The Way Jesus Transforms People: From Outside-In to Inside-Out



March 3, 2022

1 Peter 2:11-12 NIV

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.


I knew I was running a risk to draw from the ADD metaphor yesterday. Let me begin by saying I in no way intended to connect the physiological condition known as Attention Deficit Disorder to the biblical concept of “sinful desires.” ADD is a condition of the brain. It can manifest itself certain behavior patterns yet it must often be treated physiologically rather than behaviorally. 

Interestingly, this is precisely what I am trying to say with respect to sin. Sin is not fundamentally a behavioral problem. It is much deeper than this. Peter is not telling these followers of Jesus to behave. He’s talking about desire. Let’s remember, Peter was there when Jesus said this:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. . . . “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-28)

He teaches us that sinful actions don’t begin with behavioral actions but in what Jesus refers to as the “heart” of a person. I believe this is the locus of our affections, dispositions and desires. Law and consequently legalism works at the level of behavior and action. The love of God in Jesus Christ works at the level of the heart. Outside-in approaches just don’t work. It’s why Jesus goes for the inside-out approach. 

Notice how Jesus focuses not on the breaking of the commandment (murder & adultery), but who gets broken (i.e. a brother or sister, and a woman). The problem here is a self-oriented disposition. The solution of love is an others-oriented disposition. It is not as simple, though, as changing your disposition. This has a way of bringing all the focus back onto yourself. No, the move is always toward God. 

Jesus is ever leading us—not just into a relationship with God—but by the Spirit into his own relationship with the Father. The Christian faith is that we—together—are personally brought inside of the interrelatedness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is there, and only there, that we become church and begin to sow the Kingdom of Jesus—on Earth as it is in Heaven. (see also John 17:20-21)

Now, back to our affections, dispositions, and desires. When our affections are oriented around God, our dispositions begin to change toward ourselves and others. Our dispositions are transformed as our affections are oriented to God. In this process our formerly sinful desires become displaced by the Holy Spirit given desires of our hearts. We then learn to operate out of our New Creation self, trusting our desires, living from them freely and fully alive, because they are God given, whole and holy. 

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Here’s how Paul describes this mysterious and miraculous work:

16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)

Any questions?


Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Thank you for showing us your affection so readily and freely and thank you for being such a safe and trusted person on which we can lavish our affections. Lead us in this way of sharing affection with you. Fill us with your Spirit in such a way that our old and broken dispositions become displaced by the disposition of the Love of Jesus. And then kindle desire in us to love what you love, even ourselves and maybe even especially ourselves. Lead me into this mystery. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen. 


How have you seen this “inside-out” process working in your own life? How has the “outside-in” approach worked for you? Affections, Dispositions and Desires. Does it ring true? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.


  1. JD, this is how “ the inside-out process” has been cultivated within me: It was only after praying for, and then actually stepping out of my former comfort zone of being in fellowship with only those of the same tribe, that I began to experience the love that the Father has for all his children. This love is now reflected to as well as received from when I gather with these once separated from brothers in Christ. This is truly, I believe, the unity that Jesus was praying for in John 17:20-23.

  2. Harmful desires are difficult to dump. However, greater desires will displace destructive desires. But where can we find better desires to replace the harmful desires that are dominating our life? Not in self-focus. The desires we find there are selfish. Higher desires are found by looking beyond self, by caring about people, by becoming intently aware of their pain, by developing compassion and empathy. All humans have the capacity for inspired desires, but they don’t happen automatically. Jesus said that we need to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Our conscience was given to guide us in that direction. If we dare to follow it, it will lead us toward God.