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Learned Behavior

Learned Behavior

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30

In my addiction, I indulged in an impulsive desire for something that provided an immediate reward. When I got what I wanted and nothing horrible happened, I repeated that behavior – a lot. Through repetitive rewards, my brain was rewired to act compulsively. I was addicted. Using pills became a learned way of life and to unlearn that behavior was a painful, lengthy process of rewiring my brain. God has not left me alone in the process, but transformation has absolutely required some participation and effort on my part.

In today’s passage, Jesus explained that our primary purpose here on earth is to live in an intimate relationship with the father, loving him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Every decision we make is to be made in pursuit of God, not self. We are to love him with everything we are.

Many Christians think of this loving behavior as something that just comes natural to a Christian. When I put my faith in Christ, he just makes me want him and love him. The problem of course, is that even though we have a new spiritual life in God, we retain our flawed nature. I may have faith, but I still want to follow my way.

I was a Christian and still became addicted because I voluntarily learned a new behavior that became involuntary. In recovery, God didn’t just instantly rewire my brain so that I no longer wanted to follow myself. Unlearning my drug addiction took time, effort, discipline, and sacrifice. Some Christians may chafe at this as secular psychology, but this is how God made our brains to work. Put off the old self . . . put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Some will experience a miracle of deliverance from a specific behavior, but even those individuals will still struggle with following themselves. To learn to follow God with all that we are then, will require daily discipline, effort, self-sacrifice, and time. We won’t be perfect in this life. It’s God’s plan that we spend the rest of our lives learning to love him more every day. This is the Christian life – to daily unlearn the old behaviors, abandoning the old life, and to daily learn the new ones, following the new life.

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