Distractions Part 4: Confirmation Bias
Well, good morning to everybody and also to those who watch via the mobile app and the web. We welcome you as well. We’re in a current series called “Distractions.” It’s a five-week series and we’re in week number four. And so, I always assume that there’s new visitors and there’s people maybe who missed a week or so or maybe they missed a couple of weeks. It’s summer time. And I like to just bring everybody back up to speed as to what we’re doing in this series. And this is what we’re doing.
We’re looking at the distractions in our lives that we often overlook that rob us or keep us from living out God’s best.
Let me unpack that just for a minute. What we’re trying to do in this series is we’re trying to look at distractions that we often overlook. I’m convinced that we all know that we have distractions. Unfortunately, many of the times that we look at the things that distract us, there’s symptoms of a deeper root issue. And those are the things that we often overlook. And these things rob us and keep us from living out God’s best.
This weekend, I’m going to deal with a distraction that might be one of the most prevalent distractions in all of our culture. But before I tell you what that is, I want to play a little game with you. How about that? I’ve never done this before as a Pastor. We’re going to play a numbers exercise.
So, I need some interaction. I need you focused. Those watching via the internet, don’t drink a cup of coffee. Make sure you’re watching here. Here’s what we’re going to do. Everybody focus in here. Look at this.
Two, four and six. This is a number set. I want you to start thinking in your mind, “What defines this set?” You should be going at this point, “Two, four, six. Okay. Those are even numbers.”
If you’re normal, that’s what you should be doing. Okay? If you’re one of those people that wants to go, “What’s the trick? What’s he really doing?” Don’t play that game. Because you’re not going to get the trick. I promise.
Here we go. Two, four and six. I’m going to get you the next part of the set. Here we go. It is eight, ten and twelve. So, I’m going to ask you not to answer out loud but in your mind, what defines the set?
Now, if you’re normal you’re going to go, “Two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve. The set is even numbers in consecutive order.”
That’s what you’re going to be thinking right now if you’re normal. Okay? So here comes the next grouping of the number set.
One, three and five. At this point you should go, “Ooo. Might be too early for this. I came to church for the Bible, not for math class.”
Anybody not do good in math? That was me. Can I tell you why I didn’t do good in math? They said I was too impatient and they didn’t like the fact that I would give them the answer but I wouldn’t work it out. Why would you want to work it out? That’s the answer, right?
They’d say, “No, Chip. We want to see you work it out.”
I’m like, “I don’t want to work it out. I just want to give you the answer.”
So anyway, one, three and five. Let’s give you the next set.
Seven, nine and eleven. So now I’m going to ask you, based on everything that you’ve seen, what defines the set?
If you are normal you’re probably going, “Okay. We had even numbers. Two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve. Now we had odd numbers. One, three, five, seven, nine, eleven. A-ha! What this is is an alternating set of even and odd numbers and then the next set is going to be back to even.”
If that’s what you’re thinking, that’s probably pretty normal. So, here’s the next set in this set.
Twelve, two-thirty-six and four-fifty-seven. At this point, if you’re normal, you’re going, “I’m done. Just tell me what it is. I don’t want to know anymore. I was sort of tracking for a moment I think. But I don’t know.”
Let me give you the next number set. Twenty-three, twenty-five and four-fifty-six. Now I’m going to ask you what defines the set?
At this point, you really should be going, “I have no idea.”
Okay? The set is defined by this: It is any three numbers that are in consecutive order where the number that comes after the next number is larger than the other number. That’s all that defines the set. But see how that works? Now, here’s the question that I’m going to ask you: Why does our brain, when we focus on one thing, why is it so difficult for us to change gears and focus on something else and then, when something else comes our way, it’s like, “Done. Whatever?”
We’re going to explain that in a minute because that’s why we have all these issues in our country. That’s why people debate. People get mad at stuff because we have a certain little issue.
