I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
The fact that you are so wonderfully put together, far beyond anything modern science can create, is a testament to God Himself! However, I suspect that we mostly fail to understand and appreciate just how marvelous we really are!
YOUR BRAIN, YOUR MIND
And it all starts with your brain, as Ps Keith told us a little while ago.
Think of your mind as a computer. Most neuroscientists consider this a very poor analogy, because It is far more complex than any computer we know of, and its influences are far more wide ranging and subtle than anything we have that influences our computers at home or at work.
But, for the purpose of this message, let's consider your brain to be like a computer. But before you start commenting on your spouses hard drive capacity, or lack thereof, think about this… Just like your PC at home, or the phone in your pocket these days, there are loads of programs running in the background.
I recently upgraded Fiona's computer, and the salesman told me about a new service called Signature Edition, where for $200 the technician will go through your computer and remove all the unnecessary programs running in the background, so it runs much faster, leaner and meaner!
Whenever you boot up your computer, or phone or tablet, many programs that are entirely useless, start up. These do things like look for updates to software you're not interested in, enable the quick start of programs you'll probably never use, allocating memory in certain ways you don't understand and change the look and feel of software, so it's pretty. They all boot up automatically, and clog up the computer’s available memory, making things run slow.
In your computer, so many things are happening “under the hood”, the vast majority of which we have absolutely no idea about! And it's the same with our brains, and our minds.
UNCONSCIOUSLY CONSCIOUS ABOUT THE SUBCONSCIOUS
What you see in the screen is a fraction of what's really happening. The screen is like your conscious mind…
1. CONSCIOUS MIND
This is like the headlines of a newspaper, summarising what's going on in a big, complex world. You can see it, manipulate and change it, but it's like the tip of the iceberg.
2. SUBCONSCIOUS MIND
This is what's operating under the hood that you cannot readily see or control. It's what over a hundred billion neurones are chiefly doing in the background to keep your body functioning, and this allows your conscious mind to operate, unburdened by the details.
If you had to spend all day thinking about what your subconscious does, things like breathing, making your heart beat, digesting food and so on, you wouldn't get much done in your day, would you? Graciously God has given control of these important things to the subconscious.
Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he:
In Hebrew the Word think means to think, to reason to split open or to calculate, and so the ESV renders the verse, “he is like one who is inwardly calculating.” Inward calculations for millions of actions are happening all the time in our minds, on a scale that would blow our minds, but most of these we don't even consciously recognise.
But here's the cool thing… what we call learning or training occurs when many complex tasks which start as conscious thought, then make the journey to the unconscious mind, and this can become really powerful. Think about driving a car, playing an instrument or learning a foreign language. When you can do these tasks in the background, your conscious mind is free to think and explore new possibilities.
This process is called learning. Think about how you felt the first time you tried to drive a car. Check the mirrors, foot on brake, let the clutch out, indicator on, etc. within a few weeks you can do all this subconsciously, and pretty soon you can drive while you listen to the radio, talk to a friend's and check your cell phone (don't do it!).
YOUR SOFTWARE IS WHERE?
And these things you learn, they're like software or apps. So I'm loaded with music programs, Zac is loaded with accounting software and spreadsheets, and some of you are fun loving so you're just loaded with games!
The problem is that, like most software, all of your processors, conscious and subconscious, are prone to viruses. In this series we are going to explore the viruses the world and the evil one might implant into our minds, how these can affect almost every area of life and how we can destroy them and protect our minds with God's anti virus program.
But before we explore viruses, let's have a look at how the programs running in the background can have a positive or negative affect in us. These are not viruses in themselves, but they can be infected by viruses. We've seen how learning become powerful when it transfers to the subconscious, but how can we apply that to our everyday life?
When your subconscious mind takes over tasks, tasks become automatic or ingrained. And that is the power behind good habits, and the danger behind addiction.
