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Thursday, November 4, 2021

Freedom in Christ Lesson 9 - Renewing the Mind

 


Freedom in Christ Lesson 9 Podcast

Freedom in Christ Lesson 9: Renewing the Mind  

 

Focus Verse:

Romans 12:2 (NIV2011)
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will..

Objective: To understand that taking hold of -and living in- your freedom in Christ is not a one-off experience but needs to become a way of life, and to provide you with a strategy to continually renew your mind.

Focus Truth: All of us have mental strongholds, ways of thinking that are not in line with God's truth. Our success in continuing to walk in freedom and grow in maturity depends on the extent to which we continue to renew our minds and train ourselves to distinguish good from evil.

Welcome

How did you find the steps to freedom in Christ process?  (See the end of Lesson 8 for a copy of the Steps, along with a link to a teaching/walk through of the steps)   

Read aloud the following passages:

Galatians 5:1 (NLT2)
1 So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Psalm 119:45 (NLT2)
45 I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments. 

Ongoing Transformation

We started the course by looking at who you now are: a holy one. We looked at the facts that faith is simply finding out from God's word what is already true and then making a choice to believe it. We then considered the three enemies that try to keep us from knowing the truth - the world, the flesh, and the devil. Finally, if you did business with God during the Steps to Freedom in Christ, you've taken hold of the freedom that Jesus one for you.

You became a brand new creation when you first turned to Jesus. But now the stage is set for you to transform further. When that word is used in the Bible it refers to the process through which a crawly, wormy caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly. It doesn't mean change just a little bit - it means a really dramatic change.

How do you think that ongoing transformation happens? What do you need to do to experience it?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2).

Remember, the battle is for our minds. Our minds have been conditioned by the world, influenced by Satan the puppet master behind it. So we've developed a whole host of default beliefs and thought patterns that don't match up with God's word. In other words, they are not actually true.

This dialogue takes place at a 50-year high school reunion:

You were always the pretty one in class, Jane.

You thought I was pretty? You always ignored me!

We weren't ignoring you. We were just too intimidated to speak to you!

I've spent 50 years struggling with low self-esteem because I thought you were ignoring me!

Ha ha! Isn't that silly!

My entire personality has been formed under the wrong information!

Think about it – “My entire personality has been formed around the wrong information! To a greater or lesser extent, that statement is true of every single one of us.

For much of our lives our belief system has been shaped by our enemies. Isn't that sad? In other words, we've all absorbed a whole load of lies and half-truths that really affect us. When we became Christians no one pressed the delete button in our brains.

We still have the same old default programming, those same old thought patterns, or what the Bible calls the flesh.

Taking hold of our freedom is essential, but is not enough. Now, we need to change that default thinking if we want to grow as disciples. We need to replace it with what is actually true. And the key to that is renewing our minds.

Strongholds

We touched briefly in lesson 5 on the concept of a stronghold. Let's look at the only place in the New Testament that the word appears, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:

For though we live in the world we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.

In the passage, Paul is clearly talking of something in the area of our thinking. He mentions arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the true knowledge of God. He talks about taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.

The literal meaning of the word “stronghold” is a fortress, a strong defensive building. Have you ever seen a medieval castle up close? Not at Disney castle but the real thing. Now those are fortresses - solid rock buildings with few and small windows; surrounded by thicker walls, sometimes layers of wall after wall. The outer walls can be so thick you can drive a car on them! Impressive.

In this context a stronghold is a faulty belief that has been reinforced many times over a long period. It prevents you from knowing God and his ways. It's sitting there in your mind apparently strong and impenetrable, like a thick castle wall.

Perhaps it started out right back in childhood when a little thought was planted in your mind by something that happened to you.  Maybe you were bullied, or worse, or someone said something negative about you: “You are useless,” “You're a failure,” “You're ugly,” “It's all your fault.”

Maybe the enemy lined up someone else at a different time who said or did the same thing. Since he knows your particular vulnerabilities, he ruthlessly tries to exploit them by lining up people or circumstances one after the other to give you the same wrong message.

The world then adds insult to injury with its constant bombardment of lies about what it means to be successful or happy or loved.

As it gets stronger and stronger, it becomes part of our default thinking and works itself out in our behavior. Then, whenever someone suggests we could go for a particular job or lead a small group at church, a tape plays in our mind, “I couldn't do that. I'm useless at that.” We've believed it for so long it becomes part of our lives, and we can't imagine it ever being any different.

