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I’m so glad you’re back with us. I know some of the truths we’ve been learning are hard, but we know that the truth sets us free.
But living in a delusion doesn’t actually make life easier, it simply requires us to lie to ourselves about the reality of life. This is how we justify blaming everything else in our lives for the difficulties we face. But this approach will never result in any real change.
However, if we want real change, we need to accept the truth that I’m responsible for my sinful actions, words, and feelings because I wanted to do them. That makes me culpable. The same goes for you and your disciplees. We must not blame our sinful choices on anyone or anything else.
So, with that said, I’m really excited about today because we’re going to continue to mature and grow in our worship of God by grappling with the question, “If I do what I do, say what I say, and feel what I feel because I want what I want, then how do I change what I want?”
But before we do that, please don’t forget how important it is to rate and review this show on Apple Podcasts and/or Facebook. If you regularly use either of those platforms, please take a moment to rate us or a minute to review us.
It’s greatly appreciated.
Alright, why do you want to worship self, and how can we change that?
Why do our kids want to displease the Lord by tattling on their siblings? Why do we want to worship ourselves by taking office supplies from our jobs? Why do so many in the body of Christ want to worship themselves in how they eat? Why do we want to text inappropriate pictures? Why do we keep wanting to keep the body of Christ at arms length?
Why do you want what you want?
I hope you’ve thought about it? Remember, we want this study to be as inductive as possible.
Now, since you can’t give me verbal feedback, let me see if I can guess some of your conclusions.
Some people believe that desires are related to our emotions. Many dictionaries define “desire” as something “wished for.” But does that really make desire an emotion? I don’t believe so.
Last time we discussed that emotions are chemical reactions to external and internal stimuli. A wish is not a reaction to stimuli, a wish is a conscious thought.
At the end of our last show I made the observation that there’s a unique relationship between our desires and thoughts. Consider this: A teenage girl sees a twenty dollar bill sticking out of her dad’s wallet. She thinks, “Wow, I could use some extra money.” That thought turns into, “I really wish I had that money.” Those thoughts quickly spawn various ways she could take the money without being caught and countless other ways she can excuse her actions if she were caught.
If she goes through with it, those thoughts will even turn themselves into ways of covering her tracks if someone were to point a finger at her. In the end she chose to steal the money because she wanted to. She wanted to steal the money because of her thought process.
And — as we’ve already seen — it’s just like Eve in Genesis 3. She contemplated all the qualities of the fruit, she considered the perceived benefits, and she chose to take the fruit. That’s because the more we think about something, the more we want it.
Here’s an interesting example I encounter all the time working with children and teens. I meet kids all the time who don’t want to be like their parents. But these young people end up thinking about not wanting to be like their parents so much that they inevitably become exactly what they didn’t want to be in the first place.
Despite the fact that they didn’t want to become like their parents, the simple process of dwelling on the things in their parents they didn’t like became a formative part of their development.
So, I think that if we want to define desires correctly, I believe a better definition than “something wished for” is “desires are thoughts that have moved from contemplation to longing.”
“A want is a thought that has moved from contemplation to longing.”
As always, we’ll never be able to correctly change our desires if we don’t know what desires are in the first place.
But I don’t think we can rightfully say that we want what we want because we think what we think. Wants and desires are themselves thoughts. Though they may be a different kind of thought, they’re still just mental machinations.
They’re thoughts that have moved from the “thinking about” stage to the “thinking about having” stage.
So, why do want do what we want? It’s true that I can think a lot about certain things and never want them. I think often of abortion, but I never want to have one. It does’t matter how much I think about different cars, I never find myself desiring them. So, what makes us desire some things we think about, but not others?
Let’s ponder this a little more. Consider these questions:
If you lived in the 1400’s would you have wanted to sail with Columbus to the New World? What would your thoughts be on daily bathing if you lived a few hundred years ago? If you were an unsaved high schooler in the public schools would you think that Darwinian Evolution is accurate science? If you were born into a Muslim family, to which religion would you likely subscribe?
Now, why would you think those things? Why would you want to pursue them?
