Have you struggled with an inability to change certain behaviors? I know some people who try to change their behavior through attending 12-step or other support groups. I would also say that there are others who try going to church and becoming involved there. Many achieve a modicum of success or abstinence for periods of time but eventually return to their old behaviors.
They become frustrated with themselves and their inability to “stay in recovery” and some will say things like, “(blank) didn’t work for me.” Unfortunately, some include God in their failure.
You must realize that no “self-help” program will change the heart; all they do is teach you how to modify your behavior, but that is only going to bring about temporary or temporal change.
We have the ability to make a mental decision to abstain from habits. The person who bites their nails, overeats, or spends money, indulges in sexual immorality, drugs or alcohol and stops by a force of their will white-knuckle flies.
The change in behavior will last only as long as resistance to the flesh holds out. It is sometimes described as white-knuckle flying; hanging on for dear life to “recovery” and always waiting to fail.
But once the self-determination to abstain gives in, and the desires of the heart take over, the change is finished and the behavior resumes despite all the good intentions the person started out with.
This is because the heart is desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) and we are incapable of changing our own hearts.
Only the gospel of Jesus Christ understood and applied to the heart can begin that change! The repentance that takes place in the heart of change must come from a conviction that the activity a person is involved in does not bring God glory.
It is important to understand here, that the change in the behavior of the immoral person is not necessarily the goal; the goal is to understand that sinful behaviors come from a sinful heart, and this does not glorify God.
“The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Westminster Confession
Change must in every case, cease to be about “me” and become about God and His glory! This must happen in the inner man before it is evidenced in behavior. Repentance comes as the heart is affected. We see this is true because where there is no heart change there is no repentance.
Oswald Chambers says this, “Conviction of sin is one of the rarest things that ever strikes a man. It is the threshold of an understanding of God…conviction of sin, the marvel of forgiveness and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the for forgiven man who is the holy man, he proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was, by God’s grace. Repentance always brings a man to this point: I have sinned. The surest sign God is at work is then a man says that and means it. Anything less than this is remorse for having made blunders, the reflex action of disgust at himself.”*
*Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest