"A leopard can't change his spots." Most of us have heard that said at least once in our lifetime. Usually, it is referring to a character flaw or trait in others and not the actual outward appearance. However, when we read the word of God and realize his plan for us, we must also realize that, though we may not be able to change our appearance (without cosmetics and surgery!), we can change our attitude and character, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
"Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17
My dad was the perfect example of a "new creature." Growing up, he wasn't always the nicest person to be around. He had a lot of character flaws that could be traced back to the abuse he suffered at the hands of his own father. But when he gave his life over to the Lord back in 1987, there was a change that started happening. It didn't happen overnight, but, by the time he went home to be with the Lord, he was a different man. My dad was a prayer warrior and forgave easily. He would also give you whatever he had, if you needed it. His testimony was known because of the packed funeral home of all those who came to say good-bye to this wonderful, godly man.
This does not mean he didn't have struggles or failures in his life. We all make mistakes, as my dad did. He was not perfect. However, it is our choice whether we let our past mistakes and failures define who we are in God. Others may see the drug addict, alcoholic, or abuser that "used to be," but God sees a new creature, his child.
Leopards can be domesticated, but they still have their natural instincts. They must be trained with caution. However, God created us in his image, unlike the animals, and we have the ability to make choices and use them for good. We can change and become new in the Lord, but we must repent each day so that we keep the old habits from forming again. We "train" by keeping our eyes focused on Jesus and reading the word of God on a daily basis, hiding it in our hearts that we might not sin against him. Our fellowship with other believers offers a source of strength. They are there to help us as we walk and grow.
So, the next time you visit the zoo and see the leopards prowling about in their habitat, remember...we're not leopards.