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Dear Partner,

Behavior modification is the product of a renewed mind. It is not the automatic product of a regenerated spirit. We often wonder how we can continue with "bad habits," or perhaps continue in some outright "sins" for years after we are born again. Bad behavior even sometimes causes us to wonder if we ever were truly born again at all. Since the bible says that once we are born again we are "new creatures" and that "old things have passed away," we tend to think that our outward behavior should automatically be completely changed at the moment we receive Christ as our Savior. That is not what the bible teaches.

Rom 12:2   And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Notice that it does not say, "Be ye transformed by being born again." No, the people in Rome that Paul was writing this letter to were already born again! Without the renewing of the mind it is possible for a born again Christian to appear very little different from the world in their outward behavior. That is not what God wants for us. He wants us to be progressively changed more and more into the very image of Christ. This transformation is a process, not an event. Notice in the following verse how it says we are changed "from glory to glory," meaning it doesn't happen all at once, but is an ongoing process as our minds are renewed to agree with what has already happened in our spirit when we were born again.

2 Cor 3:18   But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

We receive a new nature when we are born again. It is the very nature of Christ. The new nature is in constant contact with our natural mind. That communication is often called a "conscience." A man who was a life-long thief and felt no guilt about stealing will immediately be troubled by his conscience if he tries to steal after he has been born again. It never bothered him before. Why not? He had the fallen nature within him before and that nature was selfish to the core. But the nature of Christ is love and "love worketh no ill to his neighbor." [Rom 13:10].

Here comes the war within: The nature of Christ is urging the man not to steal. Yet in the man's unrenewed mind he "sees himself" as a lifelong thief. That thought process in the unrenewed mind is called a "stronghold" in the bible. Strongholds of "wrong thinking" in the mind war against the promptings that come from the new nature received when we are born again. In this case the stronghold might say, "You have always been a thief. You don't know any other way to live. You know who you are. You are a thief. You can't stop stealing." As long as the man believes that stronghold of "wrong thinking" to be true, his outward behavior will not change. Let me say it again: Behavior modification is the product of a renewed mind. It is not the automatic product of a regenerated spirit.

How do we renew the mind? Part of the renewing process is to come against lifelong strongholds with the truth of God's Word until they are torn down and replaced with what God says about us. Paul describes the process when he said,

2 Cor 10:4-5   (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

These strongholds are like fortresses of unbelief (wrong doctrine) in our mind. Wrong doctrine produces wrong believing. Wrong believing produces wrong thinking. Wrong thinking produces wrong actions. Those fortresses can have really thick walls like Jericho in the Old Testament. The renewing of the mind doesn't happen in a single day. It takes time. It specifically takes time in the Word of God. God's word of TRUTH will tear down every false doctrine built on ERROR, but there is a warfare involved.

In order for this transformation to happen we must remain teachable. We must keep a meek and humble spirit before the Lord and allow His truth to overcome whatever error we believe even if we have believed that error for most of our lives. In the example given earlier concerning the lifelong thief, the new nature is teaching him, "You have been born again. You are no longer a thief. You don't have to steal anymore." The stronghold based on a lifetime of experience is teaching him, "You know who you are. You are a thief. You can't stop stealing." To refuse the truth and to stubbornly continue to believe the lie is simply pride!

James 4:6   But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

Let us remain meek, humble, and teachable. We are what the bible says about us, no matter what our lifelong experience has been in the past. We CAN change by His grace and we WILL change because God gives us even MORE GRACE as we humble ourselves before Him.

Sue and I love you and appreciate you. We thank God for your generous and giving heart. God bless you!

Your friend and co-laborer,

Gary Carpenter

 

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