how this plays out in my life. I’m going to tell you about some of the places where I’ve had the wires crossed for years. As a child, for some reason, I always battled with thoughts of inadequacy, meaning no matter what I do, I’ve never ever felt like I’m enough. And this just haunts me. Because as a pastor, I can never get it all done. Never. There’s no I’m always letting somebody down. And when I try to bring my very, very best to the church, then guess what? I’m inadequate as a husband, and inadequate as a dad. And the moment I try to refocus to being a husband and a dad, then I’m even more than adequate to the church. And it’s a stronghold that holds me back, and fills me with ongoing guilt, and even shame. I struggle and I hate to say this, but sometimes I seem to care more about what people think and even what God thinks. And I don’t like to admit that because when I’m preaching and empowered by God, I can be really, really bold, and then I can come home with just overwhelming sense of insecurity of oh my gosh, they hate me. They don’t like me, I’m failing and I’m miserable. There are times when my priorities get out of whack. Where I work way, way, way, way, way, way, way too hard. And then I neglect and take for granted the people that are around me. There are times when I just feel incredibly discouraged, thinking I don’t know if I can come up with another message. Sometimes you say haven’t you preached that before? Yes. It’s been 25 years. Yeah, it’s like doing a book report on the same book every week. It’s the Bible. Again, still born of a virgin this year, Christmas again, you know, it’s like Hey, can I can I feel inadequate? How can I creatively express something in an interesting way that would engage people and transform lives an I battle with deep feelings of inadequacy? So what I’ve done with the help of my counselor and Amy and years developing some declarations is I have some truth that’s renewing my mind. And this isn’t the whole list cuz I don’t want to bore you. But the whole list is in the book, winning the war in your mind. And I’ll tell you, what I declare, and I don’t do this daily I did for years and years now. It’s I do it when I need it. And it’s deep in my heart. But my declarations that I’ve said now for probably I’d say four years, goes like this. This is this is the truth. This is the truth. This this is what God is using. To renew my mind. This is what I need to uncross the wires and live according to His truth. I declare, Jesus is first in my life. I exist to serve and glorify Him. I love my wife and will lay down my life to serve her. My children will love God and serve him with their whole hearts. I will nurture equipped train and empower them to do more for the kingdom than they ever thought possible. I love people and believe the best about others. I am disciplined. Christ in me is stronger than the wrong desires in me. I am growing closer to Jesus every day. Because of Christ, my family is closer, my body is stronger, my faith is deeper, and my leadership is sharper. I am creative, innovative, driven, focused and blessed beyond measure, because the Holy Spirit dwells within me. I develop leaders, this is not something I do. It’s who I am. I bring my best and then some. It’s what I do after I bring my best that makes the difference. And I declare this and believe it to be true, that the world will be different and better because I served Jesus today. Write it. Think it. Confess it. Until you believe it. Why does this matter? Because your life is always moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you’ll never control what you do. Take back your mind. Meditate on truth. Fix your mind on what is true and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy, meditate on such things focus your mind on the truth. What are you going to do? Identify whatever mental struggle wherever you have the wires crossed, and identify the truth that completely sets you free. Write it, think it, confess it, until you believe it. Write it, think it, confess it, until you believe it. And as followers of Jesus, what will we not do? We will not be conformed to the patterns of this world. But we will be transformed how? Listen, not by trying harder. Not by being smarter. Not by more personal effort, but by the renewing of our minds. And what is the greatest power to overcome the lies? It is the truth of Jesus. And he said and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So Father, today we ask that by the power of the risen Christ, and by the truth of your inspired word, that you would renew our minds with truth. And all of our churches and those of you watching online, team LC all over the world. Those of you who would say, I want God to renew, I want him to uncross the wires and in some area of my life, renew it with truth would you lift up your hand right now just lift up your hands, you can type it in the chat, God renew my mind. Just type it in the chat, God renew my mind. As your hands are lifted in you’re in an attitude of prayer. Father, I just pray that you would give us clarity of whatever lie that we’ve wrongly believed. God, I