“I don’t live there anymore.”

According to some sources, it was British Labour Party politician Andrew Francis Bennett who coined the popular – and thoroughly biblical – assertion that, “The longest journey you will ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart.” It’s helpful to me, whenever I encounter a truly vivid and memorable word picture such as this, to hold it up against the portrait of the human heart painted by Jesus and all of Scripture.

Recovering Redemption with Matt ChandlerBoth the Bible and our everyday experiences of life – if we’re honest with ourselves – seem to lend support to the idea that we human beings are in much worse shape than we care to think. We deceive ourselves constantly, we cling to repetitious behavior patterns that were long ago demonstrated to be harmful and we tend to espouse all sorts of guidelines for living that we ourselves can’t seem to live out. Perhaps Rick Warren said it best: “You can’t even live up to your own standards, let alone those of God.”

One of the more frustrating aspects of living out the Christian life is found in our efforts to gain any sort of victory over old behavior patterns, character flaws and habits. This often-painfully-slow process, called sanctification, can be discouraging as we try to lean into God’s grace, the knowledge we’ve already been forgiven of everything, and yet throw off the sinful tendencies that Jesus lovingly calls to our attention as we walk closer and closer to Him. We may want to stop drinking too much, but we keep falling off the wagon when times get tough. If you’re like me, profane language is still hard to walk away from, having for so many years been something I viewed simply as a way to “spice up a conversation,” rather than a sin against a holy God.

So how do we get victory over those sins that seem so rooted in our behavior patterns?

These last several weeks, I have been immersed in the teachings of Matt Chandler. In Session 5 of his Recovering Redemption DVD series (“Growing in Holiness: Sanctification”), Chandler offers another memorable word picture that I have found extremely helpful as I walk through my days and Christ gently asks me to notice the various ways in which I need to grow. Chandler says:

Recovering Redemption with Matt ChandlerRomans 12:2 says this: “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.”

So here we go. “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed.” That’s moving toward functional holiness. How do you do that? By the renewal of your mind.

Now, renewing your mind simply can’t be memorizing verses of the Bible. Because we see that Jesus rebukes certain men in the Bible who actually had memorized the Bible but had no idea how to apply it to their lives; how to sit in it, how to be marinated in it, how to make it, kind of, “ooze” out of how they do life. And so we’re talking about the renewal of our mind…maybe this will help.

Last year, last October, my family and I moved to a new house. We were in Highland Shores and we moved to Old Highland Village. And so all that really changed – it didn’t push us any closer or any farther from the church, in fact it’s about the same equal distance – but when I leave the church and I head down Highland Village Road and I come to the stoplight at Highland Shores, I used to make a left to get to my house, and then I had to make a right. And there was a season of about six weeks where I was having to cognitively tell myself: “Don’t make a left here. You don’t live there anymore!”

In fact, there was a day – I’ll just out myself as being a moron – I literally made a left, made it into the driveway before I was like…“Wait!” And then pulled out, waved to the people that bought our house – “I didn’t forget anything, I’m just a moron!” – and then drove to my new house.

And the move changed everything about how we got to places. Changed how we got to Interstate 35. Changed how I got to my in-laws. Changed how we got to home group. Changed everything about where we went. But there was a season where when it came time to go somewhere, I had to think, “How do I get there now?” And the renewing of our mind is really that idea of pulling up to the light and going, “I don’t live there anymore…I live there.” Our mind is renewed. That’s not my house…that’s my house. I make the right here, I don’t make the left.

  • Session 5: “Growing in Holiness: Sanctification” on DVD (11:27-12:58)
  • Available Online. (15:14-16:45)

Attempting to add anything to a sermon preached by Chandler is almost certainly foolish, but nevertheless, I’d like to suggest that while this word picture does an awesome job of helping us see our own inner tendency to veer toward self-destruction, as well as a thoughtful approach to the various intersections in our lives, it lacks an immediate corollary for what both Paul (Ephesians 2:1-3) and John (1 John 2:16) refer to as “the world, the flesh and the devil.” Maybe this will help.

Recovering Redemption with Matt ChandlerIn Chandler’s word picture, the Christian pulls up to the traffic light and acts out of his own, self-contained destructive thought patterns. He “knows” in his head that he needs to turn right, but his heart hasn’t been properly trained yet, so just by virtue of the fact that he is operating on auto-pilot, he begins to turn left, or perhaps completes the turn and keeps right on going for a while. The underlying implication, if we push the word picture beyond what Chandler likely intended, is that all “left turns” are a matter of our own foolishness and self-deception.

While this is largely true, I would adapt it somewhat to add that the world, the flesh and the devil also create deceptions and distractions such that the ability to turn right often becomes much harder than issuing a simple reminder to ourselves.

In my experience, the pleasures of this world most often work in tandem with our own foolishness such that when we pull up to the intersection, we have all kinds of encouragement to “turn left” playing upon our areas of weakness. Old friends from our past lives of sin can suddenly “pop in out of nowhere” and begin to suggest we return to behaviors we had hoped were in our past. Or road blocks erected by Satan himself may block us from turning right and confuse us into thinking it’s impossible for us to make that right turn.

Will those barricades give way to the truths of Scripture? Of course they will (Matthew 4:1-11) but we tend not to perceive this in our moments of weakness.

I find it helpful to remember that not only do I need to remind myself at certain intersections with temptation which way is “the right way” but I also need to be watchful for those ways in which outside influences may seek to throw me off, and to look more earnestly for Christ’s “Turn This Way” signs. Only the wisdom of God and the work of the Spirit in our lives can shed the kind of light on these distractions and barricades that we will need to in order to break old sin patterns and avoid falling for temptations to go another way.

Do I need to remind myself to “turn right?” Yes, absolutely. Will it take time for me to discard old habits and adopt new ones in my pursuit of Christ? Absolutely! There is much to be said for the grace of God, Who mercifully gives us time (and His unbelievable patience) to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13) all while He also works in us to give us vision for those deceptive patterns. It takes time; for me, and perhaps for most others, it will take a lot of time. Praise God He is with us at every turn, empowering us to overcome old habits within, and deceptive temptations without, to follow hard after Him and to finally arrive home.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

James 4:7
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

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