The ability to form a habit, good or bad, is written into each of our software. But it's like the force in Star Wars, you can use it for good, or give in to the dark side!
Recent studies suggest that it takes 1-3 months to establish or break a habit, and that sounds pretty long right? Marketer Matt Cutts suggested trying something for a month to see if you can change your lifestyle, and I believe that is a great place to start.
Whatever the term, establishing good habits is an essential element in growth. Godly habits such as having quiet times, praying or even attending church should be fairly easy to establish if we are determined to follow Christ, because when we decide to do things His way, He gives us the power!
Your software if you like forms your character, and some of it you probably don't like. Character changes are hard, unless we allow God's Holy Spirit to work within us, then we can rely on His strength and power, not our own.
To commit something to subconscious thought requires the repetition of actions, and this is what creates habits. That's why the Bible says,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Simply willing yourself to think godly thoughts won't cut it in a world that constantly throwing ungodliness at you! But making a decision to only let godly thoughts into your mind is a sure fire way to win the battle of your mind, and see positive character changes occur in your life! So the prescription for godly thinking is to only allow those good things into your mind, and repeat this every moment day after day until it becomes a habit.
DRAW A LINE
If you want to establish a godly habit, you must draw a line in the sand and take your stand! Floating along with popular opinion, listening to news, talking to friends at school or work will never result in lasting change. Filling your mind with TV, movies, books or songs that are worldly takes all the power out of your life!
We must realise that our bodies, our minds and our souls belong to God, and we have to be obedient to Him, not give into or be controlled by our worldly lusts and desires, apps that are already within us working in the background.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
How do you renew your mind? How to you establish powerful, godly, life changing habits in your life? You renew it, you fill your conscious mind with the things of God, and then, as you repeat this day after day, it leaches through into your subconscious and becomes a controlling part of your life!
ADDICTION… DON’T MAKE A HABIT OF IT!
A habit is not a black frock that nuns wear, it's a behaviour that become automatic. It can be positive or negative, and here's the thing, you can choose to further drive habits in or drive them out of your subconscious mind.
Many people around us don't rule their subconscious mind, it rules them! When they do things that are destructive to the person, but driven by the subconscious mind, we call them addictions.
Webster dictionary defines addiction as a “compulsive need for and use of a habit forming substance,” but we know addictions can go beyond heroin, meth, alcohol or smoking to include things like sex, computer gaming, gambling or hoarding. Addicts feel they have no choice but to obey the subconscious command, but ex addicts know that, with the right help and effort, you can break the pattern of addiction.
You may never lose the attraction to the substance or behaviour, but you can overcome the compulsive need to obey! The conscious mind can change and overcome the subconscious mind in the same way that an computer expert can bring up on screen and stop programs or viruses that work in the background adversely affecting our computer’s performance.
To do this you need a computer software expert, and I happen to know one… Jesus Christ.
The problem with addiction is that the subconscious mind is dictating to the conscious mind and exerting control over it. The subconscious program or app might have been present originally in your software, as it is in most of us, so you cannot just delete this app. It is part of you, and it has turned rogue against you!
And while it might take 1-3 months to establish a godly habit, the devil knows he can turn an action into an addiction in less time than that. Why? Because these bad habits centre on pleasure, and when we elevate pleasure above what is right, we can easily and quickly fall victim to addiction!
But don't get me wrong… pleasure comes in all kinds of forms, some good, some bad. But even good pleasures like work satisfaction, surfing or shopping can become addictive and thereby destructive, if they begin to control you rather than you controlling them. You will eventually find them empty, hollow and lifeless.
And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
Some classify addiction as a physical disease. It's not… there is no science supporting that. Making addiction a disease is an attempt to absolve an individual of having to take personal responsibility for their actions. Addiction is not inherited from your parents, although some argue a predisposition may be, and it is not something that is socially thrust upon you without any control by you.
The reality is that Addiction is about choice. Addictions are habits created by choice, and it takes choices, the right choices, godly choices to deconstruct them.