Do you have an answer yet?
As we try to determine why we want what we want, I want to share with you my absolute favorite object lesson.
Now, I wish you could see what I’m about to explain, but you’re going to have to do your best to picture this in your mind. One day I hope to record me giving this object lesson, but until I do that, you’re going to have to imagine.
By the way, if you’re doing something else right now like working out or cooking, I suggest you pause the show until you’re done. You’re going to want to listen carefully for the next few minutes.
I've done this illustration for a new group of people at least once a year every year since 2007. But I have a few favorite times. One of my favorite times was in 2013. At the time I was teaching Bible at Schaumburg Christian School to a group of about one hundred junior highers. My other favorite time was much more recently when I was preaching at Camp Chetek in Wisconsin.
But for today’s discussion, I’m going to tell you about the time I asked George and Kelly to help me with this object lesson.
George and Kelly joined me onstage along with a nurse friend of mine.
On the stage I had a table, and I showed everyone at the same time why the table was there.
I stuck a wad of silly putty onto the table and then took a knife with a five inch blade and stuck the bottom of the knife into the silly putty so that the blade was facing straight up. I then covered the knife with a brown paper bag. I also set out two other identical brown paper bags on the table. Had you not known where the knife was, you wouldn’t have been able to figure it out.
I then explained that under cover of a blanket I brought, our nurse was going to decide where we wanted to put the knife. She could put it under the left bag, the middle bag, or the right bag. She was free to put the knife wherever she wanted, and the nurse would be the only person in the room who knew for sure where the knife was.
I wasn’t even going to know where she put it.
So, when the nurse had finished and taken her seat, and the blanket was removed, all any of us could see were the three brown paper bags sitting upside down on the table.
I then explained to the audience that — for the illustration — George was going to represent God, and Kelly was going to represent mankind.
I then reviewed with them many of the things we know about God. The audience told us that God was all knowing. They said He was also all loving, all holy, and all wise. Therefore, we concluded that not only did God know everything going on in our lives, but we could be certain that God would never ask us to do anything that would ever be bad for us because He promises to work out all things for our greatest good if we love Him and are participating in His plan to conform us to the image of Christ.
That’s what we all knew to be true about God.
But then I explained that — even though all of those things are true about God — often times He asks us to do things that are uncomfortable for us. His commands are uncomfortable because they go against our natural inclinations. I asked the audience to give me examples of this from their own lives. One parent chimed in that God wants us to be patient with our kids. Yeah, that’s not easy. Others said that God wants us to communicate kindly at all times. Children suggested that obeying their parents fit under this category. And — needless to say — each of their examples could easily be considered difficult or uncomfortable.
So, then I said, let’s look at a specific example of God telling us to do something that is uncomfortable.
At that time I turned to George. Now, remember that George was representing God in our illustration. And I said to him, “Alright, since you’re God, you obviously know where the knife is, correct?”
He looked concerned the moment He realized that he actually had no idea where the knife was.
But without letting him answer, I continued, “Even though you know where the knife is, I’d like you to tell me one place the knife isn’t. Don’t tell me which bag the knife is under, tell one of the two bags that do not have a knife under it.”
You can imagine George’s expression. And this is one reason I wish you could watch this. It’s so entertaining.
Well, eventually I got George to tell me — with a significant amount of concern in his voice — that he thought the knife wasn’t under the far right bag. I reminded him that — of course — being God, he knew with all certainty and confidence.
I then instructed Kelly — who was representing mankind — that because God is Who He says He is, He’s the King of our lives and that we must obey Him. So I instructed George to tell Kelly that she needed to extend her arm, open her hand, and — as hard as she could — she needed to smash the far right bag with the palm of her hand.
You can imagine that Kelly wasn't too pleased with the idea.
However — maybe she was doing the odds, maybe she took my ease and comfort in the situation as as a sign that she would be okay — she took her hand and tentatively smashed the bag.
Much to George’s relief, the bag did not have a knife under it.
