Biblical Mental Conditioning

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I have been talking to you the last couple of times about the conditions that should exist underneath your skin.  And I want to remind you again that that’s where you live, is underneath your skin, and nobody can get in there with you. This is the private part of your world, and what you do about what goes on there is in your own hands. Now I want to remind you of a scripture passage in 2 Corinthians 5, verse 10. 2nd Corinthians 5:10, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that every one of us may receive the things done in His body according to what He has done, whether it be good or bad.” Isn’t that something?

The basis for evaluation when you come to the day when you meet Jesus will be what have you done in your body, whether it be good or bad, and so it’s a good idea for us to have some understanding of what is good that goes on in our body, and what isn’t. Now in 2 Corinthians chapter four starting with the seventh verse, there is a description of the conditions that should exist in your body. That is underneath your skin, and this makes reference to the work of Christ in our lives. The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and it refers to it here as a treasure.

Now just read with me what it says, verse 7 through 10. “We have this treasure,” this is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives called a treasure, We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.”

You see we’re not talking about something that people do to you. We’re not talking about something that circumstances will do to you. The events of the day don’t have anything to do with this. We are talking about a relationship between you and God. And how you respond to the people and the events of your life will depend upon your relationship to God, and not what people do or what circumstances come along. Did I say something wrong there? You know, that’s quite a statement. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power is of God, and not of us.”I’m not talking about something that you crank up for yourself. I’m talking about something that you allow God to do through you.

Now if this treasure is in you, and you look to God for the power to live your life day by day, the next couple of verses will describe how you will respond to life. Listen to this. “We are troubled on every side.” Golly, that’s a lot of trouble, isn’t it? On every side, trouble.

I have been making plans to make some more movies, and some of you have seen my movies, and it amazes me constantly when I run into people who have seen those movies, and they greet me like we’ve been seeing each other before. “Don’t you remember you were in our church at 5:00?” Well no, I was sitting on my porch. Amazing what electronics can do these days. But I have been making plans to make some more movies, and yesterday I got a phone call telling me that the man that I was working with dropped dead. Well that happens. You know perfectly well that that happens, and since we know that things like that happen, we might as well get ready. It’s like a football player who knows perfectly well that next week he’s going to experience excruciating pain when the game starts. There simply are going to be some collisions like that, and he knows it, so since he knows it, he would do well to get his body into shape.

Now we know that there’s trouble down the road, but we don’t have to tremble and shake because we know there’s trouble down the road. All we need to do is get into shape, and get ready for it.

I had a call awhile ago from a friend of mine. I woke up, the phone rang in the morning, I’m sleepy. He says, “Jamie is dead.” Well, Jamie was his twenty-four year old son.

I’m constantly listening to people more and more who are saying, “What should I do, my husband walked out on me?”

You hear people say all the time, “I had a problem deciding what to do with this rebellious child of mine.”

Well, I recall one time a dear friend of mine who was retired and put his money into a retirement building which went bankrupt. Well that shouldn’t surprise us, life is troublesome. Now how are we supposed to respond when there’s trouble? Well listen to this. “We are troubled on every side but not distressed.” You see, when you draw upon the power of God and you know perfectly well that He said to you that in this world you’re going to have trouble, then you might as well count on it that you’re going to have trouble.

Now the fun of life, it’s kind of like watching a drama on T.V. You know, you turn on a drama, and you know it’s going to last an hour, and during that hour, you know that the characters are going to get into trouble, that’s why you listen. It’s kind of fun to see what kind of trouble they get into, right? Not only that, but its rather fun to enjoy the suspense of finding out how they get out of it, right? That’s why you watch a play. Well, now you can look upon life the same way.

It’s just like a T.V. play. Just as sure as you’re alive, you’re going to run into some trouble. Now it’s kind of fun to anticipate what could it be. Either that or you dread looking ahead and wondering what’s going to happen. Now as we walk hand in hand with God, and as He said, “All things work together for good to them that love God and that are called according to His purpose”, then we ought to anticipate eagerly what’s going to happen next. You know what? That’s the fun of life. You have a real zest for life when you can look forward to what’s going to happen next.

Not, “Will anything happen next?” There will be trouble. But the fun of it is to find out what it will be. That is, if you’re walking in the Spirit. And further than that, the more fun yet is to try to figure out what to do about it when it happens. Now you know, you either enjoy that process or you dread it. “Oh, woe is me, I’ve got another problem.” Well, so what’s new? You got another problem. You know the one who trusts God would say, “Good I know what the problem is; now I know what I’ve got to do today. I gotta start work’n on it.” You know it says that “we are troubled on every side, but not distressed.

