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Young multiethnic rock and roll band performing hard rock music on stage

Behavior Change

When I was in high school, there was a prominent Christian music scene in our area. There were so many Christian rock bands that anyone you talked to inevitably played bass, or drums, or electric guitar and was trying to pull together a musical act. At one time, I was in no less than six bands because drummers who could keep a steady rhythm and be on time to practice were in short supply. 

There were hundreds, if not thousands, of high school age kids in this Christian music scene. It centered around a handful of Christian venues that opened their doors every Friday and Saturday night. Many of these venues were churches that surreptitiously tried to convert these rock concert going teens into church-attending disciples. 

To be part of the Christian music scene was easy. It was about behavior. Rock 'n roll was ok, but many of the things that usually accompany the genre were discouraged. If you wanted to be part of this large community of Christians, you pretty much just had to behave yourself like a Christian when you were around others. So, no alcohol, smoking, or drugs, and you were in.

The Friday and Saturday night concerts that hundreds of teens attended were the closest thing to church many experienced in those years. What was conspicuously missing was any requirement for the audience to have a grasp of Christian concepts, Biblical understanding, or spiritual wisdom. There was no teaching of any kind at the vast majority of these weekend gigs. When there was something that resembled teaching, it was the half baked flow of consciousness from the lead singer, who just quick smoking dope a week ago. 

It's not surprising that the vast majority of teens involved in the Christian music scene eventually strayed away from the faith. The mild behavior modification that they had attempted to be accepted into the honorary halls of the Christian rock scene had not had any lasting effect on most that entered in. 

I was also part of a Christian club startup in High school. We started my sophomore year. There was at least an attempt at some Biblical teaching, though it was pretty weak. We had discussions about Christian ideas for thirty minutes every Thursday morning before school started. 

More often than not, the conversations focused again on what kinds of behavior we should be engaging in. Was it ok to kiss on a first date? Was taking money from Mom's purse really stealing? Was laughing when a bully upended a nerd into the trash can, ok? These were often the types of moral quandaries that we discussed. If any, very little of our time was devoted to studying Scripture, gaining spiritual knowledge, wisdom, or understanding. Instead, it was almost all about what to do and not to do. 

Many of the members of that Christian club, even a number of its leaders, have now abandoned the faith. Not many have made long term church attendance part of their weekly routine. The discussions about changing our behavior sown in the soft soil of youth have harvested very little fruit in later life. 

I was involved in a big church youth group for a few years during my high school days. The student ministry was one of the largest in town, and it mostly centered around fun and games. The motivation to be involved mainly was teenage inclusion. There was a little more focus on teaching and the Bible in this youth group than my Christian club, but there was no requirement that a student really listen. 

The youth leader was stuck with pretty much any kid whose parents brought him. As long as a kid behaved while he was there, he or she could stay. The teens in this youth group didn't have to know much of anything about the Bible, spiritual truth, or Christian understanding. The teaching had a minimum emphasis. Sometimes there was a somewhat confusing message about salvation, but the lesson the kids could make sense of was that they should behave, especially if they wanted to go on the ski trip and summer camp. Involvement was entirely behavior-based. There was little to no focus on changing the mindset of these youth.

There was an interesting trend in the youth group. Once kids hit 16 years old and were able to drive, they disappeared. Thus, the youth group usually had almost no juniors or seniors. Of course, the seniors would show up on graduation Sunday because the church would offer some kind of scholarship. I'm sad to report that many of those kids grew up and left the church behind. Some are atheists now. Others simply don't care one way or the other about faith-related topics. The behavior modification didn't have much lasting effect on their lives.  

That doesn't just happen in our youth as they transition into their college years. In the church, there is a second migration that occurs when young people become parents. As they begin to recognize the sinful nature of their kids, they suddenly want their little darlings to grow up in the church. Those youth, who we lost to the world for years, show up once more with a whole tribe. Of course, we take them in, happy to have the boom in numbers. They clean up their act while they're with us, drinking a little less, trying not to cuss so much, and doing their best to be present at least three Sundays out of four. Slight behavior adjustment, and they're accepted in as old friends. 

Those parents stick around for half a generation and dutifully play their part. They're reasonably satisfied with the church's ability to modify the behavior of their younglings. When their kids eventually fly the coop and discard the church establishment for a more liberated lifestyle, these empty nesters are faced with a strong desire to make a second exodus from the church. Once again, as middle-aged free birds, they begin to become scarce. With the world open to them, they disappear and become another statistic. 

What do all these stories have in common?  From the Christian music scene to the youth group, to the parental reemergence and middle-aged exodus, it was about building borders for behavior. It's easy to focus on controlling conduct. Participation is dependent on a pious performance. It's too often that improved behavior is the main emphasis. 

In her attempts to be inclusive and relevant, the church believed she would gain thousands, and for a time, she did. Though, now we see the previously unfathomable cost. When the church focuses all her efforts on making people well-behaved, the damage lasts for generations. We're experiencing that damage in a big way.