And then I said, “That is a good example of God asking us to do things that are uncomfortable. We’d really rather not, but most of the time we do it anyway. However, like Kelly, we don’t really do it with all of our might. We halfheartedly do it . . . if we do it at all.
But then I asked the audience if God ever expects us to do things that aren’t just uncomfortable — like eating vegetables we don’t like — but things that are really hard.
The audience agreed that God often does that, so I asked them for examples.
Some parents mentioned having to give consequences to their kids when their kids have disobeyed. A child mentioned standing up for God when He’s torn down by his peers. Wives mentioned submitting to their husbands. Another individual suggested that evangelizing the lost is often really hard, and a teenager said it’s really hard to stay pure when you attend a public school.
So, then I said, “Let’s look at an example of God asking us to do something really hard.”
Once again, I turned to George and asked him where the knife was not. I told him that most people guessing would now have only a 50/50 chance of getting it right, but since George was God, he knows exactly where the knife isn’t.
Strangely enough, George was very hesitant to commit to an answer, but eventually I pulled from him that he thought the knife wasn’t under the middle bag.
I also asked George to tell Kelly that she needed to extend her arm, open her hand, and smash the middle bag as hard as she could.
He did that, and I turned to Kelly.
The look on her face told me that this was going to be a challenge.
However, as before, I reminded her that she needed to obey God’s command. But, I also said, “Now, last time you were asked to obey, you didn’t really obey as fully as you should have. So, as a good friend, I’m going to help you this time. I’m not going to force you and make you do it, but I will help you do your best for God. Therefore, I’m going to put my hand on top of your hand, and we’re going to smash the bag together.”
This seemed to calm her a little bit. I could tell she was still doing the math. She figured that if I were willing to put myself into harms way, she had less to worry about. No doubt, she was banking on the fact that I knew exactly where the knife was.
So, once again, Kelly flattened her palm, and with my open hand on top of her open hand, we pulled back and smashed the bag much harder this time.
By the way, allow me to stop here and remind us how helpful it is to have a friend, a fellow disciple of Christ, who’s willing to come alongside us in our difficulties and help us learn what God would have us learn and then help us submit to God’s plan.
It’s so necessary for Christians that what I just described is exactly what God commands us to do. It’s called discipleship.
So, anyway, back to the illustration.
Amazingly enough, Kelly actually did a great job all by herself this time. She didn’t really need my help as much as I had originally thought. I didn’t need to push her hand down that hard.
And, yes, George was right, and the bag was empty.
The whole room heaved a collective sigh and erupted into applause, giggling broke out all over the place, people were conjecturing how George got so lucky, and so on.
I gave George a high-five and discovered that his palms were soaking wet. The kid was seriously afraid for what might have happened to Kelly.
I then sent both George and Kelly back to their seats and did my best to calm the room down.
Then I went back and reviewed how God does frequently ask us to do a lot of uncomfortable things, and He commands us to do many very hard things. I also reviewed how helpful it is to have someone come alongside you, keep you accountable, and obey God with you.
But then I asked an important question. “God often tells us to do uncomfortable things and commands us to do really hard things, but has God ever asked you or someone you know to do something that seemed impossible?”
I often won’t ask my audience to share specific instances in their lives that seem impossible. Most of the time I’ll provide examples that people have shared with me in counseling.
For example, God wants us to forgive our unfaithful spouse. God calls us to contentment in the face of a miscarriage. He tells us to have peace when we’re diagnosed with cancer. He even demands that believing wives submit to unsaved husbands. He tells young people to be joyful and rejoice and be glad when they’re the constant target for bullying at school. And God tells children who are being abused that they’re not allowed to become bitter. And He commands all of us that we’re not allowed to fear when the world is collapsing all around us.
I then reminded the audience of Abraham.
After finally receiving his son of promise, the son from whom Abraham’s decedents would pour like the sands of the sea and from whom the Savior of the world would come . . . God commanded Abraham to kill his son.
How impossible is that?
Now only would it seem impossible to actually take my child’s life, it would actually be impossible to kill my child and then expect that chid to give me children.
It’s impossible, God!
But what did Abraham do? He and Isaac made their way to the mountain.
