Lasting Change: Building Below the Surface (Part I)

I wonder how many here would like to start a sensible eating plan and stay with it for the next two years and drop all weight desired? I wonder how many would like to be a more sensitive husband or wife or a more effective parent. I wonder how many of you would like to read and study God’s Word regularly and enjoy it and find yourself early in the morning or at night opening God’s Word and have Him speak to you in a way like never before.

I wonder how many here would like to overcome some of those deep insecurities that stifle your confidence and inhibit relationships and produce that kind of negative self image so that when you look in the mirror down deep you don’t like you.


I wonder how many here, if it was really possible would like to break a habit, a destructive habit, some people know about it, maybe nobody knows about it, but it’s a destructive habit and it has been nagging you and taking you in the wrong direction.


I wonder how many people here would like to get in great shape. Look in the mirror and say, you know something, I am taking care of my body the way I know God wants me too. And finally, I wonder how many people here would like to slow down, would like to be more patient with your children or would like to be a better listener with your friends. You would like to be a person who is more at peace with yourself.


I can’t imagine a lot of people saying, I don’t want any of that stuff. I am an irritable person, not a very good parent and I’m going to stay that way. I am not a good spouse and I like not being in a good relationship or marriage. Or I can’t imagine you saying, I don’t read the Bible and it doesn’t bother me all that much.


See, everybody wants to change for the better, we all do, it’s inherent in your heart and God made you that way. Here’s the deal, if that’s true, why is it so hard? In fact, not only why is it so hard, but why is it, if honestly everyone in this room could say, I would like to change for the better in this area, why do we want it so badly and yet achieve it so rarely. 


The fact of the matter is, a lot of us have slim fast in the closet. It’s unused. We bought a case at Sam’s Club thinking we were going to save a lot of money. Some of us have a gym or a YMCA membership and by the number of times you’ve gone, it averages out to paying about $50 to $80 a visit. 


For others, we have Bibles that were brand new, the new study version; the only problem is we haven’t opened it. Still for others we have books on time management and boundaries, the Christian Family, maximum marriage, single, but not alone; and finding peace in a hurried world, except we just haven’t had time to read it. You know what we do have? We have a lot of guilt.

Question:    Why do our attempts to change so often fail?

What I want to talk to you about today is how in the world can we in fact change for the better, no short cuts, but in a way where it happens from the inside out and it lasts. And I want to ask and answer this question, why do our attempts to change often fail. 


My premise is this, is that the problem with change is this, superficial analysis and superficial focus produces superficial temporary change. And what I mean by that is our focus is usually superficial. You know, I want to lose a little weight or I would like to be better disciplined or have a better relationship. 


In fact, to give you a picture of what I’m talking about pull out a pen if you’ve got it and see on this little diagram, this pyramid of an iceberg, I want you to take it and put some squiggly lines right under the word behavior so it looks like this pyramid I have given you is an iceberg floating in the water, but above the water line is your behavior and below the water line is speech, thoughts , attitudes, beliefs, values, and at the bottom, integrity.


And what I am really saying by this is that we tend to focus on change above the water line. We focus on I need to change my eating habits or I need to change my work out habits. I need to watch less TV. I need to be a better parent. I need to get more work done. It’s above the waterline. Our analysis is often superficial as well. Did you ever wonder why you eat when you’re not hungry? 


Why, if you really believe you need to get in shape, you don’t? Why, if you really believe that if you want to have a deeper marriage you don’t really spend more time cultivating it. And what I want to tell you is that when we do in depth analysis, when you start looking below the waterline, the scripture says that whatever comes out of your mouth is really the best indicator of what’s really going on in your heart. Not what you think is in there, but what’s really in there.


And the Bible will talk about thoughts that we have and attitudes that we have that really shape our behavior. And behind our thoughts and attitudes there’s some values and some belief systems that are deeply engrained in you and that’s what is creating these behaviors above the waterline.


My premise is this, we don’t look down deep under the waterline and therefore, we have problems that have deep root issues. We give a superficial analysis, a superficial solution and three weeks to three months later there is no change. Did you notice what’s at the bottom of the pyramid? 


What’s the word? Integrity.   Listen to this verse from Proverbs 10:9, “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his way will be found out.” 


