Sometimes we look at our pasts and our decisions don’t even make sense to us. Here’s how to transform your thinking.
- Have you ever looked back and wondered, What was I thinking? What can you see now that you couldn’t see then?
- Are there any mindsets you need to rethink in order to move on? What would you need to do to begin a process of “renewal”?
- Have you ever bought into any of the assumptions listed below? If so, what happened?
- If I find the right person, everything will be all right.
- My situation is unique.
- It’s not right, but it makes me happy.
- If only I had _____, I would be satisfied.
- I owe is better than I want.
- My secret is safe with me.
- Sex will solve it.
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
Hey, we’re in Part 3 of this series called Starting Over. Essentially, the name of the series is Starting Over, the subtitle is what gives us some direction in our time together: ‘How do we ensure next time won’t be like the last time?’ So if you’re starting over with anything or you’re about to start-over, you’re just coming out of a bad job situation, bad marriage situation, bad relationship situation, you’re wrapping up a really bad semester in school, you’re wondering if you’re gonna get to go back to school, you’re kinda waiting for that letter. I’m with you, my first year of college was I was first on academic warning, and then I went to probation so I’m with you on that.
So, what we’ve decided to do on this series and this is really just based on my observation, any pastor, any councilor, would agree these are just things that we see in people’s lives, things I’ve seen in my own life. When it comes to starting over, there are three essential things you have got to do to ensure that next time will be better than last time. We talked about the first one last week. We said, “You gotta own it”.
Then today, we’re gonna talk about, “You gotta rethink it,” and then we’re gonna talk about next week, “You gotta release it”. But own it, own it, we said, “Hey, to own it means you can’t try to blame your way into a better future.
“Own it means that you gotta take full responsibility for whatever your part was in whatever you’re having to restart” and this is difficult for us, because we all have to tell our sad story. You get no sympathy when you own it. You get no sympathy when you own it.
But owning it is a step forward. It’s one of the ways that you ensure next time won’t be like last time. So today, we’re moving on to Rethink it, Rethink it. Now here’s what I mean by that. When you think back on the thing that you’re having a restart whether it’s relationally, financially, professionally, academically, whatever it might be, at some point along the way, even when it wasn’t our fault, even when we, it’s hard to find anything to take responsibility for, at some point as we think back, at some point as we move forward, we ask ourselves this question.
“What was I thinking? , What was I thinking? Everybody told me he wasn’t right for me, what was I thinking?” My mama said, “She’s not the one” and she gave me a list of 12 reasons and I said, “Yeah but I love her”. My mom said, “But what do you love about her?” and I couldn’t come up with anything. What was I thinking?”
“Zero percent down, I don’t have to make any payments for eight years. I should’ve seen it coming. What was I thinking?”, “30% return guaranteed, it was too good to be true and it wasn’t true. What was I thinking?
So at some point along the way, we asked the question, “What was I thinking?” and here’s the amazing thing. When we look back, our decisions don’t even make sense to us. Isn’t that true? That’s when we look back and go, “I should have seen this coming. What in the world was I thinking?” So in order to ensure that next time isn’t like last time, you gotta ask the question, “What was I thinking?” but here’s the catch. And here’s what I wanna talk to you about for a few minutes today. I think all of us intuitively ask the question, “What was I thinking?” My observation is this: Very few of us camp out on that question long enough to come up with an answer. It’s just sort of a statement, “What was I thinking!” and on we go. “What was I thinking? I’ll jump right back in.” “What was I thinking? She sure is cute.” “What was I thinking? Let’s go shopping.”
And so it’s a great question. I think we intuitively go, we kind of laugh it off, “What was I thinking? What was I thinking?” But I’m telling you, I’m telling you, I can’t over-emphasize this: Stopping to come up with a real answer for that question is a key to ensuring that next time won’t be like last time. Here’s why: Because if you think, if you think the way you used to think, you’ll do the things you used to do. It’s just that simple. If you keep thinking the way you were thinking the last time around, chances are history is gonna repeat itself, maybe even in the areas where you say “Very little of the blame belongs to me.”
So what we’re gonna do today is we’re gonna look at a passage of scripture that kinda highlights the importance of this. And if you’re not like a Bible person or a Christian person, much of today’s message is gonna make common sense. And then at the end of the message today, and I’m gonna try to make sure I give myself enough time to do this, I’m gonna give you what I call “seven lethal thoughts” or “seven lethal assumptions” that I’ve seen so many people carry with them into the future and it undermines their own future.
