By J. L. Leifeste

“...Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land’” (Ezekiel 8:12).


      There are many people today who believe that their actions should be of no concern to anyone other than themselves. They concentrate their attention upon their own pleasures and ambitions. Such attention leads to bad behavior. “Behavior” can be defined as our actions, our reactions to influences, or the way that we function under certain conditions. It is how we conduct ourselves. It is what we do. And since daily living is comprised of what we do, behavior is important in many ways.

      Surely, the most important consideration of our behavior is its direct bearing upon our spiritual lives. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven things that God considers abominable. All seven involve behavior. At times, our conduct involves sin. Sin is lawlessness (1 Jn. 3:4). Acting contrary to your conscience is sin (Rom. 14:23). But following a conscience which does not accept God’s word is also sin (Rom. 10:1-3). Acting contrary to the will of Christ which is revealed in His New Testament is sin (Matt. 7:21; Rom. 10:17; Jn. 16:12-13; Jude 3). Not doing the good that you know you should do is sin (Jas. 4:17). Having pleasure in unrighteousness is sin (2 Thess. 2:12). Not believing the truth is sin (2 Thess. 2:12). “All unrighteousness is sin...” (1 Jn. 5:17). “All have sinned...” (Rom. 3:23), and the result of sin is spiritual death (Rom. 6:23; Matt. 10:28). Therefore, behavior affects spiritual life.

      It is our nature as humans to follow influences and persuasions. This means that, in some ways, our behavior is guided by things we see, hear, feel, and think. But we still have the control of our behavior. And we control it by continuously making choices. We choose either to obey truth (righteousness) or obey unrighteousness. There is no other option. One or the other will guide our behavior. And according to our choice we will be judged (Rom. 2:7-11).


      In Romans 1:21-28, we learn that people rejected the true God in spite of the fact that evidence of Him is apparent in the world. They were not thankful to God and did not glorify Him as God. Their thoughts became futile and their hearts were “darkened.” Their behavior reflected their defiance, and God “gave them up” to be guided by their own wicked imaginations. From that guidance, their evil behavior grew progressively worse. These people chose to obey unrighteousness. They became slaves to sin.

      “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16). A slave of sin is a person who is defiled and degraded by sins he or she has committed. That person is unprotected from evil. It is a terrible existence. Those who remain slaves of sin can only look forward to a future of spiritual misery and eternal torment. However, there is the other choice that a person can make.

      “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). Through Christ we can be changed. We can choose to obey the truth (righteousness). Christ is the truth (Jn. 1:14; 14:6; 18:37), and we become Christians by obeying the truth. This makes us different from what we were and different from the world.

      Becoming a Christian means believing the gospel, repenting, confessing our belief, and being baptized. Each of these involves behavior. Believing (Mk. 16:16; Rom. 1:16) leads to certain actions, one of which is repentance of our sins. Repentance (Lk. 13:3; Acts 17:30) brings about a change in our attitude. And when we change our attitude, we change our daily behavior. We act in the same manner as we think (Pro. 23:7; Rom. 8:5-7).

      “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17). In these verses, the words “love” and “lust” refer to attitudes. The word “does” refers to action.

      When we obey by confessing belief in Christ (Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:10) and being baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:26-29), others see these actions. So, such actions reveal the beginning of change in our behavior. Yet, they are more than simple illustrations. Confession of belief is a personal, as well as public, declaration that we believe in Christ. Baptism (immersion in water) is an action which represents Christ's death and resurrection. By obeying the gospel, which includes baptism, each of us becomes a new creation, a Christian. In this way, we have been “crucified” to the world, so we are no longer slaves to sin (Jn. 3:5; Rom. 6:3-11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20; 6:14-15; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21). After becoming Christians, temptations to sin must not have the same appeal to us that they had when we were “alive” to them (Gal. 5:24). They must no longer hold influence over our conduct. Instead, we obey truth and are guided by righteousness. We have a devoted Christian attitude and we act differently.