A good definition of a strong hold is a belief or habitual pattern of thinking that is not consistent with what God tells us is true.

Feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and inadequacy are all strongholds. Because no child of God is inferior, insecure, or inadequate.

Is any child of God dirty or ugly? Absolutely not. It isn't true. It just feels true. It's a lie that's been reinforced so many times that it literally has a strong hold on you and causes you to think and act in ways that contradict God's word.

Strongholds can have two faces: when we know what we should do but don't seem able to do it; and when we know we shouldn't do something but don't seem able to stop. So if that's how it feels, we're talking about strongholds getting in the way.

A little later we will introduce you to “stronghold-busting” which is structured way of demolishing a stronghold.

Freedom in Christ’s Nancy Maldonado shares her experience of using it.

We talked about Nancy's desert journey earlier. Her perspective on her circumstances was definitely changing, but as the weeks and months of tears went by her outlook on life continued to be grey- sometimes dark grey. So she asked God to show her what was behind it. And he did. He showed Nancy that her outlook on life, since she was a girl, had always been some shade of gray, sometimes lighter, sometimes darker. And God called it discontent. So Nancy set off with her stronghold-buster, which included Psalm 103:1-5:

Praise the Lord, my soul; All my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crown few with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Day after day Nancy repeated it as soon as she woke up, before getting out of bed. Then again at night. On hard days she repeated it throughout the day. Some days she confesses that it felt phony, “Yeah, right, remember all his benefits.”  Some days it was heartfelt. Nancy stuck with it and after six weeks or so, the grey cloud began to lift. Nancy was finally able to say: “Truly, “He satisfies my desires with good things.” Nancy’s life is now in color!

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Pause for Thought 1

Objective:

To understand to understand the concept of strongholds.

Questions:

“My entire personality has been formed around the wrong information.” What do you think about the idea that much of our lives, our belief system and how we think have been influenced and shaped by many lies and half-truths said over us?

No child of God is inferior or inadequate. Discuss.

What practical ways can we consider to make us more aware of strongholds, and how they affect our lives?

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How Strongholds Are Established

There are three ways that strongholds can be established in our minds:

Our Environment

We have already seen how we learn values and beliefs from the world we live in. It also can work at the micro-level in our home, school, or work environment.

Imagine you were raised in a in the home of an alcoholic and there are three boys in the family. As the father's problem continues to develop, it turns into domestic violence. When their father comes home drunk, the three boys develop different ways of coping. The oldest one feels he can stand up to his dad: “If you lay a hand on me, you'll regret it.” The middle one learns a different way of coping with it: “Hi dad, can I get you something?” The third one runs away and hides in his room.

20 years later, the father is long gone and the three boys are adults. When each of them is confronted with a hostile situation, how do you think they will respond? The chances are the oldest one will fight, the middle one will accommodate, and the youngest one will run away.

We call them strongholds, but psychologist might call them defense mechanisms. They are ways of thinking and acting that have become deeply ingrained in the mind.

Traumatic Experiences

It doesn't necessarily take something to be repeated over a long period of time to set up a stronghold. A one-time powerful traumatic experience can do it because of its intensity: a divorce, a rape, or a death in the home.

For example, if you were abused, you may come to see yourself as a victim: helpless; never able to stand up for yourself. At one time that may have been true but that's not true anymore if you are a child of God.

Remember, it's not the traumatic experience itself that produces the stronghold. It's the lie we believe as a result of that traumatic experience. If one person is violently attacked, they may be able to shrug it off as an isolated incident. But for someone else, it might set up a lie in their mind that all men are dangerous. It's totally understandable but it's not true.

Whatever has happened to you in the past, you can go back to that traumatic event and process it again from the position of who you are now: a holy child of God.

No Christian, no matter how bad their past experiences, has to remain a victim. God doesn't change our past; he sets us free from it!

Giving in To Temptation

Tempting thoughts that are not dealt with immediately lead on to actions. Repeating the action will lead to a habit. Exercising the habit long enough will produce a stronghold.

Saying is actively trying to tempt you into the same sin time and time again, because he wants to set up strongholds in your life so that he can keep you going round in circles feeling hopeless.

The Bible is clear that there is a way out of every temptation.

If you drive a truck across a muddy field, it will create some ruts in the field. If you drive the same way every day over a period of time, The ruts will get deeper and deeper and more noticeable. Eventually they will be so well established that you could let go of the steering wheel and the truck would drive itself.

