Saturday, September 13, 2014

Think Positively Or Honestly?

I sat through an almost 9 hour conference in a freezing cold room yesterday, listening to a man talk about motivation, vision, and affirmations.
This kind of thing is hard for me as a Christian, especially when it is not particularly Christian focused. At some point I feel a bit like I am listening to the meaningless drivel that flows freely from the Houston pastors that make me cringe at every quippy and cleverly penned quote.

You see, I am a network marketer recommender of an amazing product that has changed our lives. I did not set out to make money recommending a certain product, but when it changed so much about our health and our lives, I couldn't help but tell our friends. Soon, they told their friends, who told their friends, and then this remarkable thing happened; the company compensated me for recommending their products to others. Wal-Mart doesn't do that.

 I did not set out to give anyone a plan for financial freedom, or piles of cash. I simply shared a good thing. As of now, I am not rolling in piles of cash, not even close. But I have a bit of extra money to buy some groceries.

For months I prayed for an opportunity to help our family out financially. Each month our financial situation grew tighter and tighter. Not because we aren't making money, or  because we are making less money, but because our kids are growing and eating more and more, and groceries are getting more and more expensive.

Despite my best efforts to be frugal and price match, coupon, and implement every possible avenue for cheaper prices, our kids' appetites were quickly outgrowing our budget. Something had to happen. So, I prayed and asked God to provide.

Within a month or two, I got a check in the mail for recommending a product I use. At that time, I listened to the message God was sending, and I made the decision to put forth effort to make money, instead of just sharing randomly.

Now others are doing the same and looking to me for guidance, so I am looking to others for guidance as well.
At the end of the conference I was more than happy with the tools I gained to lead my team even better and share what I was able to glean.

However,  my mind and spirit struggle with this new concept of speaking positive affirmations.

The lesson summed up was this; to be successful (his definition is to be successful is to have joy on the journey of whatever you are doing, not to make lots of money and gain lots of power and respect) you must be motivated, and to be motivated you must speak positive things to yourself. Sounds a bit Osteenish if you ask me or at least that's what I thought at first.

But, in reality, as I listened I prayed God would speak to me, and indeed He did.

The message of speaking positively and letting your mind dwell on positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts is not a heretical message. It is indeed Biblical. Philippians 4:8 says,

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

It is Biblical to control your thought processes and not allow them to be subject to every evil and whim that comes along.
"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ," 2 Corinthians 10:5

The problem with the message we so often hear about positive thinking is that it is separated from Christ. Jesus said in John 15:5

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing." 

Did you get that? Without Christ you can do anything you set your mind to NOTHING!

We ended the conference by evaluating our values, our gifts, and then writing a vision in the form of positive affirmations. Such a good practice, if done correctly. But here's the problem. So many people wrote things like, "I am a good person." 

But you may ask, Isn't that just what Paul said to do in Philippians? What is wrong with that? 

Paul indeed said to DWELL on good things, not bad. But the very first quality he lists when it comes to your thought processes is TRUTH. Let me give you an example of a lie.

People don't like me. 

Do you know that for sure? Has anyone told you they don't like you? Have you asked? Such a good question to ask yourself when you are allowing negative thoughts to consume you. Can you be certain this is true? But an even more important question to always ask is,

 "Does the BIBLE say this is true?" 

 The Bible is your standard for truth. Period. Anything else is a waste of time. If your answer to either of these questions is, No, stop wasting your time on such a destructive thought!

So what's wrong with saying I am a good person? You must ask yourself the question, do I know this to be true? Does the Bible say this is true?
In fact, the Bible tells us this is a lie. Romans 3:12 says, 

"All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one."

I could say every morning and every evening, I am a good person. I might even truly believe it. But at some point, it will fail me. No matter how much I say it to myself, I will never, ever, be a good person. I will still do bad things, say bad things, and think bad things. If I was a good person, I would have no need for Christ. I would BE Christ.

I can say to myself, "I deserve good things." I could say it all day long, but the truth is, I do not deserve even one good thing. The Bible says that no one is good. It also says in Romans 3:23;

 "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  

And Romans 6:23 says the price for being a sinner is death.