Seven ways of thinking, seven assumptions about life, seven assumptions about relationships.
So we’ll get to those in just a minute ’cause I’m telling you, it is not enough to ask the question “What was I thinking?” You owe yourself an answer to the question.
All right, so in the book of Romans, which is… We call it a book. It’s really a letter, the Apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Rome. Rome was not a very safe place to be a Christian. You don’t have to know much history to know that. And so he’s writing to Christians in Rome who are living kind of under the shadow of the Roman Empire.
The Apostle Paul was somebody who understood the importance of starting over. The Apostle Paul had to start over. He lived with a lot of shame and guilt for the life that he lived before he became a Christian because he tried to stamp out Christianity. He was responsible for putting people in jail that were innocent. He was responsible for the deaths of Christians that had done nothing but put their faith in Jesus, just like he eventually did. So he understood this tension. So what he has to say is so incredibly important because he was a product of the very thing that we’re gonna talk about.
I’m gonna give you a little bit of a set-up, then we’re gonna dive in deep with these verses.
Romans, Chapter 12. Here’s what he says: He says, “Therefore… ” Now this is a letter, again, to Christians. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters… ” That means if you’re not a Christian, this wasn’t written to you, so you have an option. You can either decide you wanna do this, or you don’t have to. If you’re a Christian, we’re kinda on the hook. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, all that God’s done, to offer your bodies, not just your mind, not just your intentions, not just your Sundays for an hour, to offer your entire body as a living sacrifice.” And of course we think sacrifice metaphorically. They actually saw physical, bloody, gory sacrifices. “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper worship.” In other words, don’t think killing an animal’s gonna make it okay with God. It’s not about killing animals. It’s about offering yourself, saying I’m gonna be a living, not a dead, animal sacrifice. I’m a living, daily, moment-by-moment, watch me live for your glory and your honor, kind of sacrifice.
And then he thinks to himself, “Perhaps that’s kinda heady. I mean what does that even mean? Even though I just wrote it or dictated it.” And so then he dives in to the details of what this looks like, and here’s where he gives us this amazing, amazing insight about our thinking. Here’s what he says: “Do not conform to the pattern,” and that’s one Greek word so I highlighted it for you, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world. Do not conform, or do not be conformed. Do not allow yourself to be conformed to the pattern of this world.” If you conform to the pattern of this world, you’re just gonna look like everybody else.
In other words, just to illustrate it, he’s saying, “Don’t be this guy.” Next, next, next, next. We’ll change the color of their eyes and we’ll change which way they smile, but basically everybody looks and lives the same way. He’s saying, “Look, Christians, Christians, don’t be this guy! Don’t simply be conformed to the pattern of this world.” And then he gives us… We’ll set him right there, stay right there, all right. Then he gives us a little bit of a contrast and he says this: He says, “But be transformed… ” Now the way this is all kinda works itself out in the text is this way: He says, “Don’t allow yourself to be conformed.” In other words, to be conformed, do you know how much intentionality you have to have? Zero. You just get up and before you know it, you’re just living and acting like everybody else. It’s easy. It takes no discipline to be conformed to the pattern of this world. No discipline at all. No intentionality. No self-control. He says, “But I want you to be different. I want you to be transformed.” That is I… And the idea is, “I want you to lean in, I want you to decide, I want you to give it some effort, I want you to make a decision to be transformed. Don’t be conformed, be transformed.” Another way of saying it is this, “Don’t be this guy. Be this guy.”
Right? So let me just ask you: Who do you wanna be? I like this one better. They didn’t want me to use this one. Be transformed. Now, that’s what I’m talking about right there, okay. Now, he’s a bad transformer but I would still rather be this than this, wouldn’t you? And then I think, “Oh, yeah, this is even better.” “Don’t be this guy.”
Can you even see that? Do you really wanna be this guy? Do you really wanna be this lady? This young lady? He said, “Look, don’t be just stamped out like everybody else in culture. You can be different. I want you to be transformed,” to which we go, “I wanna be transformed. I’d rather be a transformer than a conformer. I don’t wanna be like everybody else. I don’t wanna live like everybody else. I don’t want my marriage to go the way of everybody else’s. I don’t wanna get old and just be in a lot of debt and wonder why my kids don’t wanna come to see me. I really wanna be transformed.” And Paul says, “Do you want me to tell you how?” We’re like, “Please tell us how, tell us how.” “By the renewing of your mind.” Oh, yeah, I want you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, but in order for your bodies to actually do the things a living sacrifice needs to do, you’ve gotta make some changes right here. You gotta pay attention to what you are thinking and when you look back and ask, “What was I thinking?” You need to pause and you need to answer that question because you are transformed not simply by the engagement of your will.
