Only God can transform us. But as we’ve seen, that doesn’t mean we sit passively by while He works on us. We can’t change on our own, but He chooses not to change us unilaterally without our cooperation. As new creations, we enjoy specific privileges and carry out specific responsibilities in the life-change process.
Human beings can plant seeds, but we can’t make them grow. Farmers and arborists know this; they choose the right environment, till or prepare the ground, plant, water, fertilize, and protect. But they can’t cause growth. The transformation from seed to mature plants and harvests is a partnership between human practices and God’s provision.
Paul used this illustration when he wrote to the Corinthian church about their transformation. “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow” (1 Cor. 3:6–7 NLT). It’s really important in our process of change to see God as the one who empowers and provides. But it’s just as important to actually create the right environment for ourselves and cultivate what God has entrusted to us. Many Christians think transformation is just a matter of developing the right disciplines through willpower and persistence. But discipline is a tool of cultivation, not the empowerment itself. Growth from the inside out requires our participation in and appropriation of God’s power. We will discuss the role of prayer, God’s Word, and God’s people as conduits of grace and power in later chapters.
If we were only looking for outward transformation, that distinction between self-discipline and God’s power might not matter very much. Most people can change their outward behavior with the right motivation and environment. But God’s transforming work goes deeper into our secret thoughts, our capacity to love, and our innermost desires. He frees us from long-standing addictions, calms tormented minds, and enables us to be the spouse or parent or friend we’ve always wanted to be.
When you are confident that God really loves you and empowers you, you can take steps of faith and trust Him to respond. He will flood you with grace to become the husband or wife your mate has longed for but never seen, the mom or dad your kids crave, the selfless, undemanding person who loves unconditionally rather than waiting for the other person to show love. By the grace of God, you can go ahead and give the love that the people around you need rather than waiting for responses you might think you deserve. Only God can work those miracles. He produces supernatural changes within.
Ingram, Chip. 2021. Yes! You Really Can Change: What to Do When You’re Spiritually Stuck. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
We have just released a new Bible Study based on Chip Ingram’s amazing book, You Really Can Change. These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.