"For the wages of sin is death."

I deserve good things death. Not jail, not a spanking. No. Death.

 I have sinned, I have lied, and said bad things. Therefore, I deserve... death.  I can say all day long, "I deserve good things,"  convince my mind it is true, but my spirit still knows I have sinned, and what I deserve is death. My spirit is still not satisfied, nor will it ever be satisfied through speaking those things. Because speaking myself good just doesn't work. Only faith in Jesus Christ can truly, without a doubt, change me. 

Instead of daily positive affirmations and meditations about myself, daily positive meditation on TRUTH that is found in God's word will change the heart of a human being, thus changing their life.

I no longer say, "I am a sinner. I am a wretch. I am a horrible person. I deserve nothing good."

I can say, "I am redeemed by the blood of Jesus. I am a new creation. The old is gone and Christ remains."

2 Corinthians says, 

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

What are the new things? Those new things are your truths, given to us in the Bible.

 I no longer say to myself, "I am a horrible mother." Instead I say, "I am a good mother through the power of the Holy Spirit who has given me everything I need to be their mother, because God in all his sovereignty and wisdom, gave them to ME."

I no longer say, "No one will listen to me." I say, "Because God has not given me a spirit of fear, but rather, He has given me the Holy Spirit that brings with Him, power, love and a sound mind. Therefore, I can speak what He puts in my mouth." 

I no longer need to be afraid of what people think of me. I can say, "I am dearly loved and how great is the love the Father has lavished on me, that he would call me a child of God!" 

This also means I no longer need to dwell on all my faults, and fears, and failures, but rather I can dwell on the truth that is Christ is in me. I have access to the power of the Holy Spirit in me, and it is because of the work of Christ that there is anything good in me at all. Although I do not deserve anything good, Christ has redeemed me and I am an heir with Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven and as a child of God, He will bless me with whatever He determines to be good for me, in all his sovereignty and wisdom, even if it appears to me to be anything but good

For example, when I am digging in the foot of my child with a needle to remove a splinter, I am doing something good for him. However, he can not understand that what I am doing is good. He only feels the pain, so he may only think I am hurting him. God does the same with us.

The other night we watched the movie, Mom's Night Out. It speaks volumes to me because, really, that is my life on the big screen. I am inadequate as a wife, a mother, a housekeeper, a teacher, a friend, and most of all, a child of God. But in the end, the mom character has a transformation from totally down on herself to confident and successful. She doesn't transform because she started telling herself she was enough. She could never be enough. No one can be enough for this job.

Her transformation came when she realized, Christ in her is enough, and because of Christ in her, she is free to be who He made her to be, instead of perfect. 

She didn't change what she did or her circumstances. She simply changed her thought processes, she replaced the lies with the truth.

"Do not be conformed any longer to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2

You see, the people who begin to speak good things to themselves, may indeed experience a self-fulfilling prophecy and become skinny, rich, successful, and get everything they ever wanted.

But, that won't be the end of the story.

 I was relieved to hear our speaker end the conference yesterday with this little nugget of truth. You may get everything you ever wanted,  but your life, that is your heart and mind and spirit, will still be incomplete. No amount of things or money can make you happy. It can only give you a bit of shallow entertainment, ultimately leaving you empty. 

Romans 12:2 gives us what the positive affirmation message does not. Transform and renew your mind, to be like that of Christ in order that He may be glorified. 

"I am good because Christ has redeemed me." 

"If I have to boast I will boast of what pertains to my weakness." 2 Corinthians 11:30

"But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14

"But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil." James 4:16

The most important part of Philippians 4:8 is that you DWELL on what is TRUE. Anything else is evil. Anything else is fruitless. Anything else, is pointless.

So what does  the positive thinking and affirmations in light of truth look like? It looks like taking our eyes off ourselves and putting them on the only ONE that matters, Jesus.

Matthew 6 tells us not to worry about tomorrow or what we eat and drink, what we wear or where we will live. It tells us we think too much about the body and waste too much time worrying about it. Instead, we have only one thing we need to do.

"Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33

To be successful in marriage, parenting, business, friendships, or anything in this life, simply, 
"Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3