"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25a (ESV)
Have you ever done something terribly wrong and thought, "What a horrible person I am!" On the flip side of that, have you done something generous or helpful and thought, "I'm so wonderful, the world is glad to have me." We all tend to value and judge ourselves and others by behavior. This is the wrong approach.
The apostle Paul, who behaved badly, especially before His life with Jesus (persecuted Christians) wrote, "Who will save me from this body of death?" Paul recognized that our behaviors were symptoms of a deeper problem: that inwardly we were dead and rotting. Because we live in the realm of death, we need the miracle of life. Before our life in Jesus, even when we did good things, we didn't do them for God's purposes but instead for our own (death). We didn't act kind and sacrificial to others to bring them to eternal life (the only life that matters and is forever) but to simply help alleviate a temporary problem or pain, and if we are honest; we did it because it made us look and feel good. The Bible calls these seemingly good acts "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). By this phrase, God is teaching us that good actions aren't enough, good and Godly motives must be behind those actions.
This is where Jesus steps in. He came to cleanse and heal us from the inside out. He came to heal our "Why?". Behavior has to do with the outside. He came to bring life to our inside deadness. Because Jesus took our deadness upon Himself on the cross, we can now share in His life. Jesus came to change our hearts (affections and motives - why we do what we do and for who).
Because of the cross, we aren't judged by our behavior anymore, but as His children, we will be disciplined for our wrong and rebellious actions. Now, for the Believer, our behavior is the evidence of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives. When we surrender to the Spirit, the life of Jesus is revealed. When we surrender to sinful desires, a life of death is revealed.
We have now passed from death to life (1 John 3:14), so don't allow behavior to define you but instead to be a thermometer of your level of surrender to Jesus.
Lord Jesus, thank you for taking the penalty for my sin on the cross which was death (spiritual and physical). Thank you that my value is not determined by what I do. That Your love is not added or subtracted based on my actions. Help me to see my behavior as an indicator of my relationship with You and to take the necessary steps of repentance and confession when needed. I rejoice that You are fitting my heart to Yours. Amen