Humanity has attempted for millennia to explain the behavior of man and why he does the things that he does. When the world insists on claiming that people are basically good, how do we explain the embarrassingly ubiquitous wickedness that pervades our experience? The main reason for trying to explain man’s behavior is not because man’s behavior is generally good and we want, therefore, to find the root of man’s good behavior so that the behavior can be repeated, but rather is because man’s behavior is almost entirely sinful, selfish and wicked, and we want to find some explanation for this almost universal evil that still exonerates man and leaves sin out of the picture. And so we have all kinds of attempts made to explain man’s evil behavior.
One theory is presented by the behaviorist who posits that the reason for all human behavior lies mainly in the person’s environment. It is the environment in which the person grew up that influences them the most. While it may be true that environment does influence how people behave, the behaviorist’s idea that changing the environment will change the person themselves and will also dramatically change their behavior is patently untrue, as anyone who has tried this experiment can attest. It turns out that, while environment may influence your particular flavor of sin, it does not have any effect on the persistent fact of sin. So the behaviorist fails.
Another approach is that of the therapist. The therapist is convinced that man’s problems can be diagnosed through careful psycho-analysis. If the therapist is skillful enough, all the reasons for man’s behavioral pathologies can be unearthed. There are two problems with this perspective. First, there is no therapist who is skillful enough to diagnose the reasons for all of our aberrant behaviors, but second and more importantly, even if the causes of our bad behavior are discovered, the means of changing our behavior is utterly unknown. In other words, a therapist may identify the problems, but he cannot affect the solution. The question remains, “How can any human being change?” Is there any way for a human being to change or to be changed in any meaningful way? Or as the Bible says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you, too, can do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23) So then neither does the therapist have the answer to man’s problems.
A third option is to take the path of the legalist. The legalist believes that the cause of human misbehavior stems from a lack of control. If control is established and maintained, then the behavior must follow. Since that is the case, then the legalist seeks to create lists of what to do and what not do and creates rules that control behavior. If the rules are well-constructed enough and then the rules are carefully explained and vigorously enforced, then man’s behavior will conform to the desired standard. The fundamental flaw with this legalistic path is the assumption that men and women will follow the rules if they understand what they are. But this is wrong and all of human history bears this out. Men and women will not obey any rule that they do not want to follow. This is because humans are rebels. Give them a rule and they will quickly violate it, because people are violators. People are lawbreakers by nature. It has been correctly said that if a people abandon God, then you will not be able to hire enough police. Rules and threats of punishment will never control man, because his heart is bent toward rebellion. It has well been said, “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.” Through Jeremiah the prophet the Lord said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The natural man, the once-born man has no ability to obey laws or to submit to the rules of another. He is mastered and controlled not by laws but by his own rebellion and his own desires. So the legalist comes up short.
The reason that all these approaches fall short is because they ignore the fundamental issue of human sin. Sin is the immovable object in all man-made attempts at human change. Say what you will, but there is no way to get around the fact that human beings are chained to sin and are rebels against the living God. Sin has wrapped itself around the heart of every man, woman and child and it drives us to desire what God forbids and to reject and despise what God commands. God says, “Thou shalt not,” and we say, “Oh, yes I will,” and God says, “Thou shalt,” and we say, “I will not.” Our heart is indeed deceitful and wicked and, as natural men and women, we have no desire to change. In our natural state, we are slaves of sin and we love our master.
But even if we desired to change, we are left with the dilemma of how to change. How can a man change his ways? How can a slave of sin be set free from sin? How can a sinner be made righteous before a holy God such that the sinner no longer lusts after his sin, but instead hungers and thirsts for righteousness? (Matthew 5:6) How can a sinful heart that loves sin be taken out and replaced with a heart that desires to please God and obey His commands? These are the issues that human wisdom and human techniques must address and yet they cannot address. Human wisdom and methods fall hopelessly short of any real solutions. These questions can only be answered in the Lord Jesus Christ and by His transforming power. Only if you are born again and embrace the Lord Jesus as your Savior can you be set free from your sin, for in Christ Jesus you become a new creation and you receive a heart transplant. (John 8:36; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ezekiel 36:26-32) Only those who have had a spiritual heart transplant and have been changed from the inside out can experience any real change in their lives. The rest of mankind remains chained to their native sin, unable and unwilling to change even the smallest element of their lives, but instead continuing on to their own destruction. In Titus 3:3, the apostle Paul wrote about those who are outside Christ: “For we were once foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” By contrast, Jesus Christ says of the one who has been delivered from his sin, “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.” Today is the day to forsake the human, natural approaches to affecting change in your life and to embrace the divine, supernatural path to life. Call on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13) and believe in the Jesus Christ, who is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6) and begin to radically change your life. Jesus makes all things new. (Revelation 21:5)