If you walk in integrity, if you walk in honesty, if you are willing to say God, I want to see myself the way you see me. If you are willing to look in the mirror and say, I want to see myself accurately, not what I want to believe, but what’s true. If you are willing to look below the surface and say what values and attitudes and thoughts and beliefs do I really hold dear that’s producing these kinds of behaviors.


Principle:  Integrity is the prerequisite for lasting change.

What is Integrity?
• Complete moral innocence

• State or quality of being complete, undivided moral soundness, upright, honesty

• “Walking honestly” – Your life and your words are telling the same story

• Comes from the same root word as “integrate” – to bring unity and wholeness to division

• Synonyms = “sincere, authentic, real, consistent”

Why is Integrity Essential for Lasting Change?


The principle I put out there is that integrity is a prerequisite for lasting change but why is that?  I’m going to ask you to go on a preliminary journey for four weeks with me. And I’m going to ask you to look deeply into your own heart, below the waterline. Because here is the issue; choices made after an honest look below the waterline grow out of convictions. Do you know the difference between convictions and intentions? Convictions are something God gives you. You have to do. It’s from inside. Intentions are, ought, should, everybody wants me to, I think I should, but. . .


You never follow through with those. When we approach the need to change from a heartfelt repentance to honor and please God rather than simply get relief or feel better about ourselves, then and only then are we in a position for lasting change to occur. It goes beyond self help, short term strategies, or shortcuts. It starts with integrity. It starts with being honest with God, honest with yourself, honest with others at a whole other level. 


Let me tell you something.  It’s going to be painful. This week is going to be the most painful because if you are really honest with God and if you let Him speak to you today, I think God loves you so much that He is going to let you know, that the issue has nothing to do with working out or the issue has nothing to do with media or the issue has nothing to do with eating when you are not hungry. The issue doesn’t have to do with working too much.   


There is something below the waterline that you don’t quite get right about God or right about yourself.


I’m going to try and sell you all right? So I mean, so you don’t feel manipulated, I’m trying very hard. I’m going to try to persuade you to get as honest before God as you’ve ever been, as honest with yourself and honest with others because I’m going tell you, there is so much at stake that if you don’t go this direction, you will pay such a high price that you will walk out of here saying, you know what, I’m going to get honest with God. 


It may be painful, but it can’t be half as painful as not being honest.

Remember integrity is when your life and your words are telling the same story. It’s not speaking this way, but thinking and living another way. It comes from the same root word as to integrate or to bring unity and wholeness. It’s this idea of living a life where there is not a dichotomy. Where you don’t project this to people, but your attitudes and your thoughts and your beliefs or your lifestyle is different. It’s when your walk and your talk tell the same story.


Even now, think to yourself, who are the people who you love to be around? Aren’t they people who are real, authentic, sincere? Don’t you want to be that kind of person? All I’m telling you is the journey there may be painful, but the alternative is lethal. So, let me give you three reasons why integrity is essential. 


1.     Relationships are impossible without integrity


• With God – John 4:23-24, Psalm 15


As you scan scripture, you are going to find it is impossible to have a relationship with God without integrity. It’s impossible to have a relationship with yourself without integrity and you can’t have a relationship with others without integrity. 


You know what you will have? You will have pseudo relationships, and it’s in genuine, authentic relationships that you are nurtured. You were made for relationship. In fact, you remember John chapter 4? We just spent several weeks looking at this story. Remember the woman at the well? She’s had five marriages in her past and when she encountered Jesus she was living with a guy. She’s only out there because she’s a social reject. She went out to get the water when the other women weren’t around and Jesus strikes up this conversation and it gets a little bit religious and talks about where authentic worship is going to occur.


And Jesus turns to her finally and says, you know, this really isn’t about location. And then he gives us some of the most profound words in the New Testament about worship. He says, those who worship God worship him in spirit and in truth, for such the Father eagerly peruses. God is looking for and seeking after people who worship this way.


If you seek me, the Bible says, you will find me, if you search for me with all your heart. God is always looking for people who will be honest. Psalm 15 is one of my favorite passages. It’s a little passage that I would encourage you to memorize because it starts with a question. It gives the answer and then it gives you a promise. 


