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Thoughts, Behavior, Consequences

The thoughts we think motivate our behavior. Every choice we make has consequences for good or evil. In my life, just one incorrect thought birthed 20 years of mental confusion and anguish.

 

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by Greg Brezina

 

Recently I was in Athens, Georgia, for a speaking engagement. The occasion was a Fellowship of Christian Athletes rally before a University of Georgia football game. Not having specific directions to the baseball stadium (the location of the rally), I stopped at a gas station to ask the way.

 

It wasn’t long before I realized that the man at the gas station had given me wrong directions. So I wandered around UGA’s campus until I found a policeman. He gave me the right directions, and I proceeded straight to the stadium.

 

This episode is an example of the fact that thoughts motivate behavior, which in turn produces consequences. Consequences generate more thoughts which motivates additional behavior, and produces more consequences. This episode also reveals the fact that if thoughts are believed to be true, but are actually false, behavior and consequences will still follow. The first man who had provided me with directions was sincere, but he was sincerely wrong. I believed him, acted on my belief, and suffered the consequences which amounted to wasted time and energy.

 

If our thoughts are incorrect, then our behavior will automatically move us towards waste and eventual failure. If our thoughts are in line with the truth, then our behavior will move us towards efficiency and eventual success. The powerful impact of thoughts on behavior and consequences cannot be over stated!

 

Early in my Christian walk, I wandered, looking for the way to conquer sin habits. So I stopped and asked someone for spiritual direction. He stated that my wandering was caused by the two natures within me. One nature was new in Christ, and the other was the old “sin nature.” My new nature needed strengthening in order to subdue the old “sin nature.” I needed to strengthen the new nature by involving myself in religious activities. Then when my new nature was strong enough, my old nature would be subdued, and I would experience victory over my sin habits.

 

Faithfully I followed the directions, yet conquering sin habits continued to elude me. So I stopped a second time and sought direction. My advisor directed me to re-dedicate my life to Christ, re-double my religious efforts, and try harder to stop my sin habits. For 20 years, I continued to repent and re-double my religious efforts by asking, begging, and pleading with God to help me conquer my sin habits.

 

For 20 years I tried to live for Christ, but I kept failing. Thoroughly fatigued and frustrated, I desired to die and go to heaven in order to escape my miserable mental Christian existence.

 

At the height of my anxiety, I received new directions. A man shared with me that I did not possess two natures. He directed me to Scriptures such as Romans 6:6 and Galatians 2:20 which verify that my old self (sin nature) was crucified with Christ when I became a Christian. He also said that Christ gave me His life (John 10:28) and His righteousness (II Corinthians 5:21). Now God totally accepted me (Romans 15:7), made me complete in Him (Colossians 2:10), and empowered me by His Holy Spirit to experience and express His abundant life (I Corinthians 2:4). He went on to say that my energy and effort needed to be focused on abiding in Christ (John 15:5) rather than on trying to stop myself from sinning.

 

Following these new directions, I can began to focus on who I am in Christ. Now as I abide in Christ, I can renew my mind with His word. As I submit my will to the Holy Spirit, I begin to control my thoughts. With my thoughts under the control of the Holy Spirit, I begin to behave like Christ, and my sin habits are broken. On the other hand, when I do not abide in Christ, I begin to think “fleshly” thoughts. Sinful behaviors follow as a result, and I suffer the consequences.

 

Think of it! Just one incorrect thought birthed 20 years of mental confusion and anguish in my life. One could easily become depressed thinking on the waste of all that time and energy.

 

What keeps me from depressive thoughts is Romans 8:28 which states, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Amazing grace can take 20 years of religious wandering and work it ALL together for my good!

 

Praise the Lord! Bless His holy name forever! He has set me free from the bondage of trying not to sin in my own strength in order that I may learn to depend upon the Holy Spirit’s power to experience and express His life. My identity is no longer in my flesh, but in Christ’s life. I have experienced the great exchange which is Christ’s life for my old life. This message of a believer’s identity in Christ is not new. Great men of the faith down through the ages have believed and experienced this truth. Hudson Taylor, God’s great missionary to China, only discovered this great exchange after many laborious years on the mission field.

 

In a letter to his sister Amelia, Hudson Taylor wrote, “When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote, ‘But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.’ As I read I saw it all! I thought, ‘I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me - never to leave me, never to fail me?’ And, dearie, He never will!”

 

Looking back, it is sobering to see how one deceptive thought controlled so much of my behavior. However, I stand in awe of God’s wonderful grace which has set me free from living after the flesh in order to experience His love, joy, and peace. Jesus gives excellent directions to any wanderer when He says in John 8:31-32, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Ω