“Be transformed by making your mind over.”—ROM. 12:2.
1-3. (a) What changes may it be hard for us to make after our baptism? (b) When making progress is harder than we expected, what questions might we ask? (See opening pictures.)
UPON learning the truth, Kevin wanted nothing more than a close relationship with Jehovah. For many years, however, he had been involved in gambling, smoking, heavy drinking, and drug abuse. In order to have God’s approval, Kevin would have to give up these unscriptural practices. This he did by relying on Jehovah and on the transforming power of His written Word.—Heb. 4:12.
2 After his baptism, did Kevin stop making changes in his life? No, for he still had work to do in cultivating and refining his Christian qualities. (Eph. 4:31, 32) For example, he found that controlling his quick temper was surprisingly difficult. Kevin admitted, “Learning to control my temper was actually harder than quitting my old vices!” Kevin made needed changes through earnest prayer and intense Bible study.
3 Like Kevin, many of us had to make significant changes prior to our baptism in order to bring our life into harmony with the Bible’s basic requirements. After baptism, we discerned the need to continue making changes—more subtle ones—so as to imitate God and Christ more closely. (Eph. 5:1, 2; 1 Pet. 2:21) For instance, we may have noted in ourselves a critical spirit, a fear of man, a tendency toward harmful gossip, or some other weakness. Has making progress in this regard proved to be harder than we expected? If so, you may wonder: ‘Having made big changes already, why is it so hard for me to keep making smaller adjustments? How can I make further progress in allowing the Bible to change my life?’
HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
4. Why are we unable to please Jehovah in everything we do?
4 We who have come to know and love Jehovah desire with all our heart to do what pleases him. Regardless of how fervent that desire may be, however, our imperfect state renders us incapable of pleasing God at all times. We find ourselves in a situation like that of the apostle Paul, who wrote: “I have the desire to do what is fine but not the ability to carry it out.”—Rom. 7:18; Jas. 3:2.
5. What changes did we make before we got baptized, but what weaknesses may we still struggle with?
5 We have put away sinful practices that would disqualify us as members of the Christian congregation. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) Nevertheless, we are still imperfect. (Col. 3:9, 10) It is therefore unrealistic to expect that after baptism—or even after many years in the truth—we will no longer make mistakes, experience setbacks, or be troubled with wrong motives and inclinations. Certain tendencies might persist for years.
6, 7. (a) What makes it possible for us to be Jehovah’s friends even though we are imperfect? (b) Why should we not hold back from asking Jehovah for forgiveness?
6 Our inherited imperfection does not need to prevent us from enjoying Jehovah’s friendship or continuing to serve him. Consider this: When Jehovah drew us into a relationship with him, he knew that we would err at times. (John 6:44) Since God knows our traits and what is in our heart, he surely was aware of what sort of imperfect tendencies would be particularly troublesome for us. And he knew that we would occasionally transgress. Yet, this did not prevent Jehovah from wanting us as his friends.
7 Love moved God to offer us a precious gift—the ransom sacrifice of his beloved Son. (John 3:16) If on the basis of this priceless provision we repentantly seek Jehovah’s forgiveness when we err, we can have the confidence that our friendship with him is still intact. (Rom. 7:24, 25; 1 John 2:1, 2) Should we hesitate to avail ourselves of the benefits of the ransom because we feel unclean or sinful? Of course not! That would be like refusing to use water to wash our hands when they are dirty. After all, the ransom is provided for repentant sinners. Thanks to the ransom, then, we can enjoy a friendship with Jehovah even though we are in an imperfect state.—Read 1 Timothy 1:15.
8. Why should we not ignore our weaknesses?
8 Of course, we do not simply ignore our weaknesses. Cultivating our friendship with Jehovah involves striving to imitate God and Christ more closely and being the sort of people they want us to be. (Ps. 15:1-5) It also involves endeavoring to control our imperfect tendencies, even eliminating them where possible. Whether we got baptized recently or have been in the truth for many years, we must “continue . . . to be readjusted.”—2 Cor. 13:11.
9. How do we know that we can keep putting on the new personality?
9 Continued effort is required in order “to be readjusted” and manifest “the new personality.” Paul reminded fellow believers: “You were taught to put away the old personality that conforms to your former course of conduct and that is being corrupted according to its deceptive desires. And you should continue to be made new in your dominant mental attitude, and should put on the new personality that was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Eph. 4:22-24) The expression “continue to be made new” indicates that putting on the new personality is an ongoing process. This is encouraging, for it assures us that regardless of how long we have been serving Jehovah, we can keep making progress in cultivating and refining the Christian qualities that make up the new personality. Yes, the Bible can continue to change our life.
WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT?
10. What must we do to keep making changes with the help of the Bible, and what questions might we ask?
10 We must exert ourselves if we are to allow God’s Word to continue changing us. But why is intense effort necessary on our part? If Jehovah is blessing our endeavors, should not spiritual progress come more easily? Could not Jehovah simply override our wrong inclinations to the point that we could display godly qualities with minimal effort?
11-13. Why does Jehovah expect us to put forth effort to overcome our weaknesses?
11 When we contemplate the physical universe, we realize that Jehovah has great power. For example, the sun changes five million tons of its matter into energy every second. Although only a small amount passes through our globe’s atmosphere, it is enough to provide adequate heat and light to sustain life on earth. (Ps. 74:16; Isa. 40:26) Jehovah is pleased to give an appropriate measure of power to his human servants when needed. (Isa. 40:29) Yes, God could even give us the strength to conquer every weakness without having to struggle with or learn from our mistakes. Why does he not do so?
12 Jehovah has given us the peerless gift of free will. By choosing to do God’s will and by working hard to do so, we show our depth of love for Jehovah and our desire to please him. We also demonstrate our support of his sovereignty. Satan has challenged the rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty, so our voluntary and vigorous efforts to uphold it are undoubtedly of special value to our benevolent and appreciative heavenly Father. (Job 2:3-5; Prov. 27:11) However, if Jehovah completely relieved us of the need to exert ourselves to fight our imperfect tendencies so as to please him, any claim of loyalty and support of his sovereignty would be meaningless.
13 Thus, Jehovah tells us to put forth “earnest effort” in developing godly qualities. (Read 2 Peter 1:5-7; Col. 3:12) He expects us to work hard to control our thoughts and feelings. (Rom. 8:5; 12:9) Having made a genuine effort in this regard, we feel all the more satisfied when we realize that the Bible is still changing our life.
LET GOD’S WORD KEEP ON CHANGING YOU
14, 15. What can we do to develop qualities that Jehovah loves? (See the box “The Bible and Prayer Changed Their Lives.”)
14 What might we do to cultivate godly qualities and please Jehovah? We must do more than embark on a program of self-improvement. We need to keep exerting ourselves and following God’s instructions, for Romans 12:2 states: “Stop being molded by this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, so that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” By means of his Word and holy spirit, Jehovah helps us to discern his will, to do it, and to change our life to the extent necessary in order to meet his requirements. Our efforts should include such activities as daily Bible reading, meditation on the Scriptures, and prayer for holy spirit. (Luke 11:13; Gal. 5:22, 23) As we yield to the guidance of God’s holy spirit and align our thinking with Jehovah’s viewpoint as revealed in his Word, we will become more godly in our thoughts, words, and actions. Even then, we will need to remain on guard against succumbing to our particular weaknesses.—Prov. 4:23.
15 In addition to daily Bible reading, we need to study God’s Word along with our Christian publications with a view to imitating Jehovah’s wonderful qualities. Some have found it practical to collect and occasionally review certain scriptures and Watchtower or Awake! articles that are especially helpful in cultivating Christian qualities or in overcoming particular weaknesses.
16. Why should we not be discouraged if we are not able to make changes quickly?
16 If your spiritual progress seems slow, remember that such growth takes time. The cultivating of spiritual qualities is an ongoing process. We must be patient as we endeavor to let the Bible continue to produce positive changes in our life. At first, we may need to discipline ourselves to do what is Scripturally right. In time, though, thinking and acting in a godly way will likely become easier and more natural for us as our thoughts and actions progressively line up with those of Jehovah God.—Ps. 37:31; Prov. 23:12; Gal. 5:16, 17.
BEAR IN MIND OUR GRAND PROSPECTS
17. If we are loyal to Jehovah, what delightful future can we look forward to?
17 Loyal worshippers of Jehovah will eventually have the privilege of serving him forever in perfection. At that time, manifesting godly qualities will no longer be a struggle but will always be an exquisite delight. Meanwhile, thanks to the ransom, we are permitted to worship our loving God. We can do so even in our present imperfect state if we continue striving to submit to the transforming power of his Word.
18, 19. How can we be sure that the Bible has power to continue changing our life?
18 Kevin, who was mentioned earlier, worked earnestly to bring his temper under control. He meditated on and applied Bible principles, and he accepted the help and counsel offered by fellow Christians. Over the course of a few years, Kevin made significant improvement. Eventually, he qualified to be