Before I get there, I want to tell you another story. You’ll enjoy this story. This is called “Monkey Business.” You might have heard this story before. You might have read it because it’s in a lot of self-help books. In fact, it’s even been discussed on a Ted Talk. And here’s the way this story goes:
Scientist decides to get four monkeys in a room. In the room, he puts a ladder. On top of the ladder, he hangs a cluster of really good bananas. So, as those monkeys are in there, you know how monkeys are. Like, [monkey sound]. Doing their thing. They’re doing their thing. One of them’s like, “Hey! Bananas! Alright!”
So, he climbs up on the ladder. Going to get him some bananas. Well, the scientist has some water that’s like 23 degrees. He sprays the monkey going up the ladder and he sprays all the other monkeys. You can imagine what that room looks like. They’re all running around. [Monkey sounds]. Running into each other and everything else. Well, they sort of dry off a little bit and another monkey – might have been the same monkey, who knows – one of the monkeys decides, “There’s bananas up there and I’m hungry.”
So, he decides to go up the ladder. Scientist sprays that monkey with cold water and all the other monkeys. Well now these monkeys are all mad at each other, hitting each other. They’re like, “Come on. We’ve got to stop this.”
It doesn’t take very many monkeys going up the ladder and getting sprayed by the water until the next monkey that decides to try to go up the ladder, they all grab him and beat him and yell at him. And you know how monkeys are. [Monkey sound]. And the others are [monkey sound]. They’re doing all their stuff.
Well, the scientist then takes one of the monkeys, pulls him out of the room and puts a brand new monkey in the room that’s never experienced the room. Well, he’s hanging out with the monkeys. He’s like, “Must have gone to the beach. They’re a little wet. I don’t know what’s going on.”
He’s like, “Ooo. Bananas.”
So, he starts to go up the ladder. The other three monkeys grab him and pull him down and start beating him and yelling at him and screaming at him. He tries that twice and he doesn’t go up again. Now, he never got sprayed with the water. Never experienced that. But he doesn’t go up that. Then they take another monkey out of the room and put another monkey in the room that’s never been in the room. And when he starts to go up the ladder, not only do the two original monkeys, but the other monkey that came in before him, all three of them grab him and pull him down off the ladder yelling and screaming at him and beating him and everything else. Until finally, all four original monkeys are out of the room and all brand new monkeys are in the room. None of them go up the ladder but none of them know why.
Why do we do these things? If you could ask the monkey and he could really talk – I mean, they usually don’t know how to talk. They just give you the big, you know, that thing. If you could talk to the monkey and ask him – that was even funny for those watching via the internet. But the deal is is if you could talk to the monkey, the monkey would go, “I don’t know why we do this. It’s just the way we’ve always done it.”
Why are we like that? Why does our brain sort of focus in on what we know and sort of look at the things that we know and has a really difficult time assimilating other things in our lives? Why are we like that? That is called “confirmation bias.” And I want to define this for you before we get into the Bible.
Confirmation bias is the tendency of the human brain to filter out and ignore evidence – That’s a key word here. Facts. Evidence. We tend to ignore it and filter out which contradicts our pre-conceived notions and focus on the things that confirm our notions. It’s called confirmation bias and we all suffer from it at some level. In fact, just so you know, chain e-mails that people get.
Eighty percent of the chain e-mails that are sent around are factually inaccurate. But it’s interesting that the chain e-mails that agree with what you already believe, you send them out to your friends. The ones that you don’t agree with the facts, you say that’s just a bunch of bad facts. In fact, what you’re sending out to your friends is probably bad facts too. Why do we filter out and ignore the evidence of things? Why do we do that?
We do that because that’s the way our brain’s wired. We just experience that by looking at numbers and how we sort of focus on a number and it’s hard to move to something else. We see that with the monkey story. And what’s interesting about the monkey story is it’s not even true. It never happened. And it’s in all these books. It’s funny because the monkey story that’s teaching us a story about how we do things and we don’t even know why they do them, we’re actually putting them in books and teaching it as if it’s true when it’s not true and we’re actually becoming more like the monkeys even though the monkey thing never happened. You follow me on that? Something like that? Y’all get me on that?
