The whole idea for this post is not Kay’s original insight, but came from a message I heard on TV by Creflo Dollar. I hope the simplicity of the word picture is as powerful for you as it was for me.
Becoming a follower of Jesus isn’t to be a behavior modification program – another set of rules and rituals to follow – though a great majority of the church operates in that mode. We might work really hard to change a behavior or an attitude that we see is wrong in God’s Word. Without a heart change to go with it, a situation will occur some day that causes us to fall back to our old ways. After all, it’s what has been put inside, by others and by our own doing, so it is just a natural thing for us to do. Let’s call it instinct.
Our well-behaved dog still has instincts that can take us by surprise. He is trained to sit, heel, fetch, stay, etc. He follows our commands (rules, laws) every time we utter them. He may even be so well-trained that he doesn’t require constant reminders to behave appropriately – so it appears the old instincts are gone. But let a squirrel run past when we haven’t seen it in advance, and his hidden instincts take over. It’s natural, for he hasn’t been transformed by the words we’ve spoken to him, merely trained to respond a certain way.
Another illustration would be a circus lion. He may have been “tamed,” conditioned to respond in certain ways to the actions and commands of the lion “tamer,” but he is still a wild animal. For this reason, we wouldn’t own one as a pet. There could come that time when his instincts could kick in, and we would end up being his dinner! He wasn’t transformed – merely trained.
Romans 12:2 NIV Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
The pattern of this world is rules and laws to follow. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He doesn’t want us to be trained in following a new set of rules, but be transformed by growing in relationship with Him. He is the Word of God made flesh. (John 1:1, 14) When we spend time with Him, in His Word, the Word (by His Spirit) transforms our minds, which is reflected in our actions and attitudes. This is done by His grace, not by our efforts to be transformed. We are simply asked to be in ever-growing relationship with Him, getting to know Him through His Word and by His Spirit. It’s only in this that we can be transformed, not merely trained. It’s only in being transformed that we can truly know Christ and make Him known.