Self-improvement—it’s a hot topic this time of year, but the term means different things to different people. Some folks equate it with being healthier, getting a better-paying job, or pursuing a college degree.
But for Christians, the goal is always to become more like Christ, though we oftentimes go about it in the wrong manner. Scripture memorization, Bible study classes, and serving others are all wonderful ways to grow in faith, but if we want to truly improve ourselves, we should turn to the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence is essential for our inner transformation, and we’ll never develop godly character and behavior apart from Him. This old flesh of ours is predisposed toward selfishness and sin. Only as we yield ourselves to the Spirit will He begin to express the life of Christ through us.
Instead of embarking on your own self-improvement program, why not work on discovering who God created you to be? You can be confident that the Spirit will come alongside to help in the transformation. But remember, He will not force you to change. The only way you’ll experience your full potential in Christ is by cooperating with Him.
Let the Spirit lead.
If you want to become everything God has designed you to be, the place to begin is self-denial. It runs counter to everything the world tells us, but we are not meant to rule ourselves. That’s why Jesus said, “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33). It’s impossible to be a disciple of Christ and still be in charge. Our full potential is discovered only when we let the Spirit have complete control of our life.
You see, there’s a battle going on inside every Christian. The Holy Spirit wants to lead us into obedience to God, but our flesh desires its own way (Gal. 5:17). Satan tries to convince us that freedom is achieved by doing whatever we want, but in reality, that ends in bondage. God promises that if we’ll walk by the Spirit—letting Him lead the way—we won’t carry out the desires of the flesh that threaten to enslave us (Gal. 5:16). The question is, Who’s going to be in control of your life: you or God?
It’s impossible to be a disciple of Christ and still be in charge. Our full potential is discovered only when we let the Spirit have complete control of our life.
Make the decision to let the Lord lead, and then consistently surrender authority over your life to Him. In time, you’ll notice His power in you increasing and your flesh becoming less dominant. Instead of insisting on your rights, you’ll listen to His promptings and seek to follow God’s will. I’m not talking about a life of perfection, but one that is bent toward obedience. Though we all stumble at times, when we are filled with the Spirit, we’re quick to confess, turn away from our sin, and reclaim the promise of His fullness.
Rely on the Holy Spirit.
When you get up in the morning, do you think about the Holy Spirit before you set about the day’s routine? Do you make a conscious choice to depend upon Him to equip you for whatever awaits? The reason many Christians feel defeated is because they don’t understand what the Spirit has come to do in and through them. Instead of relying on Him, they’re trying to live the Christian life in their own strength. However, self-reliance is a guarantee of a fruitless life.
Remember, what the Lord desires is a display of Spirit-produced fruit, not self-sufficient achievements. Human beings are capable of amazing accomplishments. We can preach sermons, teach Sunday school, feed the poor, and minister to the hurting in our own strength. In fact, entire churches can function without any help from the Spirit. But that’s not what God wants. The work He has for us is supernatural and requires a corresponding power to accomplish it. None of us is adequate for the task, apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit as He works through us. This was true even of Christ’s disciples: until the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, they weren’t ready for the job of spreading the gospel (Luke 24:49).
Don’t think for a moment that this principle applies only to those who are serving in “the ministry.” We all need the Spirit’s power for every aspect of life. Anyone can live “a normal life,” but Jesus calls us to live supernaturally in such a way that we display His character in everything we do. Without divine empowerment, how are you going to become a godly parent or spouse, forgive someone who has hurt you deeply, endure suffering without bitterness, model Christlike character in the workplace, or demonstrate patience and kindness to cantankerous people? The fruit of the Spirit isn’t pumped out with self-effort (Gal. 5:22-23). All our striving and struggling to become better Christians will never produce a godly life. The only way to attain that is through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Use your spiritual gifts.
Part of discovering your full potential in Christ is finding out what God has planned for you to accomplish. We’re called to serve Him in everything, but He’s also given each of us a unique calling. You don’t want to spend your entire life living as you see fit, only to arrive in heaven and discover you’ve missed what God had in mind. That’s why it’s so important to walk in the Spirit every day of your life. He’s the one who guides you into your calling.
Since the Holy Spirit knows exactly what the Lord created each of us to accomplish, He’s given us corresponding spiritual gifts. These are divinely bestowed abilities that enable us to fulfill God’s unique will for our life. Although spiritual gifts carry the full potential for effectiveness, they don’t usually come to us completely developed. For instance, God may give you the gift of teaching, but without diligent study of Scripture, your effectiveness will be limited. If you have the gift of mercy, it may take time to learn how to comfort the different people He brings into your life. Don’t give up too quickly. Spiritual gifts develop over time, and we become more successful as we practice using them.
You have so much potential in God’s eyes, but there’s one more area that could prevent you from experiencing His best. If you’re holding onto anything the Lord doesn’t want you to have, you’re compromising your purity and quenching His Spirit. It could be an outright sin or something that stands between you and complete obedience to Christ.
You may feel you can’t live without the things that distract you from serving the Lord, but that’s just Satan’s lie. His temptations always result in bondage. That’s why letting go is such a struggle. Whatever you’re clutching can never match the value of what Christ can do in a surrendered life. He’s waiting for you to let go and fully submit to Him. If you’ll lay it down at His feet, He’ll replace it with a life of victorious power and freedom, and you’ll become the person He created you to be.