It’s crazy, isn’t it? It’s crazy that we do these things. Well, the Bible addresses this. Listen to this here.
Proverbs 18:13, “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.”
Now, I know none of you all have ever done that. Okay? It’s just the pastor. Okay? How about this one here?
Proverbs 18:2, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.”
Wow. That’s tough stuff, isn’t it? So, let’s talk about this. There is, what I call, the ultimate confirmation bias. The Gospel. It’s the Gospel of John. John writes his Gospel to counter a confirmation bias. Now, he probably wouldn’t know what confirmation was when he wrote, but he knew that people had deep-seeded beliefs that kept them from seeing the truth. And he tells this upfront in the Gospel in verse 11 of chapter 1.
John 1:11, he says, “Jesus came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.”
Think about that for a minute. These were Jewish people who had all of the scriptures. They studied them all the time. These are people that had all the covenants. These are people that understood the Tabernacle. These are the people that had all the patriarchs and yet, when Jesus walked before them, – the very Word of God, the very truth – they were angry at Him and they killed Him. Now that I’ve got your attention here, I want you to listen to me because this might be one of the most important things I say today.
If you read the Bible and when you read the Bible, you constantly go, “Man, I can’t believe they would do such a thing. Man, I can’t believe these people acted like that. Man, I can’t believe this.” You’re reading the Bible as a Pharisee. When you read the Bible and you go, “Whoa. They did that. I wonder where I’m doing it. Wow. They did that? I wonder what parts of my life are like that.” Then you’re reading the Bible the way it was written.
And John writes his Gospel to tell us something. He tells us in John 20.
He says, “Jesus did many signs in the presence of His disciples. But these signs are written so that you may believe.”
And he gives us seven signs in the Gospel of John. And every one of the signs that Jesus does that demonstrates He truly is the Son of God, there’s a whole group of people that miss the sign. And they miss the sign because they have a confirmation bias. They have a deep-seeded belief that they hold to be true that when the facts are presented before them, they can’t see it because they’re already in the tank for their own system.
This is why church people can’t get along and we argue about theology. This is why our world’s in a mess politically. Because we all go to our camps and we all go to our things and none of us can sort out the facts even though we think we’re doing it. All we’re doing is living in a world of confirmation bias and it’s compromising us living out a full life of God’s glory. And it’s keeping us from God’s abundance.
So, I’m going to pick a story out of John that I think shows this incredible confirmation bias because everybody in the story is in the tank for what they already believe and they can’t see the truth in front of them. And John does this throughout his whole Gospel. Remember Nicodemus? Nicodemus comes to him and he says, “Hey, tell me what’s going on.”
Jesus says, “Well, you’ve got to be born again.”
Nicodemus goes, “Dude. You can’t like go back into your mother’s womb.”
And Jesus is like, “[Buzzer sound]. Wrong answer. You don’t understand me.”
John 4. The woman comes to the well. He’s like, “I’m going to give you water that you’ll never thirst again.”
She goes, “I’ve drank from this well and I was thirsty again and you don’t even have anything to draw from the well. So how are you going to give me this water?”
He’s like, “[Buzzer sound]. Wrong answer.”
John 6 he says, “If you don’t eat My flesh and drink My blood you have no part with Me.”
And the whole crowd goes, “Bye, Felicia,” and they misunderstand Him. The whole Gospel’s written in a way where everybody is misunderstanding Him and John 8 says the Jews believed. He looked at the Jews that believed and He said, “If you continue in My Word, you’ll be my disciples and the truth will set you free.”
And they said, “We’ve never been anything but free. We’ve never been enslaved to anybody.”
And in John 8:44 it says to the group that believed, He says, “You’re of your father the devil.”
Which means they really didn’t believe. John’s showing us in the Bible that it’s so easy to get caught up in our systems that we can’t see the truth when it’s right in front of us. So, we’re going to read out of John 9. Now listen, I can’t go though the whole chapter because I’ve got time constraints. So what I’m reading to you today are these particular verses. But I would challenge you to read John 9. I haven’t taken something out that isn’t germane to the text. But, just for brevity here and to tell the story, I think you need to understand this.