What goes on underneath your skin when you’re distressed? I have people come into the consulting room and they are distressed, and they sit down and get up, and they pace around, and they’re working their hands, and they’re drumming their fingers, and they’re twirling their hair, and they’re picking on their faces, and their muscles are all tensed up, and their heart is pounding away. That’s what distress is. That’s not walking in the Spirit. Now you’re not going to get any help until you admit that you’re not walking in the Spirit. When you’re distressed, you’re simply not walking in the Spirit.

To quiet you down does not depend on solving the problem. To quiet you down depends upon your repenting of the way you are responding to your problem. What better message could I bring you? “We are troubled on every side, but not distressed.” Listen to this, “We are perplexed.” Anybody here perplexed? You’ve got a decision to make, and you don’t know how to make it. You don’t know what to do.

I usually have at least two or three perplexities on my hands all the time. What to do? I’ve called on the Lord, “Lord tell me what to do.” What do I hear? Nothing.

Have you ever heard from God? Why people that end up, people end up in my office who claim to hear voices. Many of us realize that there’s silence out there. That doesn’t mean that God isn’t there. All of us take our turns at perplexities.

What am I going to do about this husband of mine?”

Many a man says to me, “I got her, what do I do with her?” Perplexed.

You see the Christian life doesn’t free you from trouble, it doesn’t free you from perplexities, what it does is gives you a new spirit as you handle them. That’s what the Christian life is all about. “We are perplexed but not in despair.”

Do you know what goes on underneath your skin when you’re in despair? These are the people who wake up and say, “Oh no, not another day.” These are people who are awake for a few hours and they say, “I’m tired.” These are the people with the low blood pressure and cold feet, in despair. I remember one fellow sitting in my consulting room in the waiting room in despair, and he said to the secretary, “Shut that music off!” He wanted to soak quietly in his misery.

You know, isn’t it tiresome to be in despair? You know to be distressed or to be in despair is an intolerable condition. You gotta do something about it, and many times nowadays, what we choose to do is to swallow some pills, and so we kind of stumble through life. Well, you know He says that you can be persecuted. Do you have anybody on your back right now? Somebody that’s just pestering you? Somebody that’s making unreasonable demands on you? Someone who’s saying, “So that’s what I get for pouring my life into you?” Somebody who’s saying, “You are an ungrateful person.”

You know we all take our turn having somebody on our backs, don’t we? Anybody persecuting you? You see, the Christian life does not exempt you from that, but what the Christian life does do, it says that we can be persecuted, but not forsaken. Yet I talk to people all the time who say, “Nobody cares. I’m all alone.” Surrounded by people, and we say nobody cares and I’m all alone. You see, the person who talks that way is the person who’s not walking in the Spirit.

Everybody takes their turn getting persecuted. You can be cast down, it says. That’s worse than being persecuted. You see, to be cast down is to be ignored. It’s a lot better to have somebody bothering you than to have nobody even paying any attention to you. But you see, you can be cast down but not destroyed. And yet some people would say, “Everything I worked for is destroyed. What was the use of putting all this energy into this life? It’s all gone.” You see, that’s the way a person talks that’s not walking in the Spirit.

Now let me put those verses back together again. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” What treasure? The Spirit of God. We have His Spirit in our bodies. “That the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. We are troubled on every side but not distressed. We are perplexed but not in despair. We’re persecuted but not forsaken; we are cast down but not destroyed. Always bearing about,” where? “In your body.” That is underneath your skin. “Always bearing about in your body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest,” where? “In your body.”

How is that life made manifest? Well, you’re not distressed, and you’re not in despair, and you don’t feel forsaken, and you don’t feel destroyed. You know, if you aren’t careful, you can walk your Christian life without paying any attention to what’s going on in your body, and simply saying to yourself, “Oh I’m upset because somebody did that to me.” Or you say to yourself, “Under the circumstances, who wouldn’t be distressed?” rather than realizing that we ought to come to the Lord in repentance saying, “Look at me Lord, I’m distressed, I’m in despair, I feel forsaken, I feel destroyed. Oh God, forgive me and cleanse me and help me.” What a wonderful treasure, and what a pity for anybody that doesn’t avail themselves of that kind of a treasure.

Let me read you a Bible verse in Psalm chapter 4 verses 7 and 8, along these same lines. Psalm chapter 4, verse 7 and 8, and here the Psalmist is talking to God and he says, “You hath put gladness in my heart.”