The Psalmist wrote, “Oh Lord, who may abide or dwell in your tent. Who may abide on thy Holy hill?” In other words, who is it that can have an authentic awesome relationship with you? And then the answer is verses two to five, “He who walks in integrity and works righteousness and speaks truth in his heart. Who doesn’t slander with his tongue. Who doesn’t do evil to his neighbor. Who, those who do evil are an approach to him, but He honors those who fear the Lord.”


1.     Relationships are impossible without integrity


• With Yourself


Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! 3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

 5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Psalm 32:2-5

Context: David committed a terrible sin but in Psalm 51 he prayed a prayer of repentance and confessed it openly before God. He said, “Against you and you only have I sinned,” and then about verse 6 he says, “For you desire truth,” where? “In the inner most parts.”

I’m asking you to go on a journey with me. I’m asking you to look below the waterline. I’m asking you to say there is probably a bigger reason behind some of those behavior patterns you want to change that are a lot bigger than not eating as much or not watching as much TV or not doing some destructive habit that is robbing you of your peace and joy (and money).

There’s probably something underneath that is the core in your thoughts and your values and your belief systems and that’s what God wants to change.  I’m asking you to have the courage to go there because if you don’t, you can’t have authentic relationship with God. You can’t have authentic relationship with yourself or others.

• With Others –

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”  Ephesians 4:15-16 NLT

Ephesians 4, is that great book about the church and how it’s to be lived out. Speaking the truth, what are we supposed to do? Speak the truth in love to one another. What’s the result? That we grow up on all aspects into love, becoming all God wants us to be.   Here is all I am saying, if you want relationships that matter, you got to come clean. You got to get real. You have to unzip your heart and you have to ask the way David did in Psalm 139, “Search me O, God and know my heart. See if there be any wicked way in me and then lead me in the everlasting way.” 


It is very important that you hear this: In this fallen world, you don’t have the power to get an accurate view of who you are. You can only be aided by the Holy Spirit and the word of God and the community of God’s believers in an atmosphere of love to help you see clearly where you are. And when you do that, you’ll never regret that day.

2. Peace is impossible without integrity

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:15 NLT


This little phrase, rule in your hearts, literally means to act as an arbitrator. Kind of like an umpire, let the Spirit of God call balls and strikes about your behavior. The Bible says, there is a peace that a believer has. It is not a peace like everything is working out in your circumstances or and you have enough money and everybody likes you. This is a supernatural peace that is beyond understanding. For those that are Christfollowers it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that regardless of your circumstances you can have this overwhelming peace.  


The sense of God’s sovereignty and goodness and love reigns even in difficult, but when we step out of harmony with God’s will and wishes He removes that peace. It’s as though He is saying it’s time to stop and adjust your life back to My will.  


All of us have been here. It is that moment right after you do something you know is wrong or not truthful. It is that overwhelming sense of dread knowing that to be truthful you are going to have to come clean and confess.


Do you have that peace today?  Are you enjoying that peace of God in your heart or are there some areas or an area that you really need to let God work on. More than anything in your life you want to fix this area.


For a few moments I want you to pull out that pyramid and a pen or pencil and think about what it is you need to change in your life. Think about what you want to apply the next four weeks of pray and thought to.

Now for just a few minutes more let me tell you one last thing that is impossible without integrity.
3.  Impact is impossible without integrity.

“Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”   Proverbs 25:26 NASB


The Proverbs were intended to be little word pictures and offer parallelisms so you could take it like a rock or a diamond and look at it different ways and get insight and meditate upon it. The problem with some of them is they were written in a day to a group of people that understood what they said.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t trampled a lot of springs lately. 


And I haven’t done a lot with polluting wells. Let’s move back ever so into the culture and context for a moment.   It’s an agrarian culture and there are camels and goats and sheep. It’s in the Middle East and that means there’s this wilderness that’s just barren and dry and terrible. In the middle of the wilderness there are little springs. You know there’s a spring because the grass is green and there is some palm trees so people sometimes will travel a day or two days and this is the only spring, the only source of life, the only well. 


Now people knew that life and water were synonymous. But you know, if you were just passing through with your camels and your sheep and your goats, instead of leading them there and taking great care that they would drink out of the spring, some people would drive their animals there and they would just come and trample the spring and as they trampled the spring