John 8. Jesus is in the temple and He’s told the Pharisees that before Abraham was, I am. In other words, He’s saying, “I really am God.” And they wanted to stone him. Not the way they do in Colorado, but with real rocks they were going to stone him, okay? You’ll get that in a minute. So anyways, as He’s done, He slips out of the temple and they were going to stone Him.
It says, “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Jesus, was this dude in the belly bellying up to the bar? Was he sinning in the womb? Is that why he’s blind or did his parents sin? Who sinned?”
Now, what I want you to do here for a minute is I want you to really get into the Bible. One of the things I really try to do as your pastor is to show you how awesome these books are. Oftentimes, we just read the Bible. We don’t read it as literature. You should be thinking when you read these stories, “What about this blind man?” Can you imagine? He’s sitting there. He can’t see anything. And people are talking about who sinned. He’s like, “Sin? Who sinned? Did I sin? Did I really sin? Did my parents sin? What are my parents doing? I can’t see what my parents are doing. What are they doing? Are they sinning?”
You should be thinking about what this guy’s going through. You should be reading this and entering into the story.
“Jesus, who sinned?”
Because, see, their world was if you were born blind, somebody had to sin because sickness was a result of sin. You might hear that on TV. Jesus takes them out of their little confirmation bias here and says to them this:
He says, “It was not that this man sinned,” – This guy didn’t sin in the womb. I’ll just leave that there. – “…or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Nobody sinned, guys. This guy is blind because this is part of the world. The world is fallen. But we’re hearing the works of God are going to be displayed in this young man.
“Having said these things, he spits on the ground and made mud with the saliva.”
So, you can imagine. The guy’s sitting there. He’s blind. He’s hearing, “Who sinned? Nobody sinned?”
And then He hears Jesus go, [spit noise]. And then Jesus starts playing in the mud. You’ve got to read these stories. They’re fantastic stories. So, He’s making little mud pies, okay?
It says this, “He spits on the ground and made mud with the saliva.”
That’s what He does, okay? And then He anoints the man’s eyes with mud. Can you imagine you’re sitting there and you’re like, “Okay. Sin. Spit. Ooo. What’s that on my eyes? What’s that on my eyes? Whoa.”
Let me tell you something. Blind eyes may not work to see. But blind eyes can be sensitive. That mud cramming on his eyes probably got in there and started stinging. What’s even grosser is the mixture of mud and saliva running down his face and into his mouth. That’s gross, isn’t it? It’s like, “Man.” See, I was the son of a dentist and I never drank after anybody because my dad’s like, “There’s more germs in a man’s mouth than on a dog’s rear end.”
I’m like, “Woo. I ain’t eating after nobody.”
So this is gross. So He anoints the guy’s eyes with this mud, okay? This is a great story. Focus in here. This is great.
“And He said, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.’”
Now, I’m going to tell you this. I don’t say this to be braggadocios or anything like this. But I mean I’ve literally – The Gospel of John, hundreds of times I’ve read. Many times doing exegesis in the original language and I just read this story until I went to Israel. I was at the pool of Siloam and I was like, “Man. This is cool.”
I mean, this is pretty cool. You’re sitting there and you’re going, “Dude. This is where the guy with the blind eyes was. Somewhere right here. Right here.”
And they say, “Okay. Now we’re going to walk to the temple.”
I’m like, “Fantastic.”
And they said, “Well, we’ve got to go through these caves.”
I’m like, “Caves? What are you talking about?”
And they’re like, “Well, it’s underground.”
And so they’ve cut the old pathway because everything’s been built up. You’ve got to walk through caves. Let me tell you something. That was scary because I’m a pretty small dude. You all probably have noticed that. When I’m having to go sideways through the cave almost to get through and it’s all around with water coming in, it got sort of crazy. Do you know how long it took? Forty-five minutes. As I’m walking I’m going, “Hold on. How long is this?”
I talked to the guy and he said, “Well, it’s 1000 yards.”
