* Do you let others dictate your behavior?
Often we let others’ values and actions dictate our attitudes and behavior. Have you ever made a wrong choice because you wanted to be like everyone else? Be careful that the values of your friends or “heroes” don’t pull you away from what God says is right. When God’s people want to be like unbelievers, they are heading for spiritual disaster. (NLT)
1 Samuel 8:19-20 – But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will govern us and lead us into battle.”
* Repentance is changing the behavior that produces sin
When Josiah realized how corrupt his nation had become, he tore his clothes and wept before God. Then God had mercy on him. Josiah used the customers of his day to show his repentance. When we repent today, we are unlikely to tear our clothes, but weeping, fasting, and making restitution or apologies (if our sin has involved others) demonstrate our sincerity when we repent. The hardest part of repentance is changing the attitudes that originally produced the sinful behavior. (NLT)
2 Kings 22:19 – You were sorry and humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I said against this city and its people, that this land would be cursed and become desolate. You tore your clothing in despair and wept before me in repentance. So I have indeed heard you, says the Lord.
* Following Ezra’s earnest prayer, the people confessed their sin to God. Then they asked for direction in restoring their relationship with God. True repentance does not end with words of confession–that would be mere lip service. It must lead to changed attitudes and behavior. When you sin and are truly sorry, confess this to God, ask his forgiveness, and accept his grace and mercy. Then, as an act of thankfulness for your forgiveness, make the needed corrections. (NLT)
Ezra 10:3-4,11 – Let us now make a covenant with our God to divorce our pagan wives and to send them away with their children. We will follow the advice given by you and by the others who respect the commands of our God. We will obey the law of God. Take courage, for it is your duty to tell us how to proceed in setting things straight, and we will cooperate fully.”
Confess your sin to the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do what he demands. Separate yourselves from the people of the land and from these pagan women.”
* How can we be perfect in our behavior?
How can we be perfect? (1) In character: In this life we cannot be flawless, but we can aspire to be as much like Christ as possible. (2) In holiness: Like the Pharisees, we are to separate ourselves from the world’s sinful values. But unlike the Pharisees, we are to be devoted to God’s desires rather than our own and carry his love and mercy into the world. (3) In maturity: We can’t achieve Christlike character and holy living all at once, but we must grow toward maturity and wholeness. Just as we expect different behavior from a baby, a child, a teenager, and an adult, so God expects different behavior from us, depending on our stage of spiritual development. (4) In love: We can seek to love others as completely as God loves us.
We can be perfect if our behavior is appropriate for our maturity level–perfect, yet with much room to grow. Our tendency to sin must never deter us from striving to be more like Christ. Christ calls all of his disciples to excel, to rise above mediocrity, and to matrue in every area, becoming like him. Those who strive to become perfect will one day be perfect, even as Christ is perfect. (NLT)
Matthew 5:48 – [Jesus said] “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
* Faith results in changed behavior
Judging from the crowd’s reaction to him, Zacchaeus must have been a very crooked tax collector. But after he met Jesus, he realized that his life needed straightening out. By giving to the poor and making restitution–with generous interest–to those he had cheated, Zacchaeus demonstrated inner change by outward action. It is not enough to follow Jesus in your head or heart alone. You must show your faith by changed behavior. Has your faith resulted in action? What changes do you need to make? (NLT)
Luke 19:8 – Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have overcharged people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
* Why God asks us to restrict our behavior
Sin deceives people by misusing the law. The law was holy, expressing God’s nature and will for people. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent deceived Eve, changing her focus from the freedom she had to the one restriction God had made. Ever since then, we have all been rebels. Sin looks good to us precisely because God has said it is wrong. Instead of paying attention to his warnings, we use them as a “to do” list. When we are tempted to rebel, we need to look at the law from a wider perspective–in the light of God’s grace and mercy. If we focus on his great love for us, we will understand that he only restricts us from actions and attitudes that ultimately will harm us. (NLT)
Romans 7:11-12 – Sin took advantage of the law and fooled me; it took the good law and used it to make me guilty of death. But still, the law itself is holy and right and good.
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