I'm convinced that Paul offers guidance to fixing the damage of this tremendous problem that we're in. Through God's inspired word, Paul will help us see how to shift our emphasis away from behavior modification and begin to move us in the right direction. 

Let’s take a look at where we left off in the previous chapter. Notice what Paul is praying for concerning the Colossians:

We haven't stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (Col. 1:9)

Paul doesn't pray that they would be subject to basic behavior modification. He's interested in them bearing fruit, but he knows a person can't just decide to bear fruit. You don’t bear fruit by just trying really hard. It’s all about the conditions. 

We have this fruit tree next to our house. It was there when we moved in, and it has never produced any good fruit. That's because all the conditions are wrong for it to do so. A much taller oak tree shades it. The soil doesn't drain right. There is no one to cull the crop when it blooms. What does bloom, gets picked off immediately by the greedy squirrels. 

The conditions are all wrong for the tree to bear fruit. So, could that tree just decide to bear good fruit? No. Could it just try really hard to bear good fruit and accomplish that? No! It's all about the conditions. When the conditions are right, the tree will bear good fruit by the magical combination of the sun, soaking, and soil. 

You are the same way. If you want to bear good fruit, you can’t do it by just deciding to. You have to get your conditions right. For a person to bear good fruit, there are some conditions to meet. That's why Paul prays for the Colossians to have three related things. He prays that they would have: 

1. Knowledge of God’s will

2. In all Wisdom

3. And Spiritual understanding. 

His request begins with knowledge, but not just any knowledge. The knowledge that Paul desires them to have is this: knowledge of God’s will. He wants them to know what God expects them to do. 

He then says that that knowledge should begin to convert into wisdom. Specifically, he says, in all wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge in a practical way. Wisdom is when knowing turns into growing. It’s when ideas move from your head to your hands. 

Finally, he indicates that the knowledge and wisdom they have should be rounded out by spiritual understanding. It's not enough to know what God wants us to do and do it, but we also need to understand why it matters. We need to see how this knowledge and wisdom fits into God's plan and how it enhances a life lived according to the Spirit. 

Notice that Paul does not start by giving them a list of rules and regulations. He doesn't post laws up for them to follow. He doesn't offer stipulations for them to abide by. Instead, he focuses his efforts in prayer on changing their mind, shifting their thinking, renewing their inner concepts. He knows that transformation must begin in the mind. 

When the mind is hollow, the body will follow. 

When the mind is made new, good works you will do. 

Godly knowledge, wisdom, and Spiritual understanding are invaluable aspects of a healthy mind. Where do we get these precious commodities? Where do we find these priceless gems? Primarily, we acquire these essential mind-based minerals by mining God's word, fellowshipping with wise believers, and praying for spiritual understanding. You could probably put them in any order, but I like to think of these three aspects coming from the big three "gold mines" of the Christian life. Those are study, fellowship, and prayer. You could think of it this way. 

Knowledge of God’s will: Comes from God’s word 

Wisdom: Comes from fellowship with wise believers. 

Spiritual Understanding: Comes from prayer. 

The transformation you need begins in the mind. After asking the Lord that the Colossians would receive Godly knowledge, wisdom, and Spiritual understanding, he turns a corner. He begins to explain what the result of having a renewed mind would be. The result of having Godly knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding is:

 So that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God… (Col 1:10)

This powerful statement about bearing fruit and pleasing God does not stand alone. We must remember that he presents all of this as a cause and effect relationship. If we have the kind of mind-transformation that he's talking about, it will result in us walking worthy. Walking worthy means that our conduct will reflect the one who’s worthy name we worship. Work on your mind and your walk will be worthy.

If I were running errands for a drug dealer, I would be expected to act like a drug dealer. If I was delivering papers on behalf of an important attorney, I should present myself in a way that would honor that attorney's reputation. If I were a staff member of a governor or even a president, I had better carry myself in a way that fits my station. How much more is this true of the one who walks according to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords' ways? You and I need to walk worthy of the life we've been given. 

This is where we often get tripped up, though. You can’t do this by simply trying really hard to get your flesh-powered body to behave. The only way to experience this transformation, and to walk worthy, is to focus on getting your mindset right. That comes about by prayer, fellowship, and studying God's word. As you work on your mindset, the result will be a worthy walk. If you try to focus on walking worthy without focusing on your mindset, then your walk won't be worthy. It will be wobbly. 

As we get older, our balance begins to suffer. There is a tendency when we feel unbalanced to look at our feet and focus on how we're walking. One of the worst things you can do when you're trying to maintain your balance is tilting your head down and watch your feet. Your entire life, you've practiced walking while looking outward toward the horizon. When you watch your walk, you are almost sure to wobble. When you set your eyes on the sky, your walk is much more stable. 

The same is true as we attempt to walk in a Godly way. When you attempt to be Godly by trying to force your flesh-powered body to keep a list of rules and regulations, it's like staring at your feet while walking. You can’t achieve Godly behavior without focusing your mind on the Savior.  What you need to do is get your mind off your own performance and focus on God.  