And I’m like, “A thousand yards? Whoa. Man. That’s like 10 football fields.”
And it dawned on me. I’m like, “Jesus put mud on this guy’s eyes and told him to go walk 10 football fields.”
I’m like, “I wouldn’t have done that!”
Can you imagine him walking? We’re going to call him Jimmy. It’s not in the original Greek or anything that his name was Jimmy. Okay? But we’re calling him Jimmy. Can you imagine Jimmy is strutting out, he can’t see and he’s got big mud pies on his eyes and all of his friends are like, “Yo, Jimmy. You’ve got mud on your eyes.”
He’s like, “I know. I can’t see. I’ve got to get to the pool of Siloam.”
And so everybody is trying to talk to him and he’s talking to them and everybody’s involved. Because, let me tell you something, it takes a community to have a miracle. That’s better preaching than you all just let on. Just understand this here, okay? It takes communities to have miracles. So everybody’s sort of leading this guy and he goes down and he gets in the pool and he washes his eyes and he comes back seeing.
Well, that’s even better because you’ve got to understand something. He can see now, but he doesn’t know where he’s at because he’s never seen this before. You following me here on this? It’s a great story. Awesome story. So now he’s got to ask everybody how to get back. How do I get back?
“Hey, man. Can you help me get back? I know I was somewhere near the temple.”
And they’re like, “Dude, what do you mean?”
Because they don’t know who he is. They’re like, “How do you not know where you are?”
“Well, I was blind and like mud, spit, wash, see.”
And they’re like, “Yeah, what? No, no, no. What are you talking about?”
He’s like, “No, I’m serious.”
So, he’s walking back asking everybody how to get back to where he was at and “some of the neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’”
They’re like, “Is that Jimmy? It looks like Jimmy. Maybe it’s Jimmy. He might have stolen Jimmy’s clothes. He looks like Jimmy.”
“And some of them said, ‘It is He.’” – It’s Jimmy. – “Others said, ‘No, but he is like him.’”
He couldn’t be Jimmy because Jimmy can’t see. This guy can see. And Jimmy’s going, “No! It’s me, Jimmy! I’m the man.”
And they’re like, “No, you’re not the man. You look like Jimmy. You sort of talk like Jimmy. But Jimmy can’t see and you can see.”
He’s like, “No, no, no. I really can see.”
See what’s going on here? John’s telling us something here. The disciples, they can only see it one way. Now some of these neighbors that know Jimmy can’t even accept that it’s Jimmy. They can’t even see the facts that are in front of them. So, they ask him what happened and everything else and they decide to take him to the Pharisees
“So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight.”
And the word here “again” doesn’t mean that the Pharisees had asked him earlier. It’s that the Pharisees asked him again because Jimmy had been asked before by these neighbors and these people what had happened. Now the Pharisees ask because everybody’s asking to figure out what’s going on but nobody’s really seeing what’s really going on.
“So the Pharisees asked him how he received his sight.”
They’re like, “So, you were blind?”
“I was blind.”
“Now you can see?”
“I can see.”
“Well how did that happen?”
He said, “Well, He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”
He was like, “Mud. Spit. Wash. See.”
They’re like, “Okay.”
So, “Some of the Pharisees, when they heard this,” – they’ve got a guy there that can see. He’s been blind. He can see. Should be like a moment of rejoicing.
“Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man can’t be from God. He didn’t keep the Sabbath.”
“This guy Jesus? You’re saying the guy spit and healed you? Yeah. He can’t be from God.”
“Well hold on. We’re not even talking about that. You’re interpreting all these facts in your own way. You’re missing everything here.”
“This man’s not from God. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”
They’ve turned a miracle into a debate theologically.
“But the others said, ‘Hey man. If He’s a sinner, how can He do such signs?’”
“And there was a division among them.”
Let me tell you something. There will always be divisions among us when some of us are living in our confirmation bias rather than looking at the obvious truth that is before us.