That's fine as long as the rats are going in the right direction. Strongholds are like ruts that are heading in the wrong direction.

If you don't intentionally change the direction, you are taking your hands off the steering wheel of your life and you are likely to end up somewhere you don't want to go.

The problem with strongholds is that they lead us to act on lies, false information, and cause our feelings to be out of line with reality. You may feel rejection when you are not actually being rejected. You may feel helpless to change when you are not helpless at all. For example, you may feel that you will never get out of a particular sin when in fact you have everything you need to walk away from it. If you live like this there is no way you can become a mature fruitful disciple.

Freedom and Maturity Are Not the Same Thing

The moment you turn to Jesus you are not expected to be instantly mature. When babies are born they drink milk for awhile before they move on to solid food. But if babies keep acting like babies as they get older comma they become less attractive!

Any Christian can become an old Christian, all it takes is time!

Any Christian can become a mature Christian, but many don't because they don't know how to deal with their strongholds.

But every Christian can tear these strongholds down.

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Pause for Thought 2

Objective: To help people become aware of strongholds and their own life and to realize that they are based on lies.

Questions:

Spend some time discussing the ways that strongholds are established. In what ways can you identify with the story of the alcoholic father and his three sons? Can you see any strongholds that have been established in your own life?

Look at this list of common lies that people come to believe about themselves: unloved, rejected, inadequate, hopeless, stupid. For each one, find a Bible verse to show that it cannot be true of any Christian.

No Christian, no matter how bad their past experiences, has to remain a victim. God doesn't change our past; He sets us free from it! Discuss.

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Demolishing Strongholds

So how do you deal with these strongholds?

Close Doors Open to the Enemy

In the Steps to Freedom in Christ you have taken away the footholds the enemy had in your life and that's a key reason that you can now demolish strongholds, even those that you may have tried time and time to deal with in the past but failed.

Take Personal Responsibility for the Whole of Your Life

This is not about asking God or someone else to do something in order for us to get free or grow. You already have everything you need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3).

In the way God has set things up, some things are his responsibility, and some things are our responsibility. If we don't do the things that he has given us to do, they simply won't get done.

No one else can forgive for you. And no one else can choose to believe the truth for you.

In the passage we looked at, we fight, we demolish arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against truth, we take captive every thought. No one else can do it for us.

Take Every Thought Captive

Paul tells us to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). You can think of your mind as being like an airport and you are an air traffic controller. A lot of thoughts ask for permission to land. But you have complete control over which will land, and which will be turned away.

We are in a battle between truth and lies. Every stronghold is an entrenched lie. The key to demolishing it is to uncover the lie behind it and then replace the lie with the truth.

Freedom In Christ’s Steve Goss shares this testimony:

When Steve Goss met Rachel, she was the epitome of a Christian who had lost all hope. She was covered in bandages from injuries that she had inflicted on herself. She had difficulty stringing two sentences together because of drug abuse. She had suffered from eating disorders for years. In fact it's a miracle she was alive at all. She had just been thrown out of a psychiatric hospital, a self-harm unit, for a week because she had self-harmed.

A local church took her in and wanted to work through this course and The Steps with her.  At their request Steve was present when she went through The Steps. At the end, her face had completely changed. She had done real business with God, and she broke into a beautiful smile and said I'm free!

What is that the end of the story? Is say, it's a relatively quick straightforward process to take hold of your freedom. But staying free is another question.

Much as Steve encouraged Rachel to do when she went through The Steps, he was keeping an ear open for faulty beliefs, lies that she believed. So at the end, Steve said to her, it's great that you're free. Now it's important to ensure you stay free and to do that it's important to work out what lies you've been believing and take steps to renew your mind. It seems to me that the main thing you need to work on is the lie that you're dirty.”

Rachel's big smile instantly vanished, and she looked at Steve in anger and said, “That's not right at all!” “Oh” Steve said, “It's just that you seem to have mentioned feeling dirty a lot, especially in the forgiveness step.” “Yes.” Rachel admitted, “I am dirty it's not a lie!”

Past abuse had taught Rachel to see herself and her body as dirty. Her subsequent anorexia, self-harm, and addictions were simply ways she used to try to cope with, blot out, those negative feelings.

Although by going through The Steps process she had kicked the enemy out of her life and was free, if she had been left at that point still believing the lie that she was dirty what would have happened? She would almost certainly have spiraled back down into her former coping mechanisms because the pain of feeling dirty would still be there.

