How do people change?
How do people who are following Jesus become more like Jesus?
An extremely important way to begin is to humbly and teachably read his word and ask the Spirit of God to convict you of any sin in your life that needs to be changed.
The next step is to share this with people who will speak honestly with you. Invite people who are also disciples of Jesus to speak the truth in love to you. To hold you accountable with you.
And continue in this until you are making changes that God wants you to make.
A disciple is learning from Jesus how to live. One aspect of being Jesus’ disciple, therefore, is putting off the old selfish way, and putting on the new way of Jesus. The apostle Paul used that image in Romans 13:14 when he wrote, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
It is like clothing. When I go out to mow the grass, do yard work or split and stack wood, I get very sweaty and dirty. Those dirty sweaty clothes represent the old way of life, the selfish way, where certain sins reside in our lives.
I come inside, cool off, get a shower, put on new clean clothes. Those clean clothes, Paul says, represent the new way of Jesus. His way is the way of a transformed heart. Paul calls it the Fruit of the Spirit, where the good things of Jesus are growing inside us, and those good things naturally come out.
Turn back to Matthew 7, but a few verses earlier. This is what Jesus says in verses 15-20, “By their fruit you will know them.” I look at my berry bushes and I know what kind they are. The ones on the left have black berries and the ones on the right have red berries. Then there are also plants that look similar that grow up in the middle of the berries. But those plants, though they look similar, they have no berries. They are weeds.
You know a person by his or her fruit too. If you find or if others tell you that you are regularly grumpy, complaining, angry, upset, selfish, hiding away, escaping to fantasy, manipulative, lying, hurting feelings, rough, harsh, talking too much, having to be the center of attention, then those are the fruits that are coming out of your life.
Here’s the thing though, so often those negative fruits are coming out of our lives, but we are more than willing to let ourselves off the hook and say “Well, I’m not so bad.” Or “Tough, that’s just me.” “Deal with it, that’s how God made me.” If you ever hear words like those coming out of your mouth, or even if you just think thoughts like that, you should be very concerned about yourself. You need people to confront you, to tell you the true story of who you are, and you need to listen to them.