Myths That Make us Miserable
Myths That Make Us Miserable
March 19, 2006
Focus: The myths that make us miserable are destroyed by confrontation with the truth.
How many of you were taught about the Tooth Fairy as a child? How many of you heard about Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny? Has anybody here been taught about the Great Pumpkin? How many of you were taught that you should always wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident?
There are certain myths we have grown up believing. Most of them are harmless.
But some myths aren’t harmless. They have robbed you of happiness. They’ve led you into guilt and shame. Some of the myths you’ve learned from the world have caused worry and stress and fear in your life. Some of them have created nagging depression.
“It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.” Have you ever heard that myth? Now that sounds so good. It sounds so broad-minded, so tolerant. It’s politically correct. “Different strokes for different folks. You believe that; I believe this.” Fine, we’re both cool.
The only problem is, it’s absurd and irrational to hold that belief. There are some beliefs that are exact opposites of each other. It’s not only absurd and naive to hold this view; it’s also self-destructive.
uRick Warren says that, “Last week, my wife Kay and I had an appointment in Pasadena and had to take separate cars. She was in the white van, and I was in the blue Olds. As we were going, we got in a little traffic jam, and I lost her. I saw what I thought was her white van, and went all the way to Downey before I realized I was following the wrong van. I got there half an hour late.
You can be sincere, but you can be sincerely wrong. The fact is, it takes more than sincerity to make it in life. It takes truth.
There are some beliefs in your life that will cause you to crash and burn if you don’t correct them. I see it happening all the time. Here are six facts about the significance of your beliefs.
I. Beliefs Are a Choice
Nobody forces you to believe anything. If I don’t want to believe something, I don’t have to. If I want to believe Elvis is alive, I can believe it. If I want to believe in the Loch Ness monster, I can believe it. If I want to believe the moon’s made of cheese or the world’s flat, I can believe it.
You can’t blame others for your beliefs. You can’t blame your parents or your teachers because they’re not holding on to you anymore. You can drop those beliefs anytime you wish. It is a choice. God even gives you a choice as what to believe.
Romans 1:25 says, “Instead of believing what they knew as the truth about God they deliberately chose to believe lies.” My beliefs are a choice, and some of them need to be replaced.
II. Beliefs Determine How I Act
In other words, they determine how I act. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Be careful how you think. Your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Everything you do has an unconscious or conscious belief behind it. When you sat down on that chair this morning, you unconsciously believed it would hold you. Now for me, that’s an act of faith. But you believed it.
When you get in your car after this service, you believe you will get out of the parking lot. Fat chance. If you happen to go to brunch after the service, you pick up a menu and choose something because you believe it’s going to taste good. It may not.
The problem is this: My beliefs determine the way I act, even when they’re wrong. For instance, if you believe you’re clumsy, how are you going to act? Clumsy. If you believe you’re unlovable, you will act unlovable. If you believe other people cannot be trusted, you’ll tend to treat them with suspicion. If you believe that God is unconcerned about you, you’ll never pray. If you believe that God’s out to get you—like many people do—you’ll try to avoid God.
The point is, even if your beliefs are wrong, they affect your behavior. So you need to examine them.
III. Not All Beliefs Are True
u I sometimes read National Enquirer headlines as we’re going through the grocery store. I saw one that said that said, “New discovery! Fat-burning prayers. Pray these prayers, and the pounds melt away.”
Magazines have all kinds of stuff like that. We laugh and say, “That’s funny,” but a lot of these myths just aren’t funny. Many of them really mess up our lives.
It used to be that people would say, “You know, I’ll believe it when I see it.” You can’t even believe what you see anymore. Technology has now created a thing called virtual reality, a blend of fact and fiction. So even if you see it, it doesn’t mean it’s true. You can’t believe everything you see. Did you see Forrest Gump?
Television and technology have blended fact and fiction into docudramas, reality-based programming where everything is staged but appears as if it were filmed live.
u Have you ever been sick in bed for a day and watched a day’s worth of talk shows? That will make you sick. Rick Warren says that he had the flu a while back and wrote down ten talk show myths. “These myths really aren’t funny. They’re projected as truth.
1) All your problems are somebody else’s fault.
2) This world owes you happiness.
3) You’ll be happy if you get whatever you want.
4) There is never any reason to feel guilty.
5) Man is basically good and unselfish.
6) All beliefs are equally valid.
7) Pornography and perversion are innocent.
8) You can have it all.
9) You shouldn’t have to wait for anything.
10) Because you’re God, the answer lies within you.”
The Bible gives us some very blunt advice about this. First John 4:1 says, “Don’t always believe everything you hear, for there are many false teachers around.” The Bible tells us in other places that the reason there are so many false teachers is because it’s profitable. They’re making lots of money on those infomercials and psychic hotlines.
u A belief does not have to be true in order for it to affect you emotionally or cause emotional turmoil. If you’re camping in the mountains and believe that you hear a mountain lion pawing around outside your tent, your heart will start racing. Adrenaline will shoot into your system. Your muscles will tense up. You will be in emotional turmoil over something that isn’t true.
That happens all the time, but we don’t realize it. We worry about all sorts of things that aren’t true. But if we want to overcome stress or anger or guilt or depression or worry or perfectionism, we must clarify and correct the misbeliefs behind those feelings.
IV. True Beliefs Will Set Me Free
u Psychologist Chris Thurman wrote, “Truth is the road map for negotiating the difficult challenges of life. Without it we get lost and we develop emotional problems that tell us we’re lost. We often settle for half-truths or no truth at all because they are usually easier. But truth is the only road to emotional health. There is no other path.”
Now the good news is that truth is available to anyone who wants it. Which also means that emotional health is possible for anyone. The real question is, “Am I willing to pay the price?”
Jesus said the same thing about two thousand years earlier. In John 8:32 he said, “When you know the truth, the truth will set you free.”
My goal is that we expose the lies that we’ve been taught by our culture and apply the truth. The truth will set you free, and you’ll experience new freedom from some hang-ups, some habits, some hurts that have messed up your life for twenty or thirty years or more.
V. I Must Choose the Basis for My Beliefs: The World or God’s Word
Romans 3:4 says, “God will continue to be true even when every person is false.” There’s a fundamental question you need to ask yourself: “What is going to be the authority for my life? What’s going to be the basis for my beliefs and my behavior? What’s going to be the guidebook that I rely on? What’s my North Star? What’s my compass?”
When it comes down to it, you have only two options. You either have the world or the Word of God. You will either build your life on what culture says or what Christ says. The world or the Word.
Which of them do you think is more reliable? The problem with what culture says is that it just keeps changing. It’s shifting every day. The therapy that works today isn’t the therapy that was so popular five years ago. Why? Because man’s knowledge is increasing, and they find things don’t work.
u God’s knowledge is ultimate, and it’s always true. Newsweek magazine always has a section called “Conventional Wisdom.” Every week they give thumbs up or thumbs down to a variety of opinions. One week they say, “President Bush’s doing great.” Next week, “Bush stinks.” And the next week, “Bush’s doing fine.”
u Seventy-three million Americans are baby boomers, born between 1948 and 1964. That’s one out of every three people in America. An entire generation was brought up on the best-selling book of all time, next to the Bible, Dr. Spock’s Baby Book. Dr. Spock expressed his opinions about what he thought was the proper way to raise children. Just a few years ago, Dr. Spock, now in his seventies, held a press conference and said, “Oops. I was wrong. That’s not the best way to do it. I’m sorry. Never mind.”
That left some people thinking, “Well, thanks a lot. It’s a little late. I’m already dysfunctional!” An entire generation was raised on a style of parenting that studies later confirmed just didn’t work.
u The average life of a science textbook is just eighteen months. After that, it’s out of date because knowledge is increasing so rapidly.
In a world where something’s changing every day, you don’t want to put your faith in something you can’t depend on tomorrow. Luke 21:33 says, “Though all heaven and earth shall pass away, yet my Word shall remain forever.” God’s Word has stood the test of time. You can trust it as your guidebook, as your authority, as your basis. Why? Because it is based on God’s character. It is impossible for God to lie. If you want something to build your life on that’s solid, you’d better build it on God’s truth.
VI. I Must Commit to Become a Person of Truth
In this series we’re going to look at the actual words of Jesus and what he has to say. In preparation for this series, I re-read every single recorded word of Jesus. I made two interesting discoveries.
First, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth,” over eighty times. Second, twenty times in Scripture Jesus says, “Now you’ve heard it said, but I say to you.” He’s exploding the myths that make us miserable. He’s destroying conventional wisdom with the truth.
In Matthew 7, Jesus says that building your life is like building a house: You’ve got to have the right foundation. You can build your house on the solid rock, God’s unchanging truth. Or you can build your house on shifting sands, the constantly changing opinions of the world.
But he says, “If you build your life on shifting sands, you’re a fool.” He’s very blunt about it. He says it’s foolish to build your life on things that are changing every day. So build your house on the rock of God’s Word, unchanging truth.
People in Southern California understand the importance of a good foundation more than anybody. When you are in the midst of the storms of life, you’re battered around and knocked up against the wall. Emotional earthquakes shake up your life. If your life is not built on the foundation of truth, you will crumble. Pastors see people every day who are crumbling because they haven’t built on the foundation of truth that keeps them solid.