Who? Well I found a friend, and my friend put gladness in my heart, or I moved into a new place, and that has made me glad, or I got an inheritance and now I’m happy. No sir, that’s not what we’re talking about. God puts gladness in your heart. More than when their corn and wine increased. You know when your corn and wine increases? That’s when the farmer makes his money. And some of us have put our hope in a pension plan. We put our hope in a retirement plan. And everywhere I go nowadays, I see older people saying, “Woe is me, I invested my money in a retirement plan, and inflation is eating it up!” Gladness doesn’t come from a retirement plan, it comes from God.

“You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their corn and wine increased,” and listen to this. “I will both lay me down in peace and” do what? “sleep.”

You see it doesn’t go like this, I will lay me down and toss and turn and fuss and fret in bed. No, “I will lay me down in peace and sleep.” That’s what bed is for. Some of us toss and turn on the finest mattresses money can buy. Well, I guess that beats a lumpy one. “I will both lay me down in peace and sleep because You Lord only.” Did you get that? “You Lord only make me dwell in safety.”

What have you got to worry about if you’ve got the Lord? Bring on the trouble, bring on the perplexities, bring on the persecutions, bring on the rejections. With God you don’t need to fear. Without God, it’s going to be pretty rough. Now you aren’t necessarily walking with God ’cause you went to church all your life, and you are not necessarily walking with God because you associate with people who say they’re Christians. You are walking with God if when trouble comes, you’re not distressed, you’re not in despair, you don’t feel forsaken, and you don’t feel destroyed. That’s the evidence of walking with God.

I was talking like this one time in a church. “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than when their corn and wine increased, and I will both lay me down in peace and sleep because You Lord only, makest me dwell in safety.” That very night, I came home from speaking in that church, and the phone rang about 10:30 at night, and it was an apartment manager. I had been involved in an apartment house project. And it’s a beautiful spot with a stream running through it, and on this side of the stream are some apartment houses already built, and on this side of the stream we were building some.

This was the apartment manager who was managing the ones already built, a woman. And she said, “Doc, you better sit down before I tell you this.” So, I wanted to know what’s going on. Well, the night before we had this strong, strong wind, and she said, “I woke up in the morning after the wind, and I looked out the window, and here was this apartment building that was under constructions.” It had the roof on, and the windows were in, and the doors were on, and there were twelve apartment house units in this building. Four on the floor and three stories high, and she said, “I looked out the window, and there was no building.” She just didn’t believe it. She walked away, and tried to ignore it, but then she came back and looked out again, and sure enough, no building. You know it’s kind of a funny thing for a building to disappear.

She called her husband over and said, “Is there a building missing?” They looked at each other and they said, “Sure enough, the building’s gone!”

You see, there was a hill, and they felt kind of funny they said, but they went out looking for this building, and when they came around the corner, there was that building flattened out. So flat that you couldn’t see it over that rise.

Well, I hung up the phone, and my wife said, “What happened?”

I said, “My building blew down.”

She said, “Well what are you going to do?”

Well now, what are you gonna do at 10:30 at night when your building blew down? I’ll tell you what you had better do. You had better get a good night’s sleep. And I want to tell you that’s a wonderful thing, under conditions like, that to be able to go to bed, and sleep.

I went out there the next day with the insurance agent, and my, what a twisted wreckage. And you know something? The only building in the whole county that blew down was mine. (Laughter) You laugh, that isn’t funny. You know you can laugh because it isn’t your building.

I asked God, “What did you blow my building down for? I travel all over the world in Your name, and You blow my building down?” You know what the Lord said to me? Nothing.

You know, as we looked it over, the building foreman came over and he said to me, “Doc, don’t you care that your building broke down?”

Now isn’t that interesting? When your building blew down, you’re supposed to be miserable. If you care, you are supposed to be all upset and wringing your hands, and all excited, and wondering what to do next. That’s what the world would say. The evidence of caring is that you lose your joy when there’s a crisis. Some of us would feel absolutely inappropriate to be full of the Spirit of God when there’s a crisis. Full of love and joy, and peace, when there’s a crisis?

Well, I believe the Lord. I don’t know how the Lord communicates with you, but the Lord communicates with me, I believe, by putting ideas in my head. As I stood there, it was almost as though an audible voice was saying to me, “You go around the country telling people where gladness comes from, and you go around the country telling people that they can lay down in peace no matter what happens. Well, I’m just giving you a little training.”

