Why behavior modification isn’t really life change

Yesterday I listened to a message where the speaker spoke about righteousness, redemption, and releasing the control on our lives to God. He mentioned that it’s easy to fall into the trap of behavior modification. That got me to thinking about why behavior modification isn’t really life change.

Behavior modification is thinking that spiritual formation requires the same methodical repetition used to break a bad habit. If I do this for 30 straight days, then I might finally stop gossiping. It may work for a while but how long until what’s really inside your heart comes out when you’re hurt, disappointed, exhausted, or feel betrayed?

Behavior modification is me going through the motions of what others say I’m supposed to do, hoping that appearances are enough to convince everyone else that I’ve got my crap together. Do I really think I need to make these changes or is this just an obligatory change that I can make that gives everyone a good impression of me?

Behavior modification is the Eliza Doolittle (My Fair Lady) of ethics: maybe if we clean up the outside, make it sound nice, and behave properly, then we might be able to pass the eye-test and no one will know the wiser. But after the dust has settled and no one else is around to impress with how well we behave, how long will it be before our real hearts come out to play?

Our faith journeys aren’t about fixing bad habits; they’re about releasing to God the attitudes that we’ve adopted and letting Him restore our hearts back to what they were created to be in Eden. It’s doing everything we can to learn how to see things through His eyes and with His heart.

Change, real change, the kind that makes misers generous, bitter people joyful, and broken people restored, that type of change only comes from a life fully given up to God. Those are the lives that allow the Holy Spirit to invest in our hearts and truly transform who we are on the inside. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could fix our bad habits; He died so He could change our lives completely.

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