Matthew 7:24 says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Do you want to be emotionally stable? Do you want to get it together? You need to hear and you need to practice the truth.
Now hearing the truth is not enough. You need to practice it. If you’re going to practice something, practice takes commitment. And the first step toward being released from the hurts, habits, and hang-ups that are messing you up is to make a personal commitment to become a person of truth.
IV. Transformed by Truth
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the standards or beliefs of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.”
Would you like to experience the kind of life God has always meant for you to live? Would you like to be freed from emotional hang-ups that keep you from being happy? It’s possible. God can transform your mind and replace the old myths with a new system of beliefs based on the truth.
But there’s one key to having that transformation happen in your life. The first key to freedom is one three-letter word in that sentence: “Let God transform your mind.” That involves a choice and a commitment.
I encourage you to make three commitments regarding truth in your life. If you do, you’re well on your way to emotional healing and health.
1) I commit myself to seeking the truth. 1 Timothy 4:1 in the Living Bible says, “There’s going to come a time when people won’t listen to the truth, but they will go around looking for teachers who tell them just what they want to hear.” That sounds like astrologists or psychic hotlines to me. They just tell you what you want to hear. “They won’t listen to what the Bible says but will blithely follow their own misguided ideas.” Why? Because it’s easier. It’s not always easy or popular to seek the truth because the truth contradicts popular opinion. It contradicts conventional wisdom. While the world is saying, “It’s okay because everybody’s doing it,” the truth is, it’s not okay. So it’s not always popular to be honest and to seek the truth.
I need to warn you that sometimes the truth is painful. Sometimes the truth is scary. Sometimes the truth is disturbing. Sometimes the truth is dangerous. Sometimes we don’t want to face the truth about our past. But it is the only way to emotional health and stability.
Look at this next verse: “Don’t follow foolish stories that disagree with God’s truth.” If you’ve got an experience that contradicts the Bible, it’s a false experience.
Five of the best-selling books of all time are about angels or the afterlife or channeling. They’re filled with myths and lies, based on someone’s personal experience as if that were ultimate truth. If I have an experience that contradicts what God says in his Word, I’m going to choose God’s Word. Why? Because experiences can be false. So where is the best place to seek the truth? Cosmopolitan magazine?
2) I commit myself to living the truth. Now this is a little bit harder. Ephesians 4:14 says, “We will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because somebody has told us something different or has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. Instead we will lovingly follow the truth at all times speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly, and so become more and more in every way like Christ.”
Truth is not just something you know; it’s something you do. It’s something you practice. It’s something you apply. It’s something you obey. It’s something you follow. It’s not just some intellectual trip, it’s something you put in your life. We ought to be a living Bible. That’s harder. Second Corinthians 4:2 says, “In the full light of truth we live.”
3) I commit myself to believing in the truth. Now, the wonderful thing about God is that he wants us to know the truth because it does set us free. He’s given us the Bible. But he also came to earth two thousand years ago and took the form of a man. Jesus Christ came so that we would have a living model of the truth as our example. He modeled the truth. He incarnated the truth. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the truth.”
I just don’t understand when somebody says, “I believe Jesus was a good person, but I don’t believe Jesus was God.” He’s either who he says he is, or he’s the biggest con man whoever lived.
That forces a decision. He was either who he claimed to be—God came to earth to show us the truth—or he was a phony, a fake. And you bet your life on what you believe about it.
God has given you the freedom to choose what you believe. He doesn’t force any belief on you. You can choose to believe that this microphone is God if you want to. There are people all over the world who make little gods and worship them. Closer to home, we slip our gods into the water at Dana Point Harbor and take them out. God gives you the freedom to choose your god.
But once you make that choice, you do not have the freedom to choose the consequences of that belief. You can say, “I don’t intend to accept Jesus for who he claimed to be. I don’t intend to accept Christ as the truth.” God will let you choose to be separated from him now, but the consequence of that decision is to be separated from God for all eternity. And that is called hell. Hell was made for the devil and his angels, not for people. But when you choose to reject God, he says, “Then be separated from me.”
Second Thessalonians 2:10 says, “They are on their way to hell.” Why? “Because they have said no to the truth.” They have refused to believe it and love it and let it save them. So God will allow them to believe lies with all their heart. There’s only one way to go to hell, to refuse to accept and follow and love the truth. Jesus said, “I am the truth.”
Conclusion: Truth, the Path to Heaven
How do you go to heaven? There’s only one way. It’s not by being good, not by getting baptized, not by taking Communion, not by giving to the United Way. There’s only one way to heaven, to accept and love and follow the truth. Jesus said, “I am the truth.”
Now you know. So what’s your decision?