Yes some may have more addictive personalities, and yes there may be a predisposition towards a particular addiction, either physical or social. But that doesn't mean that you are condemned to do it! You still have a choice, and ultimately you reap the fruit of the choices you make!
Sometimes there is a physical dependency to break, but often the psychological dependency is the harder one to break. And the basis of this is choice.
You can control your urges! Your dad may have been an alcoholic, and you may be drawn to alcohol and the excessive consumption of it. But you still have a choice, right? I'm sick of hearing that addicts, gay people or abusers are preprogrammed to act that way, therefore they must. Sure, they may have tendencies, but ultimately they make a choice. You can control your behaviour if you choose to. Serial killers have a tendency, a desire to kill, but we don't let them murder people and then excuse them of it because it's in their nature? It's still a choice!
An addiction is a bondage that starts as a choice, but then leads to excess and then dependency…
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
That first drink, that first cigarette, that first sexual encounter, and if you do it more and more it can give rise to an addiction. Addictions generally start with a choice then move into excess,… and the only way to break the bad habit is choice… good not bad choices!
Breaking an addiction is certainly not as simple as making a single choice, but it starts with making a choice. To fully break an addiction, it takes hard work, dedication and faith to stick to the right choice. The allure, the attraction of that habit rarely disappears. Most often it is there, drawing you forever. But you can make the choice, and if you look to God's power, not your own, He can and will establish you. You'll find it hard to overcome addiction, but God can break any bad habit.
YOU HAVE TO SERVE SOMEBODY
God created us with free will, and we value freedom. We insist on being free to make our own decisions, even if many of them are potentially destructive! We want to be free, but here's the crazy thing… ultimately we have to serve somebody (It may be the devil or it may be the Lord… thanks Bob Dylan)
You see, every software program runs on an operating system. Some of you are Apple, and some are Microsoft. Apple is more stable, but Windows is cheaper and far more universal. Programs and apps don't exist by themselves, they function in and are slaves to your operating system of choice.
And so the choices you make in your conscious and subconscious mind depend on who you are a slave to. You cannot just be free… you need to choose whom you will serve…
…you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
So if you struggle with addiction, with breaking bad and destructive habits, then stop being a slave to them, a slave to sin, and instead become a slave to righteousness, because then the power of God can break those habits off you!
Accepting Jesus Christ into your life is like changing the operating system, because if affects all the software, apps, actions, habits and character of your entire life. You can try and overcome addictions and destructive apps by yourself, and you might have some degree of success, but it will never be as effective as installing a completely new operating system… asking Jesus into your life!
Some of you have previously asked Christ into your life, but you're not walking with Him in obedience. You might have asked the Lord for a new operating system, but your good apps cannot function correctly because the RAM is being fully utilised by bad programs, habits or destructive addictions. You also need to come to Christ and ask His forgiveness and trust Him for His power to begin to break off these bad habits and addictions.
MAKE ONE GOOD DECISION NOW
And when you make one good, righteous choice and follow through with it, it leads to another and another and pretty soon you break the power of those bad habits, and you build the right habits into your subconscious!
David Gushee said, “Right attitudes, dispositions, perceptions, and motives both create the conditions for making good choices and also are the fruit of good choices. There is a kind of moral feedback loop functioning here. The way you become a good person is by making good choices. This pattern of making right choices trains your will to exercise your freedom rightly over and over again.”
Today if you want to reprogram yourself, it all starts with a choice. Remember, your mind is like a computer… and you get to choose your operating system. You ultimately stand or fall not based on what your out of control subconscious tells you you must do, but based on the decisions your conscious mind makes. So what's it going to be? Jesus Christ or the world? Blessings or cursing? Life or death?
Now choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19).
If you are struggling with any bad habit or addiction, or if you are struggling to establish the good habits you need to grow in the things of God, then today I'm going to ask you to make that one, great godly decision upon which future decisions can hang!