You are transformed by the renewing of your mind. So basically to renew, to renew means to restore. Now, here’s maybe a way that’ll help you think about this. Have you ever restored a piece of furniture? I have not. Okay. Maybe you have. I’ve seen it done. I’ve heard about it. Anyway. And I like restored furniture. Have you ever seen the process or maybe have been involved with restoring the finish or the paint on a car?
To refinish furniture, to refinish the surface or the paint job on a car, you have to grind off all the old before you put on all the new. You have to take off the old before you put on the new. You have to take off the old, which is a process and it’s no fun. And when you’re finished taking off the old, nobody walks up and says, “Wow! That looks fantastic!” They walk up and say, “Wow! That looks worse than it did before!”
And why would you spend so much time? Why would you expend so much energy? Why would you give so much of your life to simply taking something off? Why don’t you just go ahead and put on something new.
Let me ask you a question. What happens if you put on the new before you take off the old? The new peels right off, doesn’t it? And this is why some of us, not only say you, all of us, why all of us at some point have promised God and made commitments to God and promised God and next time, “In my next relationship, my next job, next semester in school I’m gonna do better, I’m gonna study harder, I’m going to, I’m going to, I’m going to… ” And then the new just peels right off because we never answered the question, “What was I thinking?” We just knew we weren’t thinking correctly and then we just moved right on into our own future.
Now I’ll tell you one of the reasons we don’t spend time with this, and that’s the answer, is because renewal takes time. That’s why I said a couple of weeks ago, time is your friend. Renewal, renewing your mind takes time. Time is your friend. Renewing your mind takes time. Time is your friend. If you don’t take off the old, the new just peels right off. The Apostle Paul says, “Look, if you wanna be transformed, it’s not simply a matter of the will. It’s not simply matter of discipline, all that’s part of it. You’ve got to renew your mind.”
One of our only rules for my rule that I have for our pastors when it comes to doing weddings, they only just one rule. I ask, “Don’t do any weddings for anyone who’s been divorced and has been divorced for less than two years.” We require people to wait two years before we will do a remarriage. And you know why? Because I can’t get people to wait five.
You know why? Because you need to renew your mind.
This is why anytime somebody goes through like a really, really big life change, I don’t wanna list categories but just a big shift I say, “Look don’t make any big decisions for a year. Don’t make any big decisions for a year. Do not buy a new car. Do not move. Do not make any investments.” I’m telling you, “Hit the pause button. You’ve been in the emergency room emotionally. You’ve been in the emergency room in terms of just what’s going on in your life. Don’t make any big decisions. You’ve gotta peel off some old before you can put… Renew your mind. It’s gonna take time. Hit the pause button.”
And I’m telling you, every single week in my life, every single week I get a direct message, an email, an actual letter or a text from somebody who said “Hey so and so said I can have your phone number” that says, “Andy I took the one year challenge. Andy I did the ‘don’t make any big purchases or financial thing for a year. Andy we waited two years, thank you.” And it’s not because I’m brilliant, it’s because it’s common sense and everybody listening to this and watching this knows it’s true.
You gotta renew your mind. Sincerity and commitment are not enough. Don’t you know that from your exercise program you used to have? Don’t we know that from dieting? Haven’t we had enough experience to know commitment is not enough. Being sincere is not enough. And the Apostle Paul nailed it. He said, “Do not be conformed. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world. Be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” Then look at the promise, he says, “Then you will be able… Then you will be able… ” There it is. “Then you will be able… ” This is amazing. “To test and approve what God’s will is. He’s good, He’s pleasing and He’s perfect as will.”
I’m gonna ask you Christians a question: “Do you wanna know what God’s will for you is?” “Yes. I’ve been praying to God to show me what it is.” Paul says, “Well then you gotta take some time and renew your mind.” “Oh no I thought if I prayed long enough I would like hear a voice.” If you heard a voice it would freak you out. You don’t wanna hear a voice especially at night when it’s dark. Do you wanna hear a voice? I don’t wanna hear a voice, “God please do not speak out loud to me.” I don’t want that, maybe you do.
