The life of a Christian includes change, but do I have stop being “me?”
There is no doubt that the life of a Christian includes change. The Bible speaks about a life of complete and utter transformation. As Christians, we are to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29) There is no greater calling than this!
But, what does this actually mean in a practical sense? Do we have to change our personalities: our sense of humour and all of our natural qualities, in order to be like Christ?
We are individuals in Christ
God Himself is the one who has formed us. He loves us as we are, and He has given each of us our personalities and a set of qualities that are individual and unique to us. We don’t have to change our personalities to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), but are called to follow Him and serve Him as unique individuals. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6.
However, regardless of what personality we have, it isn’t so difficult to see that something in us hinders us from following Jesus’ example of complete purity. Paul wrote: “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.” Romans 7:21.
We have a corrupted nature
It isn’t natural for us to respond to our situations and to the others with the purity that is in Christ. A sarcastic remark, for example, which was thought to be harmless, can easily be driven by true contempt for another person, irritation, or the desire to always have the last word in a conversation. Likewise, other things that we do on a regular basis, as well as our thoughts and words can be tainted with impure intentions, fear of man, anxiety, jealousy, pride, selfishness, etc. These things are not a part of our personality, but are the tendencies to sin (“sin in the flesh”) that every person has inherited at birth.
The Bible tells us that this results from the fall. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, sin poisoned their human nature. Mankind was given over to the lusts and desires of their corrupted natural flesh and sin gained the upper hand in the thoughts and minds of people. (Genesis 6:5)
However, Jesus came to offer us a way out of this sinful nature: a way to complete purity, to follow Him and be likened unto His image! John writes that all those who hope to be like Christ purify themselves, just as Christ is pure. (1 John 3:3)
If we want to be like Jesus, then we cleanse ourselves from, or deny, all that goes against the good and perfect will of God, in obedience to the truth. (1 Peter 1:22) Nothing should be used as a shield or excuse for sin to reign in our lives. We need to use God’s Word to judge our thoughts, words and actions and to separate ourselves from all sin!
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.
In other words, we use God’s Word to judge our thoughts and actions and we consciously reject (or purify ourselves from) everything that has its root in sin. By doing this, we are imitating Jesus, the first human being in whom God was able to condemn sin in the flesh, when Jesus denied the lust to sin that He found in His own human nature. (Romans 8:3)
Free to serve God just as we are
Becoming like Christ requires us to purify ourselves in obedience to God’s Word. We follow Jesus’ example of condemning sin in our own flesh. By doing this, we become like Him! We are freed out from things like fear of man, anxiety, jealousy, impurity, pride, and selfishness and we increase in Jesus’ virtues each day.
Sin no longer binds and restricts our thoughts and actions! We are free to be ourselves and can be confident in that which we do and say out of a pure heart, no matter what personality we possess.
God has prepared works for each one of us. In Ephesians 2:10 it’s written, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Likewise, there are things that only you and your personality can accomplish and it is God’s desire that He can use both you and your personality to carry out a variety of good works! When each of us purifies ourselves in obedience to God’s Word, we will become more and more like Christ. Not only that, we will also become more and more free to be an individual in Christ, just as God intended.