You know, the Lord can afford to blow my building down if He wants to, just to give me an illustration for you. One thing that happened to me, is to realize what a foolish thing to put your hope for security in a building. Why, you know what can happen to a building? God can come along and go, “Whoosh!” it’s gone. A little earth tremor can shake your building all up. A little flame and your building can go up into smoke. No, peace doesn’t come from owning a building, only trouble.

Do you know something, in one year in those apartments, there was a murder and a stabbing, and we discovered that we had rented to two prostitutes? You know how we found that out? We read it in a newspaper. So we made the headlines three times in one year with those apartments.

I want to tell ya, the things of this world are just a lot of trouble. Peace does not come from acquiring things of this world. Peace comes from God. And He will put gladness in your heart. And He will keep you from being distressed and in despair. Isn’t that good news? You know, you’ve got to yield to Him day by day. Otherwise, you’re gonna be upset and disturbed over all kinds of little things that come your way.

Just let me give you an illustration. One time my wife and I were traveling in between conferences like this. All week long I have been talking to you about the peace and the joy, and the love that only God can give, have I not? Some of you have been saying to yourself, “Yeah, but if you were in my shoes, it would be different.” Haven’t you? “Easy enough for you to talk, nothing ever happens to you, life’s probably going okay for you, but if you were in my shoes . . .” Well, I say we all take our turn with troubles and perplexities, and persecutions and rejections. Unexpected twists and turns in the road happens to everybody. And I say again that when you’re walking in the Spirit, that’s the fun of life.

What’s going to happen next? What are we going to do to solve the problem? You know, I’ve been in this counseling business for over a quarter of a century, and I can reassure you that no matter what the problem is that people have brought to me across the years, sooner or later they found a solution. In the process, so many of them just wrung their hands, and moaned, and cried, and complained rather than walking with love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and gentleness in their hearts.

Well as I say, we were in between conferences where I talk like this, and I was going to another conference where we were going to talk like this, and we stayed overnight in this motel. Nice motel, I like to go first class. Some way, I don’t know, I just adjust very easily to the best. I like to live like a king. You know, I figure I’m a child of the King, and I like to live like a king. And so, when we woke in the morning, as I say we slept on one of the finest mattresses we could find. Nice, lovely motel. And we had a bath so we were clean. And we used the deodorants that the ads say you should use to promote good will, and so we smelled right. And we had a good breakfast under our belts.

We got into this nice, big, new, air conditioned car of ours. I mean, according to the sociologists, we just had to have a good day. I mean when you have good environment, and good housing, and good food, and you’re clean, and you got money, you’ve just got it made, haven’t you? We started out, and it was a beautiful day like this, and beautiful scenery. How is it possible on these grounds, for anybody to get upset today? We’ve got everything, haven’t we here?

Well things went along okay until we came to this crossroad and I turned toward Detroit. And my wife, whose job was to be the navigator, this is her job; she said to me, “Henry, you’ve turned the wrong way,”

And that burned me up. I said, “For goodness sakes, don’t you think I know where Detroit is? Do you want to drive this car, or do you want me to drive this car?”

Away we went in air conditioned comfort. We still smelled good, we had a good breakfast under our belts, and we had nice clothes on, and the scenery was beautiful, and this nice, big, smooth-riding car. And I was furious.

Telling me that I’m heading in the wrong direction.

You know, after awhile we came to an exit, and there’s this big sign, and there’s an arrow pointing in the direction that we were going, and above the arrow it said, “Chicago.”(Laughter) Now you know, I’m a Ph.D., and my job is to evaluate data and information unemotionally and accurately, and I get paid for my judgment. Well I decided to ignore the sign, and away we went. You know, these exits aren’t that close together, and pretty soon we came to the next exit, and same arrow, same sign that said, “Chicago.”

Did you ever get that cold, clammy feeling, ever? When you have set your partner straight, and you realize that it just might be possible that you’re wrong? Well, that’s the way it was with me. And I found the anger welling up within me, and saying to myself, “You had better keep your mouth shut.” Well, I decided to try one more sign (Laughter), and away we went. Now you laugh, but do you realize that you are laughing at a very sad story?

You see, I’m talking about the limitations of education. And isn’t it true that in a fit of anger that all you know can get short circuited, and you can act like stupid fool. And so away we went toward the third exit. You couldn’t have dragged me off the freeway. Well, we came to the next exit, and the sign said the same thing. You know, I just hate to say this, but I decided to try just one more exit (Laughter), and during that time I was trying to figure out in my head, “How can I get to Detroit without turning around?” (Laughter)

Have you ever been like that? It dawns on you that you’re wrong, and you know you’re wrong, and so help you; you’re not going to admit that you’re wrong. You’re going to do everything you can to try to get out of it without admitting you’re wrong. And that’s the way it was with me. And as I say, you couldn’t have dragged me off that freeway.