I’m telling you every time the Bible God spoke out loud generally bad things happened. You should read your Bibles. It’s true. Now here’s the thing. Look what he’s saying, “If you wanna know what God’s will is, if you want to be able to test and approve,” which really means if you would like to be able to discern… If you would like to be able to discern… If you would like to sort it out… If you would like to be able to weed and wade through the options and arrive at the right conclusion, he says, “You need time to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
It’s why you should read your Bible. You say, “I don’t understand it. ” That’s okay. Read it anyway. “I don’t believe it.” That’s okay. You read lots of stuff you don’t believe. You should renew your minds.
Here’s the deal: Regret… Again, regret and resolve, regret and resolve are not enough. You’ve got to renew your mind because if you think the way you used to think, you’re simply gonna do what you’ve always done. Okay, any questions? No. Okay, so here’s what we’re gonna do. Real quickly, I’m not gonna let you off the hook like, “Oh, God show me… ” I’m gonna give you seven, real quick. We’ll go through these really, really quick. For some of you, there’s only one of these that’s kinda like a speed bump. For some of you, three of them are gonna be a speed bump. For some of you, these aren’t even your assumptions. I just want to surface for some of us some of the things that we believe we didn’t even know we believed.
They’re sort of in the operating system of our thinking, and they keep kicking out behaviors that we look at and go, “What was I thinking? What was I thinking?” It’s time you discovered what you were thinking.
So here we go. Ready? Seven lethal assumptions. Number one, “If I find the right person, everything will be all right”. Okay, if you become the right person. This isn’t about finding… So you think, “Well that last relationship didn’t work out ’cause he was an idiot. But if I find a non-idiot… ” Well why did you date an idiot? What were you thinking? You don’t know what you were thinking. You’re gonna date another idiot, okay? You’ve not changed. Committing is not enough. Resolve is not enough. What were you thinking? What was it about him or her that was so appealing that you found yourself in a relationship and you’re going, “What was I thinking?” Becoming the right person, becoming the right person is the goal. If you become the person the person you’re looking for is looking for, chances are you’ll find them. If you become the person that you’re looking for is looking for, chances are when you see them, you’ll recognize them, but not until you become them because the person you’re looking for, they’re not gonna like you right now. You’re not ready. So spend some time becoming the person that the person you’re looking for is looking for. That actually makes sense, it just takes a while.
Number two, moving on. We said this, “My situation’s unique.” No, it’s not. This is why there are counselors. Okay, let me compare it to this way. Do you know why when you go to a doctor, a doctor is able to diagnose your problems? Your body is not unique. That’s why doctors are able to make prescriptions, because they make very educated guesses because bodies are pretty much the same. Let me just tell you, you’re not gonna like this: Your situation’s not that unique. You are unique. Your situation isn’t, and here is why this is a big, important assumption. This assumption is how you dodge the rules. This assumption’s how you dodge scripture. This assumption is how you dodge wise counsel. You’re unique. Your situation isn’t.
Number three, number three, “It’s not right but it makes me happy, and God wants me to be happy”. Whoa. Now let me just… Again, I’m the pastor so I should know this, but I don’t. I don’t know if God wants you to be happy or not. I don’t know. Now if you think God wants you to be happy, you need to understand something. You made that up. And it may be true. But understand, you made that up. “God wants me to be happy”, what do you base that on? “Well, I want me to be happy. And that’s all I got, really. So, I want me to be happy. I just assumed God… ” Okay, let’s assume God wants you to be happy, but here’s the deal: It’s not right, but it makes me happy. Look, you know this. If it’s not right, things are not gonna turn out right. They never do. If it’s not right, it’s wrong. If it’s not right, things are not… “What was I thinking? What was I thinking?”
You were thinking that even though it wasn’t exactly legal, even though it wasn’t exactly ethical, even though… You thought…
When you find yourself going, “Well it’s not exactly right.” Just hit the pause button and go, “Uh-oh. Uh-oh. There’s that. I’m about to talk myself into doing the wrong thing based on something that’s absolutely not true.”
Number 4: “If only I only I had… Then I would be satisfied.” Do you know anybody that just has one tattoo?
You say, “Well I do.” Well, for now.
And I’m not against tattoos. I think tattoos are great on other people. Here’s the thing…
I do. I think they’re fascinating. Here’s thing you need to understand: Appetites are never fully and finally satisfied, ever. The whole idea that, “If I had… I’ll be satisfied,” is a lie.