      Another difference through Christ is that Christians are saved. When something is saved, it is preserved and not destroyed. Most people tend to save things that they consider precious. When we save something, we make it special or give it special distinction. And we usually set it apart so that it is noticeably different. We make sure that it is specially cared for and specially protected. Through obedience to Christ, we are saved (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 5:9). We are no longer spiritually accountable for past sins, no longer in danger of the spiritual destruction that they bring. At the same time, we also become “holy” special or set apart in God's sight (Phil. 2:15; 1 Jn. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). Being saved and special to God requires that our thoughts, feelings, and actions be noticeably different.

      Change through Christ causes Christian behavior guided by righteousness. The behavior of the world is guided by unrighteousness.


      In order to obey truth and be guided by righteousness, a person must discover what truth and righteousness are. Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6). So a person will discover truth and righteousness through knowledge of Jesus and His teaching. Such knowledge is found in the Old and New Testament portions of the Bible. Through examples, prophecies, and God's promises, the Old Testament gives us knowledge with encouraging hope (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11). Through examples, prophecies, and God's promises, plus the gospel and instruction, the New Testament gives us the essential and wonderful knowledge of spiritual salvation which is in Christ Jesus (Jn. 20:31; Rom. 1:16; Col. 1:5; 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:3, 10-12; 3:15; 2 Pet. 1:19). This knowledge shows us how to become Christians and how to live obedient lives. It instructs us in righteousness. And for righteousness to guide our behavior, we must study, practice, and pray.

      Becoming a servant of righteousness means that we accept the guidance of the New Testament rather than our old attitudes and beliefs. We must study the scriptures in order to know correct guidance (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15; Col. 4:16) and to grow in the knowledge of Christ (Phil. 1:9-11; 2 Pet. 3:17-18).

      A Christian has been mentally renewed and is a “new man” created in righteousness (Eph. 4:22-24). Study renews our minds by molding our attitudes after the pattern of Christ, which includes obedience to God (Rom. 12:2; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 4:1-2). In renewing our minds, we first empty them of evil. But an empty mind will not stay empty. So, we must fill our minds with godly thoughts to help keep evil out (Phil. 4:8; Col. 3:1-2).

      A knowledge of Christ includes practicing the correct commands and examples of the New Testament. See Colossians 3:5-15. This scripture shows that we must grow in Christ-like attitudes and conduct. And, by guidance of the New Testament, we must be obedient (1 Jn. 3:22-24; 2 Pet. 1:9-11) and control our conduct in a manner which is “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27; see 1 Tim. 4:12; 5:22). A true disciple of Christ continues in the word (Jn. 8:31). We must grow in the knowledge of Christ and in godly behavior. Such growth requires practice.

      Repetition is a very useful, ancient tool. Some men have used repetition to build devotion and service to false gods. But exercising the correct attitudes and actions of the New Testament is good repetition (Heb. 5:12). It is a part of our practicing godliness. And practicing godliness supplies the Christian with spiritual blessings, mental improvement, emotional strength, and a general way of living that is physically beneficial. Repetition is also a way to help us memorize the scriptures, which develops our knowledge of Christ and our spiritual strength. Many scriptures instruct us in godliness (Rom. 6:12-19; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Jas. 1:18-27; 2 Pet. 1:5-7; and others). Practicing godly behavior is a necessary ingredient in letting righteousness lead.

      Prayer helps the Christian in many ways. It is essential in guidance, knowledge, and growth in Christ (Matt. 7:7; 26:41; Eph. 6:18; Jas. 5:16; 1 Jn. 3:22). And without prayer, a Christian ignores a direct command (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17).

      The combination of study, practice, and prayer allows righteousness to guide our behavior.

      How we control our behavior is very important. God sees everyone's behavior, even in closed rooms and even in the dark (Jer. 23:24; Eccl. 12:14; Heb. 4:13). A time is coming when the judgment of God “will render to each one according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). That judgment will be affected by our behavior. “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard...” (Col. 1:21-23).

      One day we will give an account of our behavior to God (Rom. 14:12). Now is the time to recognize Him. We must not allow ourselves to be guided by the wicked imaginations of ourselves or others. We must be changed through Christ. We must grow in the knowledge of Him and His word. We must choose obedience to righteousness as our guide because our behavior is of eternal importance (Rev. 20:11-15).

“Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.’ Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Consider your ways!’” (Haggai 1:5-7).