“The Jews…” – So, we’ve got the disciples want to know who sinned. We’ve got some of the neighbors that can’t even see – even though they think it looks like Jimmy, they can’t accept that it’s Jimmy. The Pharisees want to make it a debate about whether or not Jesus is a sinner. And now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and received his sight. They just didn’t even believe it.
“We don’t believe this.”
You’ve got to understand something, right? People who are blind are blind. They don’t see. People don’t get up out of the grave on the third day. It’s not the way it works. They didn’t believe it. They didn’t believe it so they called the parents. They called the parents in. They don’t even believe it. It’s like, “Let’s get the parents.”
So it says, “The Jews didn’t believe that he’d been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind?’”
“Is this your son? Are you telling us he was born blind? How then does he now see?”
“His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.’”
It’s like, “Dude. She carried him for nine months. We didn’t all of a sudden just wake up one day and go, ‘Yeah. This boy here. He’s blind. He’s our son! Oh my gosh.’”
No. It’s like, “Dude. We know he’s our son. What do you mean? Are you asking us questions to really get to the truth or are you asking questions just so that you can confirm what you already believe? We know that this is our son. We know that he was born blind.”
“We don’t know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes.” – We weren’t there. – “Ask him; he’s of age. He’ll speak for himself.”
Go get Jimmy. Jimmy knows.
“So for the second time…” – Part two of the blind eye, mud, spit, wash rodeo – “So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and they said, “Alright, here’s what you’re going to do. Go ahead and give the Lord a hand clap. Give some glory to God. But Jesus is a sinner.”
Jimmy’s like, “What? How are we making this about that? How can you construe this is about that?”
Of course, none of us would ever, ever, ever do anything like this. Okay?
So he says, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.”
Jimmy says “Whether he is a sinner or not I don’t know. I mean, I was there when I was blind and they were talking about sin and something about somebody sinned and I don’t know. But I don’t know if they’re sinners. I don’t know anything. What I do know is this. This is what I know. That though I was blind, now I see.
“That’s what’s going on in front of you. What is going on in front of you is there was a miracle that happened. I was blind and now I see and you guys are making this all about all this other stuff when, in reality, it’s really about the fact that I just experienced a miracle.”
They said, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
And you know what Jimmy’s thinking. He’s like, “I’ve been already telling you this man. I’ve told you. Spit. [Spit sound]. Mud in my eyes. Wash. Boom. I can see.”
They’re asking him again. “So what did he do? How’d he open your eyes?”
“He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen.”
This isn’t about learning something. This is about you trying to figure out a way to make what you already believe to be true. And then he gets some moxie. I love Biblical people with moxie. This is awesome. This should make you laugh. If you don’t laugh, something’s wrong because this is funny.
He says, “You want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”
That’s awesome. He knows they don’t want to be His disciples. He just decides, “You know what? You guys don’t care about me seeing. All you guys do is try to figure out how to get these facts into the thing that you believe already. You don’t want to know the truth. You just want to know what you already believe. You’re in the tank.”
“And they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.’”
Which is great. Because Jimmy doesn’t even know who Jesus is at this point. He ain’t even discipling nothing. He says, “We’re disciples of Moses.”
Jimmy says to them, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.”
Have you noticed all these “eyes opened, eyes opened, eyes opened?” Is John trying to tell us something that maybe our eyes need to be opened? You know, this is not the sermon where you go, “Oh, man. I can’t wait until I get the DVD of this one and send it to my buddy. He needs to hear this. No. This a sermon where all of us need to take an introspective look and ask in what areas of our life do we experience confirmation bias. This is not the holy elbow.
“Honey, are you listening to this? This is a good message for you.”
That’s not what we’re doing here. John’s wanting us to open our eyes. He’s wanting us to see how easy it is to get caught up into our own ways and miss the very facts in front of us.
“They answered him and said, ‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us? And they cast him out.’”
Wow. That is a story, isn’t it? That is a fantastic story. So what are the take-homes?
Get out your pen. Get out your paper. Get out your stuff. Write these down. These are really important things that you take home.
Number one. Confirmation bias can be costly to you and me.
