This one by our house collapsed and crushed the fence during a recent rainstorm. There was no outward sign of a weakness. Now, broken open, it lays across the fence and I can see the rottenness inside.
Sometimes people are like trees. We can look good outside but won’t hold up over time or in a storm. As much as we adjust and shape outside behaviors and appearances, it is the inside that matters. It is the inside where real transformation begins and continues.
Our third “Pillar of Transformation” is that real transformation is from the “inside out,” starting with the heart and mind, not “outside in” starting with behavior formation. Transformation is in the heart-mind before behavior.
What about classroom management?
As a teacher, you may be saying, “But, I need my students to act right even if their heart isn’t there.” This is true. We do need to function as a class or a society and sometimes this means forcing or training behaviors. External influences, discipline and reward, are often necessary to provide order and achieve purpose.
The important difference is that we know that a tree can stand and look good even with a rotten inside. We don’t rest on appearances and are not deceived. We are never satisfied with good behavior only. We are always looking and praying for inside change, reaching the heart and mind and pleading with God to do the inside work that only He can do.
Romans 12:1-2 comments on both behavior and inside transformation. Paul says to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.” This is an external action. He says to do this, not waiting for it as an overflow of inside transformation. There is nothing wrong with a behavior that is good and right. It just shouldn’t end there.
Paul continues, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” As the inside is transformed, the person then lives out God’s desires in each life as an overflow of inside transformation.
What can we do to transform hearts?
How do we help along “inside out” transformation knowing that heart change is God’s business?
- We provide excellent educational environments. This is our second “Pillar of Transformation.” God often uses good pedagogy. As in the parable of the sower and seed, we can “prepare the soil” of hearts with love, security, and positive practices.
- We plant seeds. God often uses His Word to transform hearts. We can teach scripture, or if in a closed context, we can share the truths embedded there. God is the one who causes the growth, as we plant, water and feed.
- We talk about changed hearts. We help our students know that it is the inside, the heart, that God wants. Even as we discipline using external behaviors, we discuss the heart. We show learners how to do things like Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (NIV)
- We model changed hearts. We ask God to change our hearts, as Deuteronomy 6:6 says, “These words I am commanding you today shall be on your heart.” This means letting the Holy Spirit change you with His words. Though written to parents, this is a model we can use so students see inside out transformation.
- We pray. As God says in 2 Corinthians 3:3, “you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” We “care” for learners well; God writes on their hearts. And, as Paul continues in 3:4-6, we have confidence because “our adequacy is from God.”
Praise God that He makes us adequate for our part and gives us the privilege of being involved in His work of “inside out” transformation. We often can’t see it or even know what is inside, but by faith in Him, we trust His good work in the lives of our learners. We pray for the day of seeing students as strong, healthy trees standing in the wind and bearing fruit in other lives because of transformed hearts.
Joe Neff, Th.M.
Coordinating Director of Education Services, Director of School Services
Photo Credits: Joe Neff