Saved Soul, Renewed Mind
(Excerpt from the sermon)
Sermon Series: Anxiety, Depression & Jesus
Living waters in the Old Testament is a metaphor for the relationship between Spirit, God's Spirit in us, and God's truth and how they respond and react together to bring healing. The Spirit of God, the truth of God's word, in us. A good example is Ezekiel 36:26-27,
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.”
There is a relationship between Spirit, Christ’s power, and the truth, Christ's word. There's this inseparable relation between these two. Look at it like this: The Spirit, without the truth or the word, is unpredictable, untrustworthy and unproductive. The word, without the Spirit, is passionless, legalistic and oppressive. But together, the word and the Spirit, bring life. This begins way down deep and starts to flow outward to all of its parts. In fact, when we are experiencing joy, on a soul level, in our bellies or intestines, deep down inside there is a naturally perfectly balanced productivity of serotonin. So we're combining what is spiritual and scientific at the same time.
Nehemiah put it like this, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” What was really going on with me in my years of anxiety disorder? I'm in retrospect now. It's been a while. So I want to share with you what I've discovered in this journey.
My father died a couple of months before these attacks started. My mother died and I dealt with that. That's 12 years before my father died. But my father died on my birthday and that had more damage. That did something to me. I can't really explain and I can't really fathom it really, but I knew that something shook me. My best friend died a few weeks after the death of my father. My mom's death was creeping up in my life again, not the fact that she died – because I knew she was with Jesus – but the fact of her age. She died so young and I am creeping near that age with every passing year. Over time I realized there were two things playing a role that had been pressed down into the gut, that the brain was suppressing. But it was building up over time.
One was the fear of death. Now you would think a pastor would not be afraid of dying because he knows what's next. I can't really explain it. When people around me started dying that were my age, when my mom and then my dad died, and my best friend died, I kind of pressed it down. I spoke words to myself, but I don't think I was very convincing. It was like I'm not ready to die. I have so much more I need to accomplish. That was on the other side of the spectrum because I grew up in a family that praised athleticism. I was one of four brothers, but I was the only one who was athletic. Therefore, as I look back now, I know that I received the praise and the honor, even the worship, that I know that my brothers longed for.
But I also learned very early in my life that you are praised and adored based on performance. So I started to carry that with me throughout my entire life and I got caught up in this performance trap. My significance, my feelings of worth or worthiness, came from questions like, “What have I done lately? What have I achieved? What have I accomplished?” Where people will look from the outside in and say, wow, look at how awesome this person is. So I've got this fear of death going on, that I've not accomplished what I want to accomplish in my life, and this death cloud hangs over me. Then I've got this idea that I've not accomplished, and I'm not accomplishing, what I've set out to accomplish. So I've got this fear of death coupled with this fear of failure and all of that is hidden and pressed down.
I had something that was welling up within me and flowing to other places: death and underachievement. Over time, because that was pressed down, the serotonin levels began to change. Did you know that you can change the serotonin balance in your brain and in your gut by your response to the tragedy, or traumas of life? Over time, the serotonin levels began to change in me. This deep wound of performance, perfectionism, and achievement for significance began to alter the balance of serotonin. So much so that it sent a message to my central nervous system that my soul was becoming undone. I was disintegrating. What my brain refused to deal with, my gut was storing up. Now, because the serotonin levels are out of balance, because there's no centralized joy in my life, I began to disintegrate. In order to stop the total collapse, the body reacted in order to tell me that something was wrong.
That, if it is not dealt with, it will ultimately destroy me. Have you ever thought of looking at your mental illness this way, your depression, your anxiety: it's the body trying and attempting to save itself. Something's out of whack, something's not right and your soul knows it. Your brain may shove it aside, but your soul, the essential you, your gut knows it. Now it's going to send a signal to your central nervous system, to your body, that you have got to deal with the disease, not just mask the symptoms. Remember, when we are experiencing joy on a soul level in our bellies, or intestines, deep down inside there's a naturally perfectly balanced productivity of serotonin. That means the adverse is true. When we are experiencing sorrow on a soul level in our bellies, down deep inside, the balance of serotonin is interrupted and all hell breaks loose.
Jesus has been teaching this for centuries. Did you know that? He's been teaching that until you change your gut, the essential you, until the waters of the Holy Spirit spring up new life in you, we are all ticking time bombs waiting to explode. Make no mistake, you can press things down a long time, but sooner or later the volcano is going to erupt. You need a gut change, you need soul nourishment that sustains. You need a spring of living water that goes down deep and cleanses you and then flows that cleansing out to the other parts of your being. So how is it that we appropriate this living water in us? As Christ followers we've been told that we have the Spirit of God in us. So how do we break the dam that is holding the water back so that it can flow into every aspect of our lives?
Step one, balance the serotonin levels. Step two, submit to the work God is doing in your life. Remember when I told you what Dane Johnson said to me, Jeff, when you pray this prayer, “God do not rescue me from this illness until you have accomplished in me what it is that you want to accomplish”? When you pray that and you mean it, that's when the healing comes.
God is not abandoning you, He's pressing you, He's squeezing you. So the good stuff can come out and so the bad stuff can be discarded. Ask God to show you what He's trying to expose and to give you the courage to stay in the battle until the war is won. He is revealing something deep in you. This is not just theory to me, this is personal experience. There's something that needs to be dealt with in your life that only His truth can give you: the spirit of shalom, health, and wellbeing. Step three, renew your mind. This is the key: change your diet. Some of you think that when I tell you to be careful with what you watch, read, and listen to that I'm being legalistic or that you're invincible.
But there's an old adage: garbage in, garbage out. If you put dirt in a Pez dispenser, why would you expect candy to come out? It matters what you're putting in.
When you go to the movies, read books, consume social media without discretion, who is the mind behind culture? It's not Jesus. 1 John 5:19 says that we are children of God, but the whole world lies under the sway of the evil one, that there is a prince of the power of the air. Ephesians 6:12 says that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” What is the first piece of advice Paul gives in Ephesians 6 to win this battle? Verse 14 says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.”
There are lies you've been told all your life. As a result, down deep in your gut, sorrow is central and it's building up over time. You have to allow the truth of the word of God to expose these lies so that you'll begin to believe the truth. Then the truth will begin to rule over your emotions and balance the serotonin levels in your body.
Can I tell you why mental illness is at an all time high in America? Because belief in God is at an all time low. When you lose God, you lose so many other things. You lose objective hope. If you have no objective source of hope, you're just guessing that there's something next. You have no objective meaning. You might have tiny little meanings in your life, but there's no ultimate meaning about what your life is about. There's no objective morality. So everything goes and there's no objective truth. The soul knows what the brain is thinking. When that's the totality of your life, when you are on a boat in a storm without a compass (which is what life is like when there's no true north), do you know what that does to the inner man or the inner woman? What it does to an entire generation of youth who grow up in that atmosphere? Well, let me tell you: epidemic, pandemic, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, skepticism, and ultimately narcissism because you're fighting for the survival of your life. When we kill God, something has to take His place. Man cannot live for nothing. He must have something to grab onto that will fill his heart, mind, and soul. We are reaching for things that were never meant to deliver. Our soul knows very well.
When you begin to renew your mind with the word of God, a chemical reaction happens. Did you know that? Serotonin levels change. Not only when you respond poorly to the circumstances or trauma of life, but they also change and transform when you respond well to the traumas of your life. The only way that you're going to respond well is if the word of God and the Spirit of God are combined together to give you this well of living water, welling up in you, that will flow to the outermost parts.
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