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CAN A PERSON CHANGE HIS PERSONALITY, PART 1

Most of us cringe to ourselves at ourselves sometimes. We say or do something that later seems so out of place, embarrassing, regrettable. It may be anger that makes us act "mad." Perhaps we "show off' a bit when we get the chance. Maybe we have the tendency to move ourselves ahead of the other guy when he's not looking (or when he can't do anything about it). Perhaps we feel timid and backward and tongue-tied and self-conscious. Or, maybe we just can't seem to stay focused on anything serious for more than two seconds. We complain to ourselves, "Why do I act like that? I wish I wouldn't do that!"

Well, can we change? The answer is "yes" within limits, over time, with the right help, and if we want to badly enough.

We all know that Jesus was "transfigured" (Matthew 17:1-13), but we might not know that the same word' is used in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 of the change that Christians undergo! This process begins at conversion, can be accelerated by our choices, and continues throughout our lives. We can "trans-figure" ourselves with the power of God and His Gospel (Romans 1:16). These are primarily personality changes.

The Bible implies that we can change our personalities...

By telling us we can be made "new" (Colossians 3:10; Titus 3:5).Scripture has muchto say about "new things."  God called the last half of the Bible the "new testament" (Matthew 26:28) and the "new covenant" (Hebrews 8:13). Jesus was laid in a "new tomb" (Matthew 27:60). He gave us a "new and living way" (Hebrews 10:20), a "new commandment" (1 John 2:8), and a "new name" (Revelation 2:17). Preachers are to take things out of the Word, "new and old" (Matthew 13:52). Jesus made of "twain one new man" (Ephesians 2:15). We are to "put on the new man" (Ephesians 4:24), look for "new heavens and a new earth" (2 Peter 3:13) and a "new Jerusalem" (Revelation 3:12) where we'll sing a "new song" (Revelation 14:3).

God was the original "makeover" artist. He promised, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new...For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). He commands Christians to continue to: "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump..." (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Sinners have the possibility (responsibility) of becoming saints. (Imagine it!) The prodigal can leave the pig's pen, travel the penitent way, arrive back at his Father's house, and be wearing new clothes, new shoes, and a new ring by nightfall (Luke 15:20-24). Paul calls this process the "renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2; cf. 1 Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 23:7; Matthew 15:19). God constantly says to His children what Solomon said to his: "My son, give me thine heart..." (Proverbs 23:26). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was asked how he managed such a long and happy life. Pointing to an apple tree, the writer remarked: "The secret of the apple tree is that it grows a little new wood each year. That's what I try to do." We can gradually change our personalities by "growing a little new wood" each year. It won't happen over night, but by and by (by God and by grace, 1 Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 3:7), we can be a "new creature."

By commanding us to "mature." God wants his babies to grow up, his soldiers to develop their skills, and his workers to improve their habits. Paul put it succinctly: "When I became a man, I put away childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11; cf. 14:20). We are to "grow in grace" (2 Peter 3:18) which implies that our personalities take on new characteristics, and that these characteristics become more prominent over time. What personality characteristics? "...The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..." (Galatians 5:22, 23). At the same time, other immature personality traits must be eradicated, including: a dirty mind and mouth (uncleanness), lustful activities (lasciviousness), hatred, arguing (variance), contentious rivalries (emulations), wrath, strife, divisiveness (seditions), heresies, and envyings (Galatians 5:19-21). That we can do these things is implied in a just God's command to do these things (Philippians 4:13; Isaiah 45:21).

Charles Spurgeon once remarked that he had the likenesses of his boys taken on their birthdays. He did so, so he could see them at a glance from their infancy to their youth to their manhood. Sup-pose God took pictures of His children (you and me!) over the years. Would there be noticeable progress to maturity or would we still look like toddlers or teens? Not only can we change our personalities, but we must change them to fit the image of Christ.

By compelling us to set a good example for others (Proverbs 4:18; Isaiah 58:8; Romans 14:13). Christians are required to consider their actions in light of how others will view them. Jesus said, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid...Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).

Every Christian lives in a glass house, under a microscope, and on the front pew at church. What an opportunity! What a responsibility! If a son of the King loses his temper at a ballgame and uses bad language or shows poor sportsmanship, it brings shame upon the royal name. Paul exhorted young men to be "...sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you" (Titus 2:6-8).

If a daughter of God boasts, or lies, or gossips, or shows off her figure or flaunts her wealth, then people think less of her Father. Paul urged young women to "...give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully" (1 Timothy 5:14). The Lord explained how seriously He takes these things: "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:6).

On the other hand, if one controls his temper, is cool under pressure, is humble, thoughtful of others, and shows good sportsman-ship, then people think more of the religion that could remake someone like that.

Allen Webster
Glad Tidings of Good Things
Volume 9/November 4, 2004
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