In FreedomMinistry International, we often observe that human behaviors show patterns and that patterns produce cycles of behaviors. These behavior cycles are predicable in the sense that we can observe that a new cycle is beginning or to some extent where a person is in the observable cycle. Breaking cycles of behavior are basic to lasting life-change and personal transformation. Personal leadership is most often hampered by these cycles because the patterns of behavior influence or control the lifestyle of those limited by them.
Cycles of behavior are based upon patterns of behavior that are based upon root motivations or internal sources of influence that freedom and healing can reset. Paul says that “the renewing of the mind” brings transformation necessary to proving the what-God-wants for our lives. Cycles of behavior allow for the influence and control of the environment that includes the work and whisper of the adversary.
In other words, hell operates in the root issues that motivate people into action. The behavior is an effect of the deeper cause. “Out of the heart the mouth speaks,” Jesus says. “It is not what goes into a man but what is already in him that corrupts.” We do a disservice to the Gospel when we focus our discipling on symptoms more than root issues; we are substituting human wisdom and strength for the power of the Cross and Spirit if we trust in any other source for personal transformation and leadership.
The Bible identifies behaviors with a presupposition that behaviors are the result of a spiritual condition. However, the Bible clarifies a distinction between works of flesh and works of darkness. Both are spiritually sourced since flesh is spiritual, not physical. Beware the assumption that “flesh” means “body” when the terms are spiritual and physical respectively.
Jesus clarifies that adultery – the behavior – is first spiritual, a work of flesh called “demanding desire.” Beware the modern, non-Biblical worldview, that demanding desires are a result of chemical reactions, synapses, hormones, and mental in a physical sense. The problem is deeper than the body. The problem operates in the soul; “flesh” is a spiritual issue that manifests in behavior.
The patterns of fleshly behaviors are observable, but the soul-source is behind the actions and activity. Righteousness begins inside as God’s expectations are written upon the heart and mind. “I will make a new covenant agreement with them. I will etch My Laws upon their hearts, inscribe them in their minds.”
While it is true that we observe the behaviors, we minister to the deeper spiritual conditions created by flesh and darkness in order to disciple.
The patterns are simply labels used to describe practices, habits, behaviors, and attitudes that demonstrate what is influencing or controlling the person internally. In these patterns we see overreaction and compensation, protection and demanding desire. In these patens we observe how the person has accepted a “this is who I am” based upon spiritual conditions. They behave in patterns because of that internal, spiritual condition.
“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control.” God presumes that a person will manifest a behavior based upon these spiritual conditions. They will be loving because of love in their spirits. They will joyful because of joy in their spirits. They will have personal leadership because of a spiritual condition. This presupposition is consistent with the follow-up statement: “They who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and demanding desires.” And, “I am crucified with Christ, yet I remain alive, still it is not I who is alive, but Christ is alive in me.”
Redemption provides me with restoration: internal transformation that produces new patterns and breaks cycles that control or influence my lifestyle. Changing the pattern breaks the cycle; altering the source of the behavior changes the pattern. Believers are not learning coping mechanisms so they can control what controls them; they are surrendering to the power of the Cross and Spirit so God is influencing and controlling them with His passion, joy, and wholeness. Not robotically, but intentionally.
Paul lists the patterns of behavior that reveal a person dominated by spiritual conditions within the soul, although the list isn’t exhaustive. He says that people functioning with these internal motivations cannot inherit the kingdom of God. They are not available to the rule or kingship of God in their own lives, so they cannot be partakers of establishing His rule or kingship in this world. They are governed by other influences and controlling factors of a spiritual nature. Sometimes the works of flesh become the open door or opportunity for the influence or control of darkness: in fact, Paul makes it clear that people apart from redemptive grace are behaving in ways that answer to the agenda of “the ruler of the darkness of this cosmic order.” (The “world” is a spiritual system.)
Behaviors are observable but motivations require spiritual discernment. That is, we can observe the behaviors but require a spiritual capacity to see the internal source of the patterns. The cycles may reach a crescendo of “out-of-control” anxiety or anger, fear and terror, or aggression and rage. The crescendo may be exhibited in a variety of ways, but the end product is simply “bad behavior.”
Catalyst – An experience, real or imagined, physical or spiritual, triggers the pattern and begins the cycle. Often, this experience excites the basic influence or point of control within the soul, the demanding desire or stronghold of thinking. Something very simple may begin the process, something that other people cannot read because it is being read through the filtering system established within the individual. Whatever opened the wound, the door, and established the trigger, usually a root issue of pride, rejection, shame, rebellion, fear of man, etc.
Reaction – Then, the person responds to the catalyst in some predictable way – unpredictable to the others unless they have insight into the pattern and source of the behaviors. Unless the cycle is short-circuited or broken, the deeper influences feed the simple issue into a syndrome. The responses of the soul mental, emotional, and volitional present anger, fear, depression, and combinations of these and other aspects of the syndrome. The response can feed upon one another or the root issue until the cycle runs its course or results in some climatic response that resets the person internally.
Diagnosis – The reaction must be understood or processed in some way by the person, and an immediate effort to justify the reaction begins. The individual, in the cycle, turns to learned justification behaviors, thoughts, and “this happened because” self-diagnosis. During this part of the cycle, other people are often confused because the person seems to be making a movie they appear in without a script provided. People observe the behavior and hear the words and wonder, “What am I missing here?” While the diagnosis makes sense to the person stuck in the cycle, it seems like an overreaction or mysterious mode to other people. “Makes sense to them, but not to me.”
Justification – Further behavior kicks in based upon the diagnosis and justification of the previous behavior. “This is your fault.” Or, “I act like this because of them.” Or, “if the world were different, I’d be different.” Or, “I am this way because of what I did, they did, or hell did or some mysterious conspiracy against me.” At this point, the cycle leads to the prescription the person’s diagnosis provides them. The behavior answers to the diagnosis, but the prescription makes sense to the person stuck in the cycle. Often, it actually makes matters worse because it avoids the real issue: avoidance behavior.
Some people have relationships that allow for them to process. Some people sulk or isolate. Some people have other coping mechanisms that allow the emotional aspect to run its course.
Resolution – The person reaches a point of resolution that fixes nothing of the basic sources of the patterns, but allows them to return to life. All these patterns bring the cycle to some resolution, positive or negative, but without an internal transformation or deeper resolution, they are merely coping with the cycle and preparing them for what they hope will be a better resolution next time. The fact that the behavior is out-of-control, however, means their diagnosis and prescription will not solve the deeper issue.
Stronghold – When the catalyst occurs again, the person has an internal structure built with the previous experience, diagnosis, justification, and resolution. Often, the stronghold entrenches through justification the very thing that is causing the cycle.