How to Change Your Mind.2

by admin on September 9, 2012

Reflections for 9 September 2012
Luke 13: 1-8

How was the homework? Did anyone have occasion to change your mind? Trivial stuff? Important things? Last week we talked about Jesus invitation into the Kingdom of God—the realm of God’s active will and presence—and how by turning our attention to that reality our life would be qualitatively different.

To recap, hear again Dallas Willard’s observation: “Jesus’ words are essentially subversive of established arrangements and ways of thinking. People initially impacted by Jesus’ message generally concluded that they would be fools to disregard it. That was the basis of their conversion.”

Foolish? In Luke’s Jesus story today we heard of an ancient question that’s as relevant as this morning’s headlines. When bad things happen, difficult events, natural disasters, evil perpetrated by dictators—do the people deserve what happens?

Here Jesus takes on two recent events in Jerusalem—Pilate’s despicable governing polices: shoot all people who don’t agree with me, and a construction accident—where was OHSA to prevent this? He takes them on and instead of answering forthrightly, he manages to pull a fast one and redirects the conversation to the busy bodies who presented the conundrum in the first place.

That same stuff can happen to you if you don’t adjust your life plans accordingly. Then he adds the gardening story of the tree hugging liberal guy who wants to give the fig tree one more chance.

Luke crafts this Gospel from two news dispatches and a brief parable about a fig/apple tree with an optimistic and hopeful gardener.

The Galileans died by Pilate’s malice. The 18 at Siloam died by chance. But the fig tree…the apple tree….the unproductive one, is in danger of dying by choice. Choice implies thinking, and thinking means the mind…..change your mind.

Repent, Jesus says. Turn to God. Dallas Willard has a rather unique translation of Jesus invitation: “Review your plans for living and base your life on this remarkable new opportunity.” (The Divine conspiracy)

Repentance is one of Luke’s favorite themes. More than any other New Testament writer. He says the gospel—good news of Jesus—is about God’s offer of repentance and forgiveness. CW song: Gimme just one more last chance.

How do I get that? Last week we presented Five Stages and Ten Processes towards change. They can apply to any time we face the opportunity to change our mind. I think this model is particularly relevant when applied to Jesus’ continuing invitation to get in on the way life was intended to be written by the author of life himself.

Remember change does not occur overnight. One thing the Gospels make clear from the get-go—every time someone has an encounter with Jesus, he raises the possibility of actual behavioral change in that person. Sometimes it’s because he said something, or did something or just was in the presence of that person. Every encounter with Christ opens the door to and the power to pass through it to life giving change.

OK. Once again: the five stages:

Denial (pre-contemplation)—I’m completely unaware of my problems, or I don’t want to admit their significance.

Acceptance (contemplation)—Ok, I guess I really do have some issues, but here I am unsure if changing is worth the effort. I don’t particularly like being sick and complaining, but it’s what I know. Besides, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Preparation—real behavior modification on the verge. Change, while difficult, is worth the effort. This stage, by the way, nullifies the idea that change is instantaneous.

Action—real work to meet realistic goals, alongside with some successful changes becoming evident.

Maintenance—continuing on the road. Upshot is that continued work is necessary to maintain those newly learned behaviors.

Now as we talked about last week within these stages—which have been studied by numerous professions over the recent years, and even been the subject of lengthy scientific research and evaluation—each stage has some tasks, work, processes that make them work.

Denial Learn Truth it really is that messed up. Most of my problems come from my problems solving techniques. It is discovering the consequences of your actions. Get Inspired finding a vision of something beyond ourselves. Find Social Help discover that personal uniqueness is terminal. Movement toward others in the same boat is a step away from isolation

Acceptance Four processes at this stage. Learn Truth this is a continuing process. Is the way I approach life really all that helpful to me, to others, to the world in which we live. One piece of truth is that my actions affect others. Find Social Help building on those friendship connections. While we don’t have much of a record of Jesus and the disciples on an everyday basis we do get glimpses to discover that their interactions were much the same as you and I. Inspiration this is about finding hope and empowerment towards change. Evaluate the Pros and Cons of change taking stock to decide if change is worth it. Maybe being less of a crab when I get up just might give a more positive perspective on the whole day.

