Changing behaviors and behavioral patterns are important; however, behavior change is not enough. Person after person after person read self-help books, attend self-help meetings, involve themselves in some form of counseling, get involved in a church, stop certain behaviors, yet over time nothing gets better. This is because the true issue is not the behavior but the motivation for the behavior.
This has been an issue we have been dealing with for over 2000 years. People participate with religious rituals in an attempt to make amends for their sin or to reserve a place in Heaven. This is partly due to the fact that physical behavior is typically easier to accomplish than mental or “inner” behavior.
Many people have been raised to believe they must perform ritual after ritual to have their sin forgiven, typically have such a difficult time with the concept of grace by faith. Jesus told the church leaders of his day that the goal was not only to avoid physical adultery, but also mental adultery. What he was saying was that what is in our minds and hearts is more important because behavior is driven from within. The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2: 20-23:
20You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21“Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.
The People of the day were hearing the message of grace by faith which nullified the demand for religious ritual but brought a radically different concept, one that involved our minds and hearts. Paul was saying that though we may keep to church rules or even stop a certain behavior, nothing has truly changed because the issue is with our own evil desires. This is why we see many people change from one bad behavior just to develop a different one, a behavior just a bit more acceptable.
The first step in changing the inner parts of our being is to realize that though we may need to stop a certain behavior, the real work is changing our heart. God help us to start the process of doing more than behavior change, help us to develop a Clean Heart.