“You make me want to be a better man.” — Melvin in As Good as it Gets

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Isaiah 29:13-14
Matthew 23:1-39

Do I eat because I am hungry, or do I eat because the clock flips to twelve o’clock?  Am I motivated because of the internal or because of the external?  Do I function on body time or by mechanical time?

Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov pioneered experiments testing these psychological motivations, known as classical conditioning. Through repetition he conditioned dogs to associate the sound of a bell with food. When the bell rang, the dogs salivated. After a while the stimulus elicited a reaction whether or not food was delivered. Their minds transformed into formulaic machines: bell=food.

I am just like one of Pavlov’s dogs. I try to reduce a covenant relationship with God to formula. He calls me to love him, and I prefer to obey the rules. When will I understand that behavior modification never works?

It manifests external change but fails to cause any internal transformation. It mimics something real but proves only a façade. We confuse cause and effect. We attempt to love God by following the rules. God desires for us to love him, obedience follows naturally.

His love does not hinge on our abstinence from drinking, smoking, swearing or taking part in the myriad of other notably “sinful” activities. He does not desire for us to achieve the glimmering reputation or shimmery “Christian” life.

He wants more. He wants it all. He rejects a polished veneer if the interior proves rotten.  He is not into appearances.  He shoots to the core.


Pharisees, the publicly religious men of Jesus’ times, rejected this apparently heretical statement. They preferred to applaud themselves on their impeccable following of rules and achievements of holiness. Jesus’ arrival destroyed this illusion like a tossed stone disturbs the flatness of a pond. The ripples erupted in concentric circles. He renounced their hypocrisy, comparing their lives to cups that are washed brilliantly clean on the outside, but on the inside remain filthy and unwashed.

Change, true change, emanates from the inside out. It does not work in reverse. A heart change transforms the whole being.

What rules do I treat with rigidity?
How does the inside change?
How do I live inside-out?


© 2006