You know, we often focus completely on Abraham in this instance, but I think Isaac deserves some credit too. Isaac — likely a strapping young man at this time in his life — allowed his father to bind him on an altar. Wow. How impossible would that seem?
What’s interesting is that we actually get a glimpse into Abraham’s mind as he prepared to sacrifice his son. In Hebrews 11:19 we’re told that Abraham believed that God would raise his son from the dead once he sacrificed him.
Of course, we all know that just as Abraham and Isaac were about to do the impossible, God stayed Abraham’s hand and provided a ram for the sacrifice.
It was at this point in the object lesson that I invited Kelly back up to the stage.
She and I walked quietly back up to the table, and then I walked away from her.
I left the stage and went down by the front row. I left her there, all alone in front of the table.
I then looked her in the eyes and said, “What I’m about to ask you to do won’t make any sense. In fact, it may sound like a terrible idea, and you’re definitely going to be tempted to not want to obey because it will seem to you like what I’m asking you to do is impossible . . . . But, Kelly, I need you to smash the bag that has the knife under it.”
I remember with 4K clarity how Kelly’s eyes immediately welled up with tears, and she involuntarily took a half-step backward from the table. There was this immediate visceral response, not just from her, but from the entire audience.
Whether they had seen it coming or not, they couldn’t believe I was actually doing this to Kelly.
Now, when I give this object lesson, it’s this point that’s hard for me to predict. I’ve had many different responses, but — the vast majority of the time — the participant stands there motionless. Sometimes their minds are whirring and the math just isn’t adding up. Sometimes they’re frozen, not thinking anything at all, just feeling the rush of emotion flooding over their body.
So, often I have to get their attention and remind them of their task. This particular time, I looked at Kelly again and said, “Kelly, you know me. You know that I care for you and wouldn’t want anything bad to ever happen to you. Kelly, smash the bag.”
That was the quietest any of you have ever heard an audience that large. Men, women, children, I don’t know that any of them were breathing.
Kelly looked me deep in the eyes, took a step toward the table, and with all her might she smashed the bag.
Now, I don’t know what mental gymnastics the average mind has to do to make sense of what they witnessed, but there Kelly stood with her hand crushing an empty brown paper bag.
There was this immediate uproar of left-over screams of terror, groans of relief, and the awkward laughter that bursts out when people are under too much stress.
And this is where I always have to work really hard to silence everyone. They can get so distracted by the unimportant things that they miss the whole point.
So, I get everyone focused again, and I always ask just one question.
And here’s the interesting thing.
I’ve asked thousands of people to explain to me why they do what they do, and none of them have ever given me the right answer the first time.
I’ve asked thousands of people why other people do what they do, and no one gets it the first time.
But every time I do this object lesson, I ask the question, “Why did she smash the last bag?” And every time — every single time — the first person to raise their hand gets the answer right.
So, I asked, “Why did Kelly smash the bag?”
What do you think?
Why did she do what she did?
Why might you have smashed the last bag?
I remember clearly a young lady in the first row — her name was Leeza — was the first to raise her hand.
The room went silent in anticipation of her answer, and Leeza said very simply, “She trusted you.”
And that was it.
Kelly trusted me just like Abraham and Isaac trusted God.
Kelly smashed the bag because she wanted to smashed the bag. By why did she want to? What would make a person risk their safety like that?
Kelly believed something about the situation.
She either believed that I could be trusted to never ask her to do anything that would be bad for her. It’s even possible that she had already come to the conclusion that there was no way there could be a knife under that bag — I could go to jail and be sued for endangering her — so she confidently smashed it because she believed it was safe.
Regardless of what she believed, the point is that her desires was motivated completely by what she believed to be true.
And I think it’s important to note that the biblical words “trust,” “belief,” and “faith” are universally interchangeable synonyms. They all refer to the same thing.
So, let’s test this theory with the time we have remaining.
If God says that I must live with my wife according to understanding, and I believe that I need to do that in order to please God and have a successful marriage, then I’m going to want to do it. And if I want to do it, then I’m going to do it.