Confirmation bias is experienced across all areas of our life. We see it in our relationships with our husbands and our spouses. We get our ideas of what we think our husbands do or our wives do and we do that, “You always do this” or “You never do this.” And we say these things even though that’s not true. We convince our self that it’s true.
You see it in the way we relate to bosses. You see the way we relate to people at work. You see it theologically in the Church. People go to these camps and they can’t even talk to each other without getting mad. You see it politically in our country. Bottom line is it’s costly to you and me because what it does is it robs us and it keeps us from living out the thing that we need to be living out.
When I was a youth pastor, I had one of my kids come up to me and say, “Pastor Chip, let me tell you what I learned today.”
Now, I didn’t teach him this. He just told me what he learned today.
I go, “What is it?”
He says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
And I was like, “Man. That is profound. You oughta be the youth pastor. That’s better than everything I’ve preached last year.”
I put that in my back pocket. And boy, that is the truth. We get so distracted on the areas where we’re so biased we spend all of our time and energy on those things rather than on doing what we’ve been called to do which is to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ like Paul said to the Corinthian church.
“I determine to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
And what confirmation bias does is it gets us distracted on all these things that we fight for and argue for and get mad about and hate people and reject people and do all this stuff and it keeps us up late at night and it boils our blood. It’s costly to you and me because it’s robbing us of the things that God has for you and me.
Secondly, if we only listen to and read the same things we already believe, we are putting ourselves at risk.
This is important. Listen to me. Most people in America only listen and read what they already believe. Now, I am not in any way a political preacher and I will never be a political preacher. I’m going to use an example that has some political things to it. But I’m not using it for political points. I’m using it for the fact of showing you how in the tank we are as a society so that I can get everybody to see what’s going on.
Valois Krebs is considered the greatest social network analyst in the world. What he does is is he looks at how things work in social network and network stuff and Facebook, social media, and how people interact. In fact, he was called by the 9/11 commission, he was one of the guys that put together the terrorist cells based on stuff like that. Based on the internet stuff and everything. He also was a founding person with the Bernie Banoffee scam. He was able to put a lot of that together.
This guy’s a really incredible guy. And he did research – and it’s taken several years – he did research on the 2008 election. This is unbelievable. He went to Amazon.com and he said – and they know who he is – and he says, “I want to do some research. What I want to do is this: I don’t need names of people. What I want is is I want to know if anybody was on this side or anybody was on this side. If they bought more than one book during the election cycle, I want them to be in my data group.”
Millions. Literally tens of millions of people were in his data group. This is his data set. I think you know what blue and red are. I’m not trying to be political. This is his data set. What I want you to see is this:
Not one person on this side and not one person on this side read the other person’s view. Out of tens of millions of Americans. There’s no bridge in between which shows you we’re living in echo chambers. We’re living in echo chambers. And the thing is, what if everything you believe is wrong? Because John’s screaming that to you and me. He’s screaming, “Don’t get so in the tank.” And forget the political part of it. I’m talking about everything in life. From the way you treat your wife, to the way you view God, to the way you read scripture to all of those things. Don’t go in the tank. We live in a world of confirmation bias. Don’t do that.
In fact, just so you know this, this is so important to know. You may even think you’re doing research when you go in the internet. The search engines are based on an algorithm. And whatever you tend to like, they lead you to where you go. So what Krebs would tell all of us is is that the web itself leads to more narrow viewpoints as search engines lead us to what we want.
This is a real wake-up call because this is a huge distraction to the Christian church. We get so caught up in all the other things rather than the main thing and it’s robbing us of a witness. It’s robbing us of our lifestyles. It’s robbing us of joy. It’s robbing us of peace. It’s robbing us of all of the things that God has for you and me.
So, number three. Write this one down. The “other side” – Now, whatever side you’re on of whatever debate it is; theological, whatever it is. The “other side” that angers you – If you get angry at the other side – that’s a tell tale sign that you’re infected with confirmation bias. Because anger worketh not the righteousness of God. So, when you get on the TV and somebody’s doing something or you’re seeing a preacher or you’re reading a book and you’re angry, you’re in the tank.
