Blog, Influencers Devotionals

Why Don't People Change? By Bryan Craig

September 18, 2023


Why Don’t People Change?


Have you known people in life who never seem to change?  You may have heard the phrase, “A leopard cannot change its spots.”  Or “That’s just how he is.”  Some of this could be attributed to a person’s personality, for personality types have been studied and analyzed since the dawn of man. There is definitely something to be learned from this.  But I’m thinking more specifically about sin issues.  And as quickly as I want to point a finger at others, I see four fingers pointing back at myself.

Why do we/I seem to struggle with the same sin issues over and over again?  I’ve always attributed this to 2 Corinthians 12 as Paul describes his “thorn in the flesh.”  Here’s Paul, one of the most faithful, devoted men of God we know about, and he says “To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” V.7

He goes on to say that three times, he pleaded with the Lord for this “thorn” to be removed, but Jesus told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” V. 8

Now, Paul never reveals what this “thorn” was and he never says it was a sin struggle.  Many think it was a health affliction.  But I’ve always thought of it as a sin struggle.  Throughout my life as I’ve encountered many Christians, I’ve noticed that everyone struggles with something and there may be a temptation I struggle with that doesn’t even register with you.  Likewise, there may be something you struggle with that doesn’t entice me at all.  And however much spiritual ground we feel like we are gaining, I can see how God would remind us of our weakness through a temptation or “thorn” so that we would not become conceited.  He would want us to know how much we rely on his Grace.  That was my theology until recently when I read something in Psalm 55 that hit me.

Psalm 55 is one of David’s psalms, where he is, once again, crying out to the Lord with his burdens.  His enemies are pressing in, and he is fearful, and his heart is full of anguish.  And as you read through his prayer, you discover that he is particularly disturbed because someone he considered a friend was betraying him.  Ugh.  Betrayal is one of the most bitter pills we can swallow. 

As David processes this with the Lord, this line is what struck me:

“God will give ear and humble them, He Who is enthroned of old, because they do not change and do not fear God.” V. 19

In my spirit, I felt like I had stumbled upon a revelation. 

The reason people don’t change is because they do not fear God. 

This made total sense to me.  Now, you probably know that when Scripture talks about the “fear of God”, we are not necessarily talking about being frightened and trembling, although when many men and women encountered our Holy God or His angels, they had to be told “Do not fear.”  The fear of God is more than that…it is a reverence, an awe, a worship, a submission, a love for God.

If someone does not think God exists, surely, they will live life however they please, believing that we eat, drink, are merry and then we die.  But what about people who believe in God, even those who believe Jesus came and died for their sins?  How can they live similarly to the person who does not believe in God, committing the same sins repeatedly, never seeming to change.

It is because they do not fear God.

Perhaps they have adopted a theology that since Jesus died for their sins, it doesn’t matter what they do the rest of their lives.  This is bad theology. If you read through the New Testament, you can find many verses that talk about how a believer in Christ should be different from others who do not know him.  We are called to be holy.  We are called to be His ambassadors.  One of the most chilling verses is in Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV:

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”

This is a serious matter, but if a person does not fear God, they will not consider such verses.  Jesus gave many parables about being ready for His return, and it was clear He was calling us to a higher standard.  But to me, the most powerful thing He said was when they asked what the greatest commandment was.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:36-40 ESV


If we are truly loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind and loving others, we will not be living a life of sin.  The two are mutually exclusive. 

So, where do we go from here? 

As I was working on this devotional, I “accidentally” turned to Isaiah 55, as I was looking for Psalm 55.  I read these words:

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:6-9 ESV

If this devotional is convicting you about something that never seems to change, seek the Lord, forsake your way, return to Him, fear Him and He will restore you.  You will always have temptations and trials, but you do not need to keep living in willful, habitual sin.  And you know what I’m talking about.

For those in our lives who have betrayed us or whose lives burden us because of their sin, we must do like David and turn them over to the Lord.  Until they encounter our Holy God and turn to Him in fear and reverence, they will not change.  I think God would have us keep loving them and praying for them, believing there is always hope with our Lord.