If you tell your kids to clean their room, and they believe they need to obey, then they’re going to want to obey, and they will obey.
However, if God tells me to live in an understanding way with my wife, but I believe it’s more important for her to submit no matter how inequitable my demand, then I’m not going to want to do the work required to understand my wife.
If your children don’t believe that obedience is always necessary, they’re not going to want to do what you say, and subsequently they’re not going to do it.
One of the best verses that teaches this truth is James 2:14-26. Listen carefully, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
Rahab submitted to the Israelite God because she believed He was more powerful than any of her gods. She helped the spies because she believed it was right. She hung the scarlet chord our of her window because she believed it would save her and her family.
Naaman didn’t want to dip seven times in the Jordan to be cured of his leprosy, so he didn’t. But then his servant challenged him that he would have attempted even the most difficult of tasks if he believed it would cure him, so Naaman decided to dip in the Jordan. He did it because he wanted to, and he wanted to because he believed it was worth a try.
Now, my intention is not to open a can of worms. The James 2 verses do not teach a work-salvation, but they do teach that salvation that comes by faith necessarily requires good works. You cannot be saved and not bear the fruit of repentance. Born again believers obey God and bear the Fruit of the Spirit to one degree or another.
The reason I shared that passage was this — you and your fellow disciples need to understand that your fruit grows from what you believe about life.
You do what you do, say what you say, and feel what you feel because you want what you want. And you want what you want because you believe what you believe.
Now, there’s a lot more that needs to be said, and there’s still one more question that needs to be asked.
We asked why we do what we do. And we when we discovered that we do what we do because we want what we want, we had to ask why we want what we want. So, now it’s important for us to ask, “Why do we believe what we believe?”
Oh, man, is that an important question — one that we’re going to answer later.
For now, though, in our study I hope we’re starting to understand why we worship the way we do.
Choosing to worship self is not an accident. Choosing to worship God is not a foundation-less whim.
There’s a reason we obey God, and there’s a reason we disobey Him.
Allow me to finish today with one more example.
If I genuinely believe that the all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God of the Universe wants me to obey for my greatest good and His greatest glory, then I will want to obey, and if I want to obey Him, I will do my best to obey Him.
Conversely, it’s also true that a person who doesn’t care about God isn’t going to believe what He says, and won’t necessarily want to obey (at least for the same reasons), and likely that person will only obey when he sees fit.
But what about Christians who disobey? Can we say that they disobey because they don’t believe God?
Can a Christian not believe God?
Let’s think about it. We may disobey brainlessly, but we don’t disobey without purpose. A child may feel angry and refuse to wash the dishes, but we know their anger over the situation and subsequent refusal grew from the fact that they didn’t want to do the dishes.
But why didn’t they want to do the dishes? Well, at that moment, even without formulating a thought, they actually did have a reason.
In their heart of hearts they didn’t believe that submitting to authority was the best thing to do. At that moment, they believed that refusing was the best course of action. They believed that doing the dishes was bad and that it was best not to do the dishes.
But you may say, “Yeah, but Aaron they know what God says about obedience. Isn’t that the same?”
Nope. Knowing and believing are not the same thing.
And that’s what we’re going to talk about next time.
We’re going to look at why we believe what we believe. We’re going to look at the nature of faith and talk about how faith and knowledge are not the same thing at all.
And since our goal is to figure out how we can change our worship, we’re also going to talk about how to change what we believe.
If I choose to worship self because I want to, and I want to worship self because I believe my way is best, what on earth can I do to change what I believe?
So join us for that very important discussion next time.
Before then I encourage you to check out our free episode notes and transcript on our blog.
Now, as I’ve observed a number of times during this study, this material is hard because it exposes the dirtiness of our souls. But hopefully now we can understand better why Paul considered himself the chief of sinners.
Let these realizations impress you, not depress you. Let it impress on your heart the need we all have for Christ. Let it motivate you to trust Him more and teach your fellow disciples to do the same.
And share this episode with your friends so they can learn to grow their worship of God.
And then next time we’re going to talk about how to change what you believe.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.