know for some people, it’s hard to identify the lie because we don’t even know it’s a lie. God help us to identify that. And then God give us scripture, your truth and a declaration that would renew our mind with your truth. God I know this may take weeks, months, even years for some to renew their minds. But God, we believe for some this will be a breakthrough. God, renew our minds with truth, that we could live according to your perfect will, and show your love and all that we do. God, we thank you in advance that the devil is defeated, that you have risen from the dead, and that you’re going to renew our minds with truth. As you keep praying today at all of our different churches, there are those of you that you may feel like you’re far from God. You don’t know where you stand with God. Maybe in your mind, you feel like you’ve been way too bad for God. How can he love someone like you? Let me tell you about the truth about the truth of God’s love the truth of God’s love, the truth of God’s love, the truth of God’s love. God loves you so much. That’s true. And there’s nothing you can do to earn his love more and there’s nothing you could do that he would cause me to love you last he just loves you period so much that He sent His perfect son, Jesus, born of a virgin when you never sent. Jesus gave his life for the forgiveness of your sins, and our God raised Him from the dead so that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on his name, your sins would be forgiven and you would be completely saved. Those of you online or if you’re watching at one of our Life church locations today, those who say I need his grace, I need his forgiveness. When you call on his name, he hears your prayers. He forgives your sins, and in a moment he makes you knew in a moment your sins are forgiven, in a moment you can be filled with the Spirit of God. All of our churches, those who say, yes, Jesus, I need your grace. Yes, today, I surrender to you by faith, I give my life to you. That’s your prayer. Lift your hands high now all over the place, lift them and say, yes. We’ve got people coming in all of our different churches right now. Lift up your hands, lift them up high. Call on his name today. Call on his name, as we have people in all of our churches coming to faith in Christ, those of you online, just type it in the chat. I’m giving my life to Jesus. I’m giving my life to Jesus. I’ll give it a moment or two more for all of our churches as you’re calling on the name of Jesus. If I can have you all back right now, all campuses back, we’re going to pray together. And then I’m going to make some declarations over you. And then we’re going to worship the goodness of our God. Would you pray aloud all of our churches pray if you’re watching online, just pray, Heavenly Father, forgive all of my sins. Jesus save me. Make me brand new. I believe you died for me. And you rose again. So I can live for you. Fill me with your spirit. My life is not my own. I give it all to you.
Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus name, I pray. Can somebody worship God, can somebody give Him praise today. Can somebody thank God for who he is, and for what he’s done. Today, before we worship, I want to make some declarations over you. Are you ready? Are you ready for truth? Are you ready for truth? type it in the chat putting the shout I’m ready. If you’re ready, put it in. I’m ready. Are you ready? Say I’m ready. Are you ready? For those of you who are in Christ, you are strong and mighty. You have the same power that raised Christ from the dead dwelling inside of you. You are a weapon of righteousness in a world of darkness. You are not your past. You are not what you did. You are who God says you are. He says you’re forgiven. He says you’re redeemed. He says you’re free. You are not a hostage to your unhealthy thoughts. The weapons you fight with are not the weapons of this world. They have power to demolish strongholds. You have the mind of Christ directing your thoughts. You have the word of God directing your steps. Worry is not your master. You trusting God. His peace guards your heart, guards your mind, and guards your soul in Christ Jesus. Your God has not given you a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love. and of a sound mind. The Lord is your helper. You will not be afraid. You are not a slave to your habit. You are not a prisoner to your past, you have been rescued by the power of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s light. Your God will bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, you have everything you need to do everything that God has called you to do. This is truth, it will set you free. Nothing will separate you from the love of God, not death, not demons, not the present, not the past. No title on earth can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Why does it matter? Most of life’s battles, they are won or lost in the muck in the mind. The good news is the battle rages, but you have won the war. The battle rages, but you have won the war. Come on, get ready, to sing the battle rages, but you have won the war