Preparation (This has to do with re-training /re-wiring the brain to think in more constructive and emotionally intelligent ways) Finding Social Help; Continued Inspirations; Evaluate Pros and Cons will continue. Added at this stage is Taking Responsibility. This is huge. There is no change until we quit blaming others, circumstances, genetics for our predicaments. Surrender your victim’s status.

Action Taking Responsibility. Here three new processes begin to unfold: Replacing negative features with good wholesome and positive ones. This is difficult because it often means changing one’s friendship circle. Control of Surroundings monitoring the negative in life. Seek Helping Relationships building relationships with people of good influence on you.

Maintenance Here one enjoys the good fruits of behavior change but vigilance is the key. There is still work to be done to maintain newly learned behaviors. Engaging in the activity of forgiveness strengthens this action in our lives, moving it beyond being a nice idea to a core function of who we are. The previous process continues: environment control; filling life with good things; hanging around positive influences and now added is reaching out in service to others. Working with others is the best to show that the Jesus life is real and trustworthy.

Frank Laubach was a Christian missionary and ardent champion of literacy in the world. He worked extensively in the Philippines during the 20s-30s. But by 1929 he grew profoundly dissatisfied in the realization that after 15 years as a Christian minister he was not living his days “in minute by minute effort to follow the will of God.” In other words—something needed to change. He launched off onto something astounding and radical. He decided to actually take up Jesus at his word. And so Laubach began a series of experiments—try this out at home—he began to line up his actions with the will of God every few minutes.

He began to cultivate the habit—mind changing over time—of turning over his mind to Christ for one second out of every minute. “What, Father, do you desire to be said?” “What, Father, do you desire to be done this minute?” He did not try this once or twice and give up. He pressed on.

Within weeks of beginning his experiments he began to notice differences. By the end of January 1930, with still much to learn, he gained a sense of being carried along by God through the hours of the day, of cooperation with God in little things, which he never knew before. Of course he has failures and difficulties.

Laubach was no dummy. He has a PhD in Sociology and was a tremendously successful teacher among indigenous people. But he knew the psychological workings of mind changing. Remember—psychology is the study of the soul. While he was a first rate scholar he was first off a follower of Jesus.

But you don’t need a PhD. You don’t even need to know what PhD means. All you need is, as Dallas Willard offers, is to be willing to be willing. Just maybe this Jesus guy really in on to something. Why not take a chance?

Part of our religious problem is the cheap elixirs and sappy bromides tossed out on Sundays by us preachers. Jesus is not a pep talk—he is serious business.

I don’t think you’re coming here for fashion tips or business networking. You’re here for something deeper and more profound. That something is Jesus Christ and his view of reality. Jesus doesn’t present just another religious option in a cafeteria of ideas. He embodies the Truth. The truth of God incarnate.

Repentance is a complete change of mind, a re-orientation to this new reality. In other words: the best possible life.

Trusting Jesus is not a leap in the dark, a chance to take, a plunge into the great unknown. Jesus presents a God who is the absolute source of the best possible life. And that is knowledge to be accepted, reality to be grasped, truth to be lived.

Dallas: The Kingdom of God, in the person of Jesus, welcomes us just as we are, just where we are, and makes possible for us to translate our “ordinary” life into an eternal one.”

Jesus is the best possible life and the “one more last chance” to get it. Why would you want to wait for another time, day, year, decade? Repent for the Kingdom of God is here.

(Next Week Four week series on “Forgiveness is a Choice” How to Do it the Way Jesus modeled it.)

For Further Study and Exploring.

Dallas Willard. The Divine Conspiracy.
Frank Laubach, Practicing his Presence.
Frank Laubach’s Letters by a Modern Mystic, downloaded from www.dwillard.org/articles.

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