We live in a behavioral modification society. We are all about avoiding the consequences of doing the “wrong” thing. Our lives are filled with consequences to be avoided, pitfalls to go around, down sides to not to be seen. The thought occurred to me this morning as I passed a state trooper sitting on the side of the road. We don’t speed because we don’t want to get a ticket, not because we are convinced it is in our best interests. We, at our core most often believe that it is in our best interest to get where ever we are going faster. We are willing to risk our lives to an extent in order to save a few precious moments of time. It is only in fear of the price tag, and the hassle of a ticket when we see the silhouette of that light bar that we are reminded that there is a higher authority. There is a punishment for our actions and then we bring our speed down and our lives back under the authority of the state. The problem with this way of life is that we are taught that we can bring our behavior under submission to another and not get caught, without ever being convinced of the reality that it is in our best interest and the best interest of others to abide. We never have to change in our hearts to not get caught, we just learn to change our behavior.
This mindset seems to be all over our society at large. and it was all over the culture in Jesus’ time as well. If you look at Matt. 23, Jesus’ main indictment against the Pharisees was that they had all the outer workings of the law, yet lacked the inner change of their heart, that would have led naturally to a change of behavior. You see, the heart leads our actions. It is only with the threat of impending doom that we are persuaded to change our actions by the force of our will. But God did not create us to work that way. We are created to be led by our hearts, and our affections. Not our natural ones mind you, scripture is clear that the unregenerate heart is deceitful and wicked, who can know it. But when our hearts are changed by the power of Christ working in our life, we begin to have new affections, and new desires that are placed there by the Holy Spirit, and cultivated by the study of the Word. So the mind and the will are involved, but they are driven to truth, by the changed heart of salvation.
That must be our response when we find ourselves dealing with a sin that is hindering us, or dragging us down. Our first response to the conviction of sin must be to look at the affections of our hearts. Are we fanning the flames of love for God by feeding the Word to our hearts, or are we looking at the trinkets and baubles of the world? Slowly being drawn into the love of something other than the one who loved us enough to send His son to take our place on the cross and die, so that we can be made new, and have life to the full.
So when you are found in sin, or burdened with guilt, don’t go first to behavior, except to confess it and ask forgiveness. The next step in true repentance is to go to your heart, and cultivate your affections for Jesus Christ and his awesome work on your behalf. Remember the joy of your conversion, and the power you experienced at your first hearing of the good news that you have been saved. Think about your favorite verses in the Bible, and about how much God has done in your life. You may be surprised how your outward life will begin to reflect naturally what is in your heart. Hey, you may even stop speeding.