Work on your walk and your walk will be wobbly. 

Work on your mindset and your walk will be worthy.

You'll notice that when you begin to please God, there is a further result. He says that those who are bearing fruit are also growing in the knowledge of God. As you bear spiritual fruit, your knowledge continues to grow. It's a cycle that strengthens itself. It begins and continues with a Godly mindset. It is all about the mindset. The more you know, the more you do. The more you do, the more you'll know. 

Another result of having Godly knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding is:

…being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joy… (Col. 1:11)

Do you want to have Spiritual endurance? I know I do. That endurance begins in the mind. Do you want patience? Patience is only possible when you have the right mindset. Do you want joy? Endurance, patience, and joy spring from a mindset on God and his truth. His kingdom plan, his love for us, his imminent return are all great mental sources of endurance, patience, and joy. 

Another result of having Godly knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding is:

…joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints' inheritance in the light. He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. In him, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col.  1:11-14) 

The result of Godly knowledge is gratitude. When you realize what he’s done, enabled you to share in the saint’s inheritance, rescued us from darkness, transferred us into his kingdom, redeemed us, and forgiven us, it should make us grateful. Our gratefulness grows out of our knowledge of what God has done. This is another reason why Godly knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding is the first step of life transformation. 

 Notice what he says a few verses later. Once again, he returns to the relationship between mindset and actions. 

Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds as expressed in your evil actions. (Col. 1:21)

Before Epaphras shared the Gospel with the Colossians, their minds were alienated and hostile toward God. The hostility toward God was clearly demonstrated by their immorality. They may not have even been aware of the one true God, but their pagan behavior was a declaration of war against Him. We finally get down to Paul's ultimate hope and God's ultimate goal for them and us. 

But now he has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him… (Col. 1:22)

Jesus' sacrifice is multi-purposed. First, it was engineered to make possible an official peace treaty between you and God so that you could have eternal life. The Colossians have already done that; I hope you have too. Though it may seem like Paul is talking about our salvation forgiveness in the verse, he's not. He's talking about something larger. Let's take a look at the full verse to get a sense of his intention. 

to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him— if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. (Col. 1:23)

The second thing that Jesus' resurrection makes possible is being blameless. That is not the same thing as being officially reconciled to God. You're no longer God's official enemy when you believe in Jesus. However, he's talking about something else here.  

Our country has many official allies. However, there are several world leaders that the current and previous presidents have disliked, distrusted, and even despised. I'm thinking of one former president who openly disliked the prime minister of our Middle East ally, Israel. They were legally and official allies, but their personal relationship was awful. If you were to ask each of these men if the other was "blameless" or "faultless," they would laugh. They would list the faults of the other and blame them for a host of things. Their personal relationship was terrible, despite them being official allies. They were officially allies but personal enemies. 

The same can be true of us, spiritually. When we believe in Jesus, we are legally declared righteous, reconciled, and allies of God. This is set in stone once and for all, but that doesn't mean our mental hostility toward God is removed automatically. If you want to be blameless in your personal relationship with him, there is something you will need to do. You can be an official citizen of heaven but a personal enemy of God. So how can you be blameless in our relationship with the Lord? Take a look at the conditions that Paul gives:

to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him— if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. (Col. 1:23)

Do you see the condition? To be presented blameless in our daily relationship with him, we need to do something. To be considered blameless at the future appointment before the judgment seat, which this verse implies, we must remain grounded and steadfast in the faith. What’s interesting about this is that he doesn’t give a list of rules that will make you blameless before the Lord. It’s not a roster of regulations. It’s not a legal document you must abide by. 

He indicates that what you need is to remain grounded and steadfast in the faith— which is another way of saying keep believing what you believe without wavering. Keeping the mindset, the beliefs, the faith is central to being blameless. 

He also says that they and we should not be shifted away from the hope of the gospel. Notice once again, no list of behavioral regulations. Instead, he gives a requirement of the mind. Keep focusing on the assured hope you have in the Lord. It's not a behavior requirement but a mindset requirement. It's not about how you mind the rules; it's about what rules your mind. 

Obviously, when we focus our minds on spiritual things, the result will be a measure of good works, though the amount of fruit isn't what he uses to measure blamelessness. The way he judges blamelessness, according to this verse, is by looking at how well you kept your mind in the right place. Continue to seek Godly knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding and leave the amount of fruit up to the Spirit. 

There is a verse in a later chapter that sums this concept up quite nicely. Notice how Paul explains the power of keeping your mind in the right place. As you keep working on your mindset, this will happen:

You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. (Col. 3:10)

If you try to change behavior alone and ignore the mind, you won't be transformed into Christ's image. All you'll have is a weak attempt at behavior modification. If you renew your mind with Godly knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding, which you get from His word, fellowship with believers, and prayer, you will get behavior change as a bonus. The thinking must be rearranged before the behavior can be changed.  Our mind must first be renewed before behavior can be improved. Work on your mindset and your walk will be worthy. 

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