If you could change just one thing about yourself, what would it be? Would it be how you look, how you think, or maybe how you respond in certain situations?
Perhaps the real question is: Do you really believe that God can, and will, change you?
We all long to change, improve, grow, and be transformed. That’s why there’s a multi-billion-dollar self-help industry out there. Whether it’s diets, or gym memberships, or recovery programs for addictions, every day we are bombarded with advertisements that feed our desire for change.
Quite often, change is not only hard work … it simply doesn’t work.
Statistically, most of the people who go through recovery programs for alcohol or drugs have relapses. And, sadly, according to Barna Research, most people who come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior make some incremental changes in the beginning of their relationship with Him, but in the long-term they rarely live like Christians.
Yet we’re commanded to “not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed.”(Romans 12:2)
God has given us everything we need to be completely transformed, so why don’t we change?
I believe it’s because most people don’t understand the process of change, and they don’t have the tools. The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4, explains the tools that we need in order to experience lasting change:
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling that you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-4)
What is our calling? If you’ve received Christ, you’ve been placed in a supernatural body of people called “The Church.” And you have been called with a purpose – you’re loved and you have a future.
Now, in light of this, Paul says, “Live a life worthy of the calling – let your behavior reflect your beliefs. Let your conduct say the same thing as your creeds. Let what you profess and what you practice tell the same story!”
If you grew up in the Christian circles that I grew up in, you were probably taught that to live the Christian life you had to read your Bible more, go to church more, pray more, give more money and go on a short-term mission trip.
I knew the areas of my life that I needed to change, and I thought that by simply “being a good Christian” I could change. But I couldn’t. I tried all the activities and after two years, I just got worn out. I would do good, do good, try hard, fail. Do good, do good, try hard, fail. Repeat, again and again. Eventually, I just sort of tried to do good, and then I faked it.
I think for a lot of Christians, we discover some real things in our lives that need change like arrogance, materialism, lust, people-pleasing, and comparison to others. After a while, we figure out how to mask our behavior instead of pursuing real change.
So how do we get radically “transformed” in a way that grows out of beauty, life, and grace?
It’s not about duty and activity. It’s about relationships.
The reason there are so many Christians who genuinely come to Christ, but never deal with the deep issues of the heart – the dysfunctions, family of origin issues, fears, and rejection – is because they are not in authentic community.
For real, lasting change, we need deep, authentic community where everyone treats one another with humility, gentleness, and patience.
It’s a place where the real “you” shows up and meets real needs, for the right reason, and in the right way. It’s a place where you can be vulnerable, and someone loves your broken parts – loves you enough to encourage you, accept you, and at the same time hold you accountable and not let you keep being the same person.
True, lasting change is possible when you draw on Christ’s power and experience it through others.
To learn more about real life change and how to grow spiritually, check out Chip’s 12-session group study, Transformed.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip