As believers, we want to fix things. Sometimes when we can’t fix something, we simply apply more pressure and can strip the threads in what we are trying to fix. I recall a time when I was living in Canada where a good friend went to change their flat tire but didn’t realize the tire nuts were metric. The wrench used was imperial. They applied a lot of pressure, resulting in the nuts being stripped. We do the same thing sometimes in relationships. Trying harder at the wrong thing does not produce lasting change. We need to learn new ways of doing things. If we change our unhealthy habits to healthy habits, we will produce lasting change.
Five Levels of Change
Environment and experience through environment. Alcoholics Anonymous calls this geographical cure. If I could just change my… The fallacy is the belief that if we could just change the things outside of us, everything in our lives should work. However, wherever I go, there I am. The problem is not outside of me, the problem is me. We must get out of the bondage of this false belief. The apostle Paul sat in a prison cell in absolute freedom. Circumstances cannot dictate your life. Freedom is becoming who you were created to be, regardless of your circumstances.
Behavior, including thoughts and feelings.
- I simply need to “stop doing this” or “start doing that.” At this level you can accomplish some change, but it is limited and short-lived. We call this “white knuckling it.”
- In psychological circles this is called “Cognitive therapy” or “Rational Emotive therapy.” Think your way into a better way of feeling. Most people feel, then think, then act. Cognitive therapy trains people to think and then act and your feelings will follow.
- The Bible calls this cycle “the flesh.” Many churches adopt “Cognitive therapy” approaches to dealing with our flesh. There is some element of truth to this approach. Romans 12:1-2 says we are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” However, renewing of our minds is much deeper than thinking your way to obedience.
- Using your mind to control your behavior and shape your emotions is like arm wrestling yourself. You can’t win for losing. However, in churches we have a tendency to say that “we win some days, and we lose some days, and the blood covers the bad days.” God has more for us than that.
- The reason behavioral change is temporary is because of the third level of change- capabilities.
Capabilities- the hinge point in change.
- This level is the hinge point of change. It is less measurable, but lethal for attempting to change. Capability is your thermostat. The thermostat kicks in the compressor every time the house gets too hot. Our internal compressor kicks in every time we try to change.
- Old habits die hard. Why? Because beliefs don’t change easily. We all desire homeostasis– we take the path of least resistance like water in a river. We make decisions to either seek pleasure or avoid pain. Those decisions over and over build the belief systems (ruts in our brain) that are very difficult to alter.
- Most of us will not change until the pain of remaining the same is greater that the fear of change. In other words, we have to have an impetus so powerful that it will override our internal belief thermostat.
- Capabilities can be defined as those things I “can” and “cannot” do based on how I think, act, and feel. They are internal limitations. “I can’t because…” “I’ve never done it that way before…”
- We often confuse the word belief with the word thought. Churches will publish a statement of “beliefs,” but they are usually thoughts or doctrines, not beliefs. Thoughts reside in the mind. They are conscious- you can put language to them. They are relatively easy to change: “This is true, this is not true.”
- Beliefs reside in the heart. You are not always aware of your beliefs- they often have no words attached. They are more sensation than thought. Your experiences convince you of your beliefs. Your beliefs are things you believe to be true about yourself. You often receive them through influential lies of the past. They are like an internal recording that keeps playing, affecting things you do, think, and feel. “I’m a failure…I’m lazy…I’m stupid…I’m ugly…no one loves me.”
- Proverbs 23:7; “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he…” We become what we believe in our heart about ourselves. Beliefs are powerful.
- Proverbs 4:23; “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” The flow of life comes from the heart, not the mind. It’s not just in our heart, it’s over our heart. Beliefs are like a contact lens over your heart through which you perceive your experiences.
- Our beliefs determine how we value ourselves. How do you determine the value of something? You ask the right person. If you ask a biologist what you are worth, he would say about $1 in material, water, and carbon. If you ask the world, it would depend on your looks, abilities, financials, etc. If you ask God, you are worth the price that was paid for you- the blood of Jesus Christ!
- In order to change beliefs, you must go to the core of change. You must change your identity.
Identity is the blueprint in the heart of God when He created you. It is not what you think of yourself or what experience has told you about you. The blueprint in God’s mind is the only thing that can change your identity. Because it is in His mind, it must come from Him and not us. The first four levels of change we can impact, but this last level can only come from God.
Heavenly Father, I believe that I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. Therefore, I daily put off the old attributes of the flesh — anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication — and I put on the new attributes that are compatible with who I have become in Jesus Christ. I’m clothed in Christ, I wear peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control as my garments. I regularly inspect my spiritual life to verify that I am no longer holding on to attitudes and actions that do not serve God’s purposes in my life. I refuse to cling to old patterns and mindsets that keep me dangling on the verge of victory but not moving into lasting change. I choose to lay aside, and discard anything that is a hindrance to my walking in all God has planned for me. As a result, I am walking in a greater degree of victory each day!
In Jesus’ name, Amen
EMIC Groups Pastor