Now maybe as I’m talking here, you can think of a position you have taken, and you’re wrong, and you know you’re wrong. That’s the way it was with me. Now when you’re wrong and you know it, how do you get turned around? Here I am, down the road we go. How do you get turned around? Well you know, there’s a very simple Bible verse in John 1:9 that says, “If.” Now that’s an important, big, little word. “If you confess your sins.” “Now if you confess your sins He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”

Now the trouble with that verse is that you have to confess your sins. Now I’ve found that when there’s a crisis, it’s so easy to get preoccupied with the other guy’s sins. And when you think of somebody that you’re at odds with, is it not true that you can think of all the things that’s wrong with them, and you can even pray for them, “Oh God, straighten them out.” It doesn’t do you any good. You’ve got to pray about your sins, and that’s hard.

But just in case I wanted to do that, what were my sins? Now let me ask you people out there, what suggestions do you have? Tell me, somebody, what were my sins? (Audience response and laughter) You hear all these female voices popping up? You notice I just give you the opportunity, and you start ticking off my sins. Anger, pride, bull-headedness, look that’s enough.

What are you doing diagnosing me? You’re not trained. (Laughter) Now there’s an important point here. It isn’t that hard to figure out what your sins are. And you people tick off my sins, boom, boom, boom. And you are exactly correct. But my point is that you can identify your own just as well as you can identify mine.

Except as Jesus said, “This is the condemnation that light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because your deeds are evil, and you will not come to the light lest your deeds be reproved.”

And it took me four exits to get around to admitting that I’m a bull-headed, stubborn, proud, angry person.

Now I don’t like that, and she better not tell me that. You know, that’s what it takes to get turned around. But isn’t it true that a lot of times before you get around to facing the truth you’re way down the road somewhere? You know, I breathed the prayer of repentance. “Lord, I have to admit that I’m wrong, and I’m mad, and I’m bull-headed.” Now it’s not enough to admit it, I have to also repent. You see, I could say, “Lord I’m mad, and angry, and bull-headed, but who wouldn’t be with a woman like that?” You see, you can announce that that’s they way you are, but you can blame it on somebody else, or you could say, “Lord, this is the way I am, and you know how hard I’ve tried to serve you.” No, none of that. You see, coming to the Lord in repentance is simply coming admitting that this is the way I am, and I’m not making any excuses.

Listen, this is important. When you’re distressed and you’re in despair, and you feel like everything is gone, you’ve got to come to the Lord and admit that that’s true, and that is not pleasing Him. Unless you’re repentant, you’re going to stay that way. “God, I’m wrong, and I’m sorry, and I want to give up this miserable response.”

Do you know when I prayed that way, guess what? He answered my prayer. Just simple little thing. He answered my prayer, and you know something? The simplest thing that I had to do from that point on was to eagerly look forward to the next exit. You couldn’t have dragged me off that freeway, and now all I wanted to do was get turned around. And that’s what happens when you let the Lord cleanse you. I’m sure she didn’t realize. I said to her, “You know, I think we’re headed in the wrong direction.” Of course she had sense enough to keep her mouth shut.

See, this is something I had to do all by myself. I was the architect of it, I created it. This is my body that’s all upset, and it’s my body that I have to deal with. And so pretty soon, we come to this next exit, and we turn around. And now we’ve got to all the way back. And that’s sometimes the trail of repentance, it requires you to retrace a lot of steps, but that’s the way it is.

Now isn’t that a wonderful message? That we have a God who will cleanse us from our sins. But you’ve got to admit your sins. And you know, I find in the consulting room that the older people get, the more reluctant they are to admit their own sins, and repent of them.

Well let me wind up this morning’s message by reading to you that precious passage of scripture that I started out with in 2nd Corinthians chapter 4. “We have this treasure.” What treasure? The presence of the Lord in your life. “And we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” And nobody can come between you and God. And this is what will happen underneath your skin, if you’re rightly related to Him. “We are troubled on every side but not distress, we are perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, and cast down but not destroyed always bearing about,” where, “in your body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest,” where, “in your body.” And this is a treasure that’s really worth pursuing.

Let’s pray. Our Heavenly Father, I do pray for each one of us here, that as You have spoken to our hearts, that we would do what we need to do according to the light that You have shed on our path this morning. And I do pray that we would do it. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.