See, I used to be this guy. I’ll lead here and just expose. I teach systematic theology on a university level. My kids are great. They’re always like, “Dr. Bennett, you always just give us all the views. What’s your view?”
I’m like, “My view is Jesus.”
And they’re like, “Well why aren’t you telling me your view?”
I go, “Because, honestly, I gave you five views. On Monday I’m one, on Tuesday I’m the other, on Wednesday I’m the other, on Thursday I’m the other and on Friday I’m the other.”
And they’re like, “What do you believe?”
“I believe in Jesus.” I’m like, “Look, I’ve changed my mind so many times that I’ve gotten sick and tired of arguing for all the points that I thought I used to believe.”
At this point I’m like, you know what? Let’s keep the main thing the main thing the main thing. Let’s realize what it’s all about. It’s not about how much facts I know. It’s not about how well I can put an argument together. It really comes down to do we have a relationship with Jesus? Is it really all about Jesus or are we so distracted? And then what we do is we pull Jesus into our distractions and we make Him the voice for our distraction. And then we give that to the world.
Look at the things that anger you; that fire you up. Those are probably areas where you’re not willing to look at the other side. And here’s where it really comes down to because this is the most important one.
We need to trade in the need to be right, in order to truly show love.
Do you need to be right or do you lay it down? I was at a staff meeting a few weeks ago and somebody said, “Hey, how do we deal with, you know when we’re working with some of the staff and doing all this?”
I said, “Take your title and throw it on the ground and get a towel and wash feet.”
That was in our staff meeting. What do you do when you’ve got a staff member that you sort of don’t get along with? Take your title, throw it on the ground and grab a towel and wash their feet. That’s what you do because that’s what Jesus would do. Do we need to be right or do we really believe that what we’re to do is to show love?
Because, see, what John says to us, John says, “En archē ēn ho Lógos.”
In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God.
“Pros ton Theón”
The Word was God and He took on flesh and He came and lived among us and all the people that should’ve recognized who He was missed it and they were angry at Him. They thought they were right but they were wrong. And John says, “I write these things so that you can really believe. So that you can really know who Jesus is.”
That’s what we’re called to do. We’re not called to do all these things that get us all distracted. We’re called to go into the world and tell people about this Jesus that was God in the flesh that died on a cross and rose again on the third day and one day is going to return. And that is what changes people’s lives. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
So what I would do is I would ask everybody to not try to figure out who this message can be for. To not try to figure out who this speaks to. Just take a moment in your life and just say, “God, speak to me today. Speak to me today about areas in my life where maybe I’m just so in the tank. And help me to get rid of all that stuff and to get back focused on what’s the most important thing. And that’s to reach people that don’t know Jesus.”
Because, we don’t have a choice – if there’s a Heaven and a Hell – we don’t have a choice to fool around with the distractions. We need to be about the Father’s business.
Dear heavenly Father,
I thank You so much for the wonderful people here at Grace. And I love them. But Lord, my love is so insignificant compared to Your love for them. I pray, God, that what we would do right now is just really chew on Your Word. Chew on what Your Word says to us and, Lord, expose the areas in our lives where maybe we really do get distracted or where we maybe are in the tank with some confirmation bias.
And help us, Lord, to get about what we should be doing which is loving You, spending time with You and sharing You with other people and not to be distracted on all these other things. Lord, I believe that this series is as an important a series as we’ve done because, Lord, it’s helping us get the clutter and the noise out of our lives and to get focused back on the thing that matters. So Lord, I pray that You would speak to everyone here, myself included. Show us, Lord. Lead us. And help us to become those people that You’ve created us to be. And help us to stop being distracted from things that rob us and keep us from living out Your best.
So Lord, I pray that as we leave, I pray that You would lead, guide and direct us. I pray that You would continue to help us to be the light that you’ve called us to be in Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton for Your glory. I pray, God, that You would open up our eyes and help us to see. Bring us back safely to when we meet again. We thank You for everything that You’re doing. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.