The 2016 summer Olympic games ended last month with the top medallists taking gold as their prize. Great effort and sacrifice precedes a slot to compete. Olympians and professional athletes do not just show up at an event and expect to do well. Athletes understand the need for practice, in order to change an unconditioned body into a body fit for Olympic competition.
Mental and spiritual transformation requires similar conditioning and change to live a fruitful life. Jesus told many stories that illustrate the need for conditioning our soul. At conversion we are given a new personal spirit. The need for change in our mind and heart continue through our whole life. The more we welcome and pursue this change, the closer we arrive at championship living.
In the book of Matthew chapter 22, Jesus compared our life in the Kingdom of God to a person preparing himself for a banquet feast at a wedding.
“ … and the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”” (Matthew 22:10-14). Wow, this seems like a harsh treatment for a seemingly minor offense of not dressing properly. Although additional interpretations may apply, "dressing" in (changing into) proper clothes seems to indicate the necessity of proper heart attitude toward preparation and conditioning for our life's journey. Remember, this is a parable (story) Jesus used to make a point. I believe his primary point is that He is interested in having disciples committed to a process of change of heart and not just showing up for an exciting experience.
Pious people also asked of Jesus, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” [the undesirables of the day] On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:16-17). Doctors are called on the diagnose health problems of sick people. Jesus uses this picture to show that he heals the "sickness" of undesirable behavior (and sin). I believe we can also infer from this that unless we consider ourselves "sick" (unprepared and unconditioned) our hearts are not in a place to receive the completeness of the healing Jesus has for us. The healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is admit our need for further change and conditioning to live a more abundant life. This involves examining inner attitudes and motivations (avoiding the extreme of being overly introspective).
All throughout the teachings of Jesus, he connects the physical (tangible) condition with the psychological and spiritual (less tangible) condition. Later in the book of Mark, Jesus speaks of this sickness as a problem of the inner person. "Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'" ... He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean'"" (Mark 7:14-23). The point of this list is not as much to try to identify specific behaviors where we may fall short, but to reveal that each person has an "unclean" heart that needs to be re-conditioned by a process to clean it up.
Most people think of preparation, conditioning, and change in terms of behavior. Examples might be bad eating habits changed to good nutritious eating, negative talk changed to positive speech, or an addiction/ bad habit totally wiped out. However, behavior is merely an indicator of a belief system. Bad behavior (fruit) comes from bad thoughts and beliefs (root). If you really believe using illegal drugs are wrong and bad for your health, you won't use any, If's that simple. Changing behavior requires a change of beliefs. Trying to justify smoking weed in certain situations, demonstrates double minded-ness, and threatens any positive steps you've made toward re-conditioning your thoughts ad beliefs. For another example, if you use pornography, you really don't believe in the dignity of women (or men), nor the value of purity, fidelity, and loyalty. A change of heart is needed to re-align behavior with a healthily growing value system. (Note: I am generalizing here, and please understand that trauma and serious mental haalth conditions may create exceptions).
Behaviors reveal beliefs, and beliefs reveal who you are on the inside. Who you are on the inside is the real you. The only way to change and condition yourself, is to change your thoughts and core beliefs. If you claim to be a disciple of Christ, you will "dress" for the banquet with him, let him treat/ heal your "sickness," and surrender your "unclean" core being to him for him to change. This is the miracle of salvation. This is the progressive work of salvation. This is essential in receiving the full impact of what Jesus did for us through his death and resurrection from the dead.
Change and heart conditioning is what we are called to as Christians. It won't work to show up in heaven one day unprepared. When Jesus taught us to pray that Father's will would be done "on earth as it is in heaven," could it be that he had the conditioning of our hearts in mind? Honestly ask yourself a few more questions to help you live a championship life. Am I "dressed" as a champion? Am I "dressing" (readying myself for the banquet) so my inner being is prepared for greater things? Where could my heart be more given to "cleaning" and surrendering to the progressive work of change and conditioning? Do I have a habit or pattern of behavior that needs to go? Might there be something destructive in my life that I have been excusing as a "part of my personality?" What thoughts and beliefs may be keeping me from further surrender? Do I need to ask God into my heart to show me the need for surrender?
God designed you to be a champion. Let the change begin, and continue, until your gold medal is presented in heaven! And, let the heavenly results begin now while you live out champion lifestyle here on earth!