Steve got her to have a look at some verses in the Bible, verses such as John 15:3: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” And 1 Corinthians 6:11: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

Then Steve said to Rachel, “So what are you going to choose to believe, what your past experiences are telling you or what God says about you?” She was quiet for a time and then she said, “I suppose, what God says.”

Steve then taught Rachel a tool we call stronghold busting, a way to renew your mind. We will teach the same process to you in a minute but first let me tell you the end of Rachel story. The next time they saw her at the hospital was a couple of months later when she walked in dressed in her nurses’ uniform having been able to resume the career she had to give up. She said “Hi!” and she looked so different, they had no idea who she was. She had been transformed through the renewing of her mind.

Be Transformed Through the Renewing of You Mind

So, what is stronghold busting?

First of all, you need to determine the lie you have been believing, any way you are thinking that is not in line with what God says about you in the Bible. In doing this, ignore what you feel but commit yourself wholeheartedly to God’s truth.

It's helpful at this point to write down what effect believing the lie has had in your life. For Rachel, it led her to feeling bad about herself and then into anorexia and various addictions. Realizing the negative effects should spur us on to tear the stronghold down.

Then, find as many Bible verses as you can that state the truth and write them down. A good Bible app, or helpful pastor, will come in useful. If there are a lot of verses, pick the top seven or eight.

Write a declaration based on the formula:

I renounce the lie that...

I announce the truth that...

So Rachel would have said something like, “I renounce the lie that I am dirty. I announce the truth that I have been washed clean by Jesus, that I am a holy one.”

Finally, read the Bible verses and say the declaration out loud every day for 40 days, all the time reminding yourself that God is truth and that if He has said it, it really is true for you.

Why 40 days? Psychologists tell us that it takes around six weeks to form or break a habit. Once you have dealt with any footholds of the enemy, a stronghold is simply a habitual way of thinking. Can you break a habit? Of course. But it takes some effort over a period of time.

Don't treat this as some kind of magic however! It's not the speaking out that will change you, and there's not some special formula that works for everyone. Don't get all religious either, if you miss a day or two, God still loves you! Just pick it up the next day and carry on.

Do persevere until you have completed a total of 40 days. In fact you may wish to go on longer and you will almost certainly want to come back and do it again at some point in the future.

It may sound easy but it's not because the lie feels true to you. It's like watching a concrete wall being demolished. It withstands 10, then 15, then 30, then 35 blows with no visible sign of being weakened. That's how it can feel as you work through a stronghold-buster day after day. However, every day you renounced the lie and commit yourself to truth is making a difference.

A wall might appear not to have been weakened right up to, say, 37 swings of a demolition ball. However, sooner or later, say on the 38th swing, a few small cracks will appear. On the next these cracks will get bigger until, finally, the wall completely collapses. Even though only the final three swings appear to have had an effect, without the previous 37, the wall would not have fallen.

There are some examples of completed stronghold-busters in your participants guide. One of them is on comfort eating, another is on being drawn into Internet porn. They are meant to help you get the idea, but if those issues are live ones for you it's much more effective if you work out your own stronghold-buster from scratch rather than taking a ready-made one.

Commit For the Long Term

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things (Philippians 3:13-15).

We need to take a long-term view. If we feel we have to do everything at once we are likely to start but not finish, to burnout and conclude that we have failed. If, however, we set out a long-term plan, we can deal with one area at a time and make sure that we really have changed our thinking before moving on. In a year we could deal with eight or nine areas, and that would make a tremendous difference.

Every single one of us can leave here today knowing that absolutely nothing and no one can stop us becoming the people God wants us to be and accomplishing amazing things for Him. As long as we play our part and use the weapons He has already put in our hands.

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Reflection

Objective: To start work on a stronghold-buster.

Have you become aware of lies that you are prone to believe? What is the most significant one?

Use this time to create or start to create your very own stronghold-buster so that you can go on to demolish it. Use the guidelines on page 155 of your participant’s guide and take note of the sample stronghold-busters on pages 159-161. There is a space to create your own stronghold-busters on pages 162-167.

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Witness: Write down the two most important things you have learned in this course so far. How do you think you could explain them to a not-yet Christian?

In the Coming Week: Complete your stronghold-buster for the most significant lie you have uncovered and start going through it. You could use the Strong Hold Buster Builder on the app to create it and to alert you every day to go through it.   


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