Someone once told me being a follower of Jesus is exclusive of behaviors, and it’s only about God’s love and their heart. “Behaviorism” is a term that was used. I’ve prayerfully and extensively thought about this perspective. God has blessed this pensive exploration with some interesting ideas. It has to do with “why don’t I change?”
If a person says life is only about God’s love and their heart – while they carve away behaviors and patterns from that model – some inaccurate assumptions have been made about God’s original design for humanity.
All the pieces – God’s love, a person’s heart, and behaviors – are woven together. They are solidly rooted in the reality of Who God is. The Scriptures couldn’t be more clear about God’s claims.
I’ve also concluded this misconception – it’s only about God’s love and your heart – is why some Jesus followers struggle with getting free from old, unhealthy habits to form new behavior patterns. And they ask – “why don’t I change?”
Developing patterns and behaviors that please God from a heart of faith doesn’t negate God’s incredible, undeserved, fresh, faithful love! These are not opposing ideas. However, behaviors from a heart of faith accomplish some things:
- Open the door to the amazing capacity you have to love God back through choices.
- Stir hope in your heart as you live in a broken world.
- Assure you a close friendship is possible with mighty God.
- Give credibility to the love story between God and man.
Yes, all these amazing proofs of God’s love . . . simply from choosing certain behaviors and patterns because of faith.
How God’s Love Fits In
So much gets confused and lumped into the “God’s-love-only” camp. Of course, God’s call to rise-up and live a righteous life surely starts in His love – at the cross. Scripture claims it’s because God first loved us that we can love God and others. His love is the only connect point back to His original design.
But let me suggest – love means a lot of hard work. It was certainly work for Jesus while He lived on earth. He accomplished more than any other man. And He did this through His behaviors.
- He was never idle (though He knew how to rest).
- Jesus was always well-thought and carefully-spoken (though He was fun and light-hearted).
- He was exceptionally disciplined, adopting decisive patterns of behavior (though He was always flexible).
- He was devout and spent time alone with God (though He labored endlessly to serve, heal, teach, feed, and encourage).
God made people to function inside behavior choices – but from the heart. He insists doing the right thing has nothing to do with feelings, nor does it mean you must understand before you act. Original design means:
- Recognizing you belong to God.
- Knowing you are deeply loved by Him.
- Knowing you can call Him, “Father.”
- Accepting you are created glorious in His image.
- Choosing behaviors congruent with God’s character and nature.
- Aligning everything (unseen and behavioral) with faith – to please God and love Him back.
Again, these are proofs of God’s love. Many of God’s children assume His love is an entitlement. What an erroneous assumption! And it may be responsible for a great deal of failure in believer’s lives.
Love Is A Verb
A person can’t be a believer without God’s love. The goal is to accept God’s love, to love Him back, and to love one another. However, love is a verb – an action, a behavior, a set of patterns. It’s what you do even when you don’t feel love. It is proof God dwells in your soul.
Mt. 25: 31-46 talks about goats and sheep God will separate one day based on what they “did and didn’t DO!” Actions matter.
You can’t just include everyone in God’s kingdom! Scripture doesn’t teach that. Jesus said – “I am the way, truth and life, NO ONE comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn. 14:6) In other words, even though He loves every person as they are before they change, each person’s behaviors matter. To behave according to Scriptural principles proves you belong to Jesus. He also said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.” (Jn. 14:15) That involves behaviors.
I have come to think the success of our lives boils down to three key principles that flow from God’s love, are activated by free will, and affect behaviors – the original design.
Let’s look at each principle individually.
- Love – According to Scripture, every believer should be motivated by God’s love. Making choices, adopting behaviors, developing patterns, attitudes – all stem from the motive to please God and love Him back. Being a living sacrifice means – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
- Gratitude – When you are thankful, you choose to see good things are still present even when going through great difficulties. Maintaining a thankful heart takes discipline and involves behaviors. A person’s demeanor is either sweetened or soured by their level of gratitude. Lack of gratitude blocks godliness, limits God’s provisions, and changes your human chemistry. It’s also a subtle form of pride. We expect something we think is better of OUR choosing. A person who is not grateful is never content, which is a behavior God punished His people for. (1 Cor. 10:9-10)
What motivates your behaviors? Is it God’s love? Are you living with a grateful heart? If you are, you will start to change.
Power is the second principle that provides energy to live with behaviors of love and gratitude. Because living like Jesus goes against our fallen nature, power is needed in two ways to choose behaviors of Christ.
- Power Outside Yourself – This is the primary power needed to change / transform you. This “power outside yourself” is God’s power. But you have to ask for it and embrace it. Why not welcome God’s power and stop asking, “why don’t I change?”
- Power Inside Yourself – This is the secondary power needed to change – your power, buy-in, part of God’s original design. You activate your power by surrendering, matching your choices with Scripture – or not. This power is your “say-so.” Your will. It has no energy until you plug into God’s power. So, it’s dependent on His power.
Are you tapping into Christ’s “power outside yourself?” Are you engaging the “power inside yourself?” If you are, you will start to change.
God purposed your design for His glory. Your value and uniqueness are secure for eternity. And God’s power activates your purpose. You can “be you” with no fear, with confidence, and with joy. You can be creative and free!
- Original Design – Your full potential and true purpose is found in God’s original design. This means you:
- Accept God’s Love.
- Adopt the teachings, behaviors, and patterns of God’s Word.
- You engage sincere faith from your heart.
- Then you partner with God.
2. Your Life Purpose – Why not be the “you” God created by aligning your life details with God’s love, His commands, and His purposes? Why not help change the world?
If you slip into Original Design and engage your Life Purpose, you will start to change.
God lovingly designed you to live with MOTIVATION, POWER, and PURPOSE.
What about the messy, broken world? It definitely can interfere with good intentions and practicing godliness. However, your decisions are still “on you.”
Jesus gives practical answers. He said, “Do not fear. I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33) You don’t have to be afraid!
Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) You can do this!
The psalmist said, “Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” (Ps. 51: 6) You can partner with God from your inner, secret being!
Your free will is an incredible gift. If you align your behaviors with these truths by faith, you will start to change.
Application Thoughts And Questions
- Do you have trouble changing?
- Have you put God’s love and your behaviors together with a heart of faith?
- What behaviors do you need to get rid of or change?
- What is your Motivation?
- Where do you get your Power?
- What is your life Purpose?
- How can you prove you trust Jesus in a messy world? List specific ideas.
- Do not fear because Jesus has overcome this messy world.
- God gives strength to live in this messy world.
- Jesus satisfies your heart into contentment.
- Wisdom is yours because Jesus is Truth.
- God’s Spirit lives in you as your Companion.
- You can train every day with Jesus.
Why not enjoy these articles/podcasts from our recent “Faith Series?” Lots of encouragement, help, and hope!
- Ever Run Out Of Heroes?
- Faith Jump
- Fresh Faith For You
- Grow Up In Faith – 4 Tips
- Faith and Family
- Who Can You Trust These Days?
- True Story Of Faith
Visit our website for devotional materials, articles, podcasts, and resources to help grow your faith in God. Pursue noble character and an Alive and Active Life.