Why You Can’t Change Your Actions Without Your Heart

When I was five years old, I wanted a marble, so I stole one. Then one wasn’t enough and I stole a few more. Later, I felt guilty and confused. I had only meant to take one. Why did I keep stealing marbles? 

Our actions are only the tip of the iceberg, because our decisions—whether they were conscious or not—are what led us there.  I didn’t arbitrarily steal marbles, I made the decision to steal them because I was greedy and wanted what wasn’t mine. 

What we do is as important as why we do it. Jesus says in Matthew 7:18, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” Our actions come from our decisions and our decisions come from our hearts because what we decide to do comes from our desires and values. 

Therefore, our actions are linked to our hearts. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” That means we’re all bad trees which produce bad fruit. How do we get rid of it? Let’s look at two different scenarios. 

Scenario 1: Cut the fruit off the tree

When someone makes a New Year’s Resolution, it’s because they want to improve themselves. Let’s use five year old marble-stealing me as an example again. 

Suppose I had made the resolution to stop stealing marbles. Suppose I promised myself that I could play with someone’s marbles but I couldn’t take them. 

Easier said than done. Most people give up their New Year’s Resolution halfway through January. The temptation is too great when five year old me sees someone with a beautiful green marble. Within a few days I’m back to my old habit. Where did I go wrong? 

I was cutting the bad fruit off the tree. I made a commitment to stop stealing, but I hadn’t addressed the greed in my heart. Cutting the fruit off a tree and expecting the tree to stop growing fruit is trying to fix the problem without addressing the source. 

If we try to change our actions without addressing the source of the problem in our hearts, we can expect the same discouraging results. I no longer steal marbles, but I’ve had other sin struggles where I’ve tried to fix the action instead of the problem in heart.

Scenario 2: Become a new tree 

Cutting the fruit off the tree doesn’t work, so what does? 

In John 8, Jesus is confronted multiple times by some Jews about sin. They claim that because they are children of Abraham, they are no one’s slaves. In this context, slavery meant a spritual condition, so they were saying that they had right standing with God. 

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

John 8:34

Even our best efforts can’t save us. If we sin even once, we are slaves to sin. We’re trapped in bad habits we can’t escape on our own. No matter how many promises, New Year’s Resolutions, or new habits we make, we can’t get rid of the bad fruit on our own. 

Jesus continues, 

“Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:35-36

Jesus is calling us out, but He’s also giving us an invitation. Jesus is the Son, and if we accept Him, we will be free from our sin. We are no longer slaves but sons with a place in the family, the kingdom of God. 

This is the good news! If we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become a brand new tree. Jesus changes us from bad trees with bad fruit to good ones with good fruit. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it this way:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 

Jesus makes us new. He changes our hearts to produce good fruit, not the other way around. 

Quick note from the author:
The inspiration for this post came from a book I was reading while writing this called Rewire Your Heart by David Bowden, it also has a Bible plan on YouVersion if you’d like to check it out!

2 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Change Your Actions Without Your Heart

  1. Nice one Emily. So informative. Indeed we can’t deal with the sin in our hearts if we only focus on the superficial causes and not the root causes of our sins! And again, we are so incapable of saving ourselves. Only God can, through Jesus.
    More grace to you, and to more of these!

    Liked by 1 person

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