I take this quote from Gary Thomas’ book, The Beautiful Fight p. 151
The ancients, better versed than most moderns in the reality of the human heart, talked about three stages of spiritual maturity. In the beginning, we make keep the law out of fear; we want to do something, but we refrain because we don’t want God to punish us. This is willful obedience. In the next stage, our obedience grows and flows out of love and gratitude; we don’t want to hurt the God whom we love and to whom we owe so much. This is relational obedience. We reach the highest state when we are truly satisfied with the good, when we obey because our heart desires only what God desires. This is transformed obedience.
This evolution takes time, and there are no shortcuts. True transformation of the heart is a chosen, focused, intentional lifelong journey of surrender, repentance, and renewal. And the longer we keep choosing cheap substitutes, the more obstacles we create in our journey toward transformed obedience. That is why we are told, above all else, to guard our hearts.