Is It Possible to Change Ourselves?
We like the idea of change, of starting over again, of becoming someone different than we are. Sometimes we move to a new place, thinking we can escape our problems. Sometimes we think if we had some new friends or get married that life will be better. Then we think if only we had kids things would be different.
Others think a change in their appearance will do it. A survey revealed that 80 percent of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance. And research has also shown that the more time people spend consuming media, the more unhappy they are with their bodies. They think that if they could look like someone in a magazine, it would meet the deepest needs of their lives.
If you think you would be happier if you were really handsome or strikingly beautiful, consider this statement from actress Halle Berry: “Being thought of as a beautiful woman has spared me nothing in life. No heartache, no trouble. Love has been difficult. Beauty is essentially meaningless and it is always transitory.”
A professor of sociology said, “The demand for instant identity transformation has never been so pervasive. People want change, and they want it instantly. From fame to the instant thrills of Botox or liposuction, the capacity to reinvent ourselves has become fundamental.”
But can we really reinvent ourselves? Can we really change? Here is the answer: No. You cannot change who you are on the inside. You can change your appearance. You can change your location. You can change your relationships. But you can’t change yourself any more than a drowning person can save himself.
Sometimes it is said the answer is within, but the reality is the problem is within. And that problem inside of you and inside of me is called sin. We have all sinned. And we can’t change our essential nature. The Bible says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT). There is only one person who can change the human heart, and that is God. God can change your life. It is possible.
There is a story in the Bible about a woman who got caught committing adultery. Some religious leaders found her and decided she ought to be executed for this. We don’t know what happened to the man she was with, but apparently he walked away free. But they brought this woman to Jesus and threw her down at his feet. Now, they didn’t really care about this woman. What they really were trying to do was to trap Jesus. They wanted to know what he would do.
They said to him, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” (John 8:4–5) Now, Jesus was on the horns of a dilemma here. If He said, “Stone her,” he would have been justified, technically, but that would have been pretty harsh. If he said, “Let her go,” then he would have been seen as being too lenient.
So what did he do? He looked at them and started writing in the sand. What was he doing? I don’t think he was playing tic-tac-toe. I think he wrote something significant. And when he was finished writing in the sand, he stood up and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (verse 7). Then he stooped down and started writing again.
We don’t know exactly what Jesus wrote, but I think he probably wrote the names of the religious leaders next to the commandments. Yeah, Caleb, I know what is up with you. … Hey, Joshua, I know where you have been. … Eliezer, I know all about you, buddy. And then they left, from the oldest to the youngest. And why did they leave in that order? I think it s because the older guys had more sins they had committed. They got busted. Instead of condemning the woman, Jesus condemned the self-righteous condemners.
Then Jesus said to her, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more” (verses 10–11).
Some might say, “How could Jesus pardon her? She was caught in the act. She wasn’t even a believer.” But I think she was. Why? Because she believed. I am not sure exactly when she believed, but probably right before she said, “No, Lord.” How long does it take to believe in God? Only an instant.
Jesus said four things to her that were very important.
Her sins had been forgiven. He said, “Neither do I [condemn you]. Go and sin no more.” God can forgive you of all of your sins. And not only will he forgive them, but he will forget them. They will be behind you. The Bible says it will be like they are buried in the depths of the sea (see Micah 7:19).
She did not have to fear the judgment day. There is a day of judgment coming when everyone will stand before God – the rich and the poor, the famous and the unknown. And the question in that final day will not be whether you lived or a good life or were a nice person or whether you recycled. The question will be: What did you do with Jesus Christ?
She had new power to face her problems. “Go and sin no more,” Jesus told her. God will give you the power to be the person he wants you to be.
I never wanted to be a religious person. I never wanted to be someone who went to church. But when Jesus started changing me, I said to God, “I don’t even know how to pray. But I will say this: if you are real, then you will have to make yourself real to me.” And he started changing me. He will start changing you too. You will see.