How is behavior altered? In his book The Social Animal, David Brooks notes that some experts have said people just need to be taught the long-term risks of bad behavior. For example, he writes: “Smoking can lead to cancer. Adultery destroys families, and lying destroys trust. The assumption was that once you reminded people of the foolishness of their behavior, they would be motivated to stop. Both reason and will are obviously important in making moral decisions and exercising self-control. But neither of these character models has proven very effective.” In other words, information alone is not powerful enough to transform behavior.
As Jesus’ followers, we want to grow and change spiritually. More than two millennia ago, Jesus told His disciples how that can happen. He said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). Jesus is the Vine and we, His followers, are the branches. If we’re honest, we know we’re utterly helpless and spiritually ineffective apart from Him.
Jesus transforms us spiritually and reproduces His life in us—as we abide in Him.
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine.
Take all my will, my passion, self, and pride;
I now surrender, Lord—in me abide. —Orr