Every new year many folks set off with good intentions to make positive changes in their lives. Yet, most of these people will be very disappointed. Their resolution will quickly fall by the way side. What started out so well often ends in disappointment. By this time of the year some have already given up on their resolutions.
As a pastor I interact with many men in prison. With very few exceptions these men express a desire and intent to do better, straighten up their lives and avoid future incarcerations. Yet a large majority of them soon return to jail again after release for much the same crimes as they committed before.
Why is it so hard to change? People know certain behaviors are destructive. People acknowledge the problems caused by their actions. A man will admit an action is not a good idea and will probably end in his sorrow. A woman will confess her behavior is hurtful and will leave her in sad state. Despite these admissions they continue down the same bad course. Many set out on a path to make good changes in their lives. Many start well and genuinely desire to be different. Despite this, very few ever change. Why is this?
One of the most important reasons people do not change is their focus is on the wrong problem. The problem is never the problem. The problem is always a symptom of the problem. If a man walked into the doctors office complaining of chest pain, shooting pains in his left arm and difficulty breathing, the doctor will always look deeper than the presenting pain for the problem. No doctor would just give this man aspirin and an inhaler. He would look for major problems with the heart knowing the pains are just a symptom.
So it is with human behavior. The actions and decisions people make are just the symptom. The real problem is a problem of the heart. Jesus makes this point in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” All human behavior comes from the human heart. The way to change the behavior is to change the heart.
No one can change his heart. No more than a heart attack patient can give himself CPR, defibrillate himself or give himself a heart transplant can a man remove and replace the sinful heart that is the core of his being. An outside agency must replace the damaged heart with a new one. The only agency effective to perform a transplant of the spiritual heart is Jesus. To be changed, one must turn from his self dependent efforts and self seeking desires to trust Jesus for full cleansing and transformation. God’s promise is, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” In Jesus, the heart is cleansed, the man is made new. With Jesus the heart is changed and the behavior will be changed. Without a change of heart there will be no change of behavior.