Go ahead and lease it. Go ahead and buy it. Go ahead and rent it. But don’t lie to yourself, and don’t talk yourself into it based on the lie that, “Once I have it, I’m gonna be satisfied.” It’s just not true. “What was I thinking? What was I thinking?” You were thinking that somehow owning it, driving it, buying it, wearing it, putting it in your closet, hang it on your wall, would somehow fully and finally satisfy something. It’s a lie. It just doesn’t work that way. No appetite is ever fully and finally satisfied, none of ‘em. So just keep that front and center before you make another decision.
Similar to that one, is this one: “I owe is better than I want. I owe is better than I want.” Not a single person listening, watching or in the room with me today, has ever thought this consciously, but this runs around in the backdrop of your thinking when it comes to your finances: “I owe is better than I want.” Because here’s the deal I want it, but in order to get it I’ll owe money on it. So what am I gonna do? Am I gonna sit around and want it, or am I gonna drive it around and owe on it? I’m I gonna sit around and want it, or am I gonna wear it around and owe on it? Am I gonna sit around and want it, or am I gonna go, “oh”, and live in it. Which am I gonna live with? I want or I owe? I want or I owe.” I’m just telling you, you know this. Have we not learned this the hard way? “What was I thinking?”
It is better to want than to owe. You’re gonna have a tension either way. You’re gonna live with a tension either way. There’s gonna be dissatisfaction either way. Which one’s better? I think it’s just better to want than to owe. I think you know it’s better to want than to owe. So again, purchase everything you want. Live the… That’s none of my business. I’m just saying, “Don’t lie to yourself.”
Number 6: “My secret is safe with me.” No it’s not.
First of all, secrets are bad. Secrets are bad. Secrets are unhealthy. And if you’re single or you’re single again, please hear what I’m about to say. When you take your secret into a relationship it does not remain a secret. You just break hearts. Your secret is not safe with you, because the truth is, secrets seep, and they seep into your most important relationships. You and your spouse and your alcohol problem is a bad threesome. Somebody will eventually have to go. You and your spouse and your prescription drug addiction that you didn’t tell them about, threesome, somebody’s gotta go. You, your spouse and your porn addiction, it was your safe secret, eventually somebody’s gotta go. Secrets are not safe with you and secrets are not safe, because secrets seep. Don’t lie to yourself.
And seventh, just for fun, “Sex will solve it.”
No. We’re adults. Sex will complicate it. The minute you think, “Well, you know what? If I just sleep with him… ” The minute you think, “If I can just get her to… If I can just get him to… If we could just… If you would just move in… Let’s just try this.” And you never say, “Sex will solve it. Sex will solve… ” You never say that. But if somehow in the back of your mind, you think that sex is a problem solver. Can we just be adults for just a minute? Can you imagine? Can you… We can’t actually. But let’s try to imagine how much less pain, suffering… I don’t wanna go into details ’cause it touches all of our lives. Can you just… We’ll just keep it there. Can you imagine how much less pain and suffering, and abuse, and loneliness, and regret there would be in our country, if just for six months… Not forever ’cause who’s got that much self-control. But for just six months, we decided to take what the New Testament taught about sex seriously, just six months. Would we have less happiness and less joy and less discipline and less self… No, no. Would we have… We would have more. Would we have less complications or more complications? We’d have less complications. God’s not like some sexual kill joy. God created sex. It’s amazing. It’s like, “Ah, I got an idea.” The angels are like, “What?” It’s like, “You won’t understand it.”
“But it might be my best idea, you know.” Come on. Sex isn’t designed to solve anything. So the minute you begin to make some kind of relational decisions based on your lying to, “What was I thinking?” You were thinking that without knowing you were thinking that somehow sex was gonna solve that relationship problem. That was gonna make it better. And now it’s more complicated. It’s the nature of this valuable, beautiful, wonderful thing that God gave us. So, here’s the question you gotta answer before moving on. What were you thinking? What were you thinking? It’s not enough to ask the question, you’ve got to answer it. It’s not enough. In fact, until you come up with an answer to this question don’t start anything new. Don’t jump back in. Because until you have taken off the old and put on the new, you’re never gonna get where you wanna go. Last time is gonna look too much or next time will look too much like last time. If you wanna think about it this way. Don’t be a conformer. Be a, say it with me, “transformer”. That’s right. Don’t just get stamped out in to the pattern of this world. Don’t get stamped out in to the pattern of this world. Be transformed. How? Not by commitment and not by just “I’m gonna buckle it down the energy” but by renewing your mind. Because the good news is this: Next time really can be better than last time. Do the renewing of your mind.