At Narrow Gate Lodge, we help young men answer two simple questions: “Who Am I?” and “Why Am I Here?” That may seem like an over-simplification of what happens during a student’s 8-month stay – but it’s really not. You see, we’re not just looking to pass along some information that allows a student to give an appropriate answer. We create an environment where the answers to those questions are learned as experience more than information, and that can change how a young man approaches life – for the REST of his life. Let me explain what I mean… and I’ll use myself as an example:
Every one of us has some sort of morning routine that we adhere to. It may vary slightly from day to day, but in the end, we all follow some sort of routine that is centered in habits, circumstances, desires, or feelings. But just for a minute, let’s pretend that something happened to me when I was sleeping last night and I woke up this morning believing that I was actually my wife, Stacy. I know – that sounds a little crazy (or a lot crazy) but just play along for a minute so that I can make my point. If I truly believed that I was Stacy Spencer when I woke up this morning, how would my day be different? Think about it: How would I dress; what cell phone would I grab; what car would I drive; what calendar of events would I follow throughout the day? You get the picture, right? If I truly believed that I was Stacy Spencer, I would act like Stacy Spencer acts. And that establishes a point that’s going to be central to the rest of this conversation.
The point is this: “Everything we do, every single day, is an affirmation of what we believe to be true about ourselves.”
So that leads us to the obvious follow up question: “Who Told You?” Who told you who you are? Isn’t that the question that God asked Adam in the Garden? Remember the story in Genesis 3? It says, “The Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself. And God said, “Who told you that you were naked?” … There it is… a simple question from God that exposed an eternal change in the story of man. You see, we have no reason to believe that Adam had been anything other than naked the whole time he was in the garden. But he didn’t derive his personal definition from that circumstance. It took an outside voice of temptation and condemnation to supply that definition. And that’s what God is inferring when he asked, “Who told you that?” It sure wasn’t God that defined Adam that way.
So let me circle back to where we started. Your morning routine… where did that routine come from? Or for that matter, where did you derive every nuance of how you currently see yourself and live your life? What voices did you rely on to draw the picture of “YOU” that you carry around in your head and heart every single day?
You see, the Bible contains 170 passages of scripture that define anyone who is “IN CHRIST.” They are all “defining” verses and if we learn them – I mean deeply learn them – they can begin to change how we navigate the circumstances of our days. In this series, we’ve already spent a little bit of time in the first chapter of Ephesians and we’ve discovered that “In Christ” I am blessed, I am redeemed, and I am sealed in the Holy Spirit. But the list in that opening chapter is actually much longer than that. It includes the fact that we have been adopted, we stand before God in love (not condemnation), that we are abounding in grace, filled with wisdom and prudence, guaranteed an inheritance in heaven – and a lot more.
So what would happen if you and I woke up tomorrow and the first waking thought in our heart was, “I am the adopted, blessed, redeemed, loved, and wise child of God who is filled with grace and guaranteed an inheritance in heaven”? How would that effect your day? If you truly believed what Galatians 2:20 says, how would your choices of speech and action change? “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” If you really believed that Jesus wanted to live his life through your existence, would it change you?
At Narrow Gate, we call that “Channel 1” thinking. We didn’t actually make that terminology up. We learned it from a book by Bill Gilham called, “Lifetime Guarantee” – and if you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend that you do. Now, as you can imagine, if there is a “Channel 1” sort of thinking, then there must be a Channel 2 sort of thinking. And after our example with Adam in the Garden, I’m sure you’ve figured out how that one works.
When we begin to listen to the devil and his definition for us, we stop believing the things that God declares as truth about anyone who is hidden in Christ. Because we lived for such a long season of life separated by sin, we learned how to hear the accusing voice of the devil as our own. Those old cartoons of a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other are far from the truth of life. Your enemy is way smarter than that. He simply allows you to remember your habits, choices, and shortcomings and then gives you the space to become convinced that you’re not really holy. After all: would a holy person act like you? Or think like you? But the truth is that you ARE holy. God said so in Ephesians 1:4. We are HOLY and BLAMELESS before God in Love! That’s the truth.
And now we’re back to why it takes 8 months to work our way through the Narrow Gate program. You see, we have habits and patterns of thought that we’ve been developing since we drew our first breath. Being introduced to the truth of who we are in Christ isn’t sufficient to change us forever. It just doesn’t work that way. We need time and space and relationship to begin to recognize those Channel 2 thoughts of doubt and condemnation that run counter to God’s will for our life and then replace them with Channel 1 thoughts that allow the life of Christ to appear in our daily conversations and actions.
So here are two verses to hold on to as you begin this journey into transformation: The first one is Romans 12:2. It says, “Do not be conformed to the image of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The second one is like it. It’s Colossians 3:2-3 and it says: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
These two verses draw a simple picture: How we think – what we choose to set our minds on – will directly affect how we act.
Conformed to the image of the world … or Transformed into the image of Christ.
Channel 2 … or Channel 1.
Try it out today. Tell yourself repeatedly, “Ephesians 1:4 says I AM HOLY” – Then draw from that well of truth to govern how you speak and how you act. And don’t be surprised when the life of Jesus begins to show up … in you!