Often we struggle to change our behavior, but it isn’t easy. Sometimes we think we have to change our behavior before we come to God. There are a variety of addictions and habits that haunt us and create frustration for us. We stay away from God because it is too hard to change. This doesn’t have to be the case. The reason we struggle to change behavior is because we have things backwards. A change in behavior is the end result not the first step.
The first step to changing any behavior is to change your mind! The Greek word used in the New Testament metanoia, which means change your mind is translated into repent. The process of changing behavior begins with repentance. We must change are mind about what we know, what we believe and finally changing what we do becomes easier.
Knowing is important because that is where freedom from bondage begins. The Bible says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6a). Jesus told us, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). It is by “knowing” the truth that you will find freedom to be able to turn to God. This means first changing your mind. The Bible says, “…the men themselves go apart with harlots and offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes; so the people without understanding are ruined” (Hosea 4:14).
The apostle Paul wrote, “we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9b,10). It is only after we are “filled with the knowledge of His will” that we can “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.”
Repentance begins with your head because faith is built on a foundation of what we know and understand. But, knowing is only the beginning. We have to start there. But after that, the majority of your effort has to be focused on your heart.
The second step to changing behavior is to believe. Believing changes the heart. The Holy Spirit changes our hearts. Romans 2:2 uses the analogy of circumcision to say that the Spirit circumcises our heart. Jeremiah 31:33 says, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Ezekiel 36:26-27 says God will replace our heart of stone with one of flesh, by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit softens our heart. Romans 12:2 pulls it all together: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. I believe that applying these principles to the area of repentance means you have to understand—change your mind. You also have to know and understand why it is right and good and safe for you to turn to God. You have to know these kinds of things because knowing is the first step toward believing.
However, the truth that has power to make you free can’t just stay in your head. What you know in your head has to move its way down into your heart. This means surrendering to the Holy Spirit to work on the inside—to change you from the inside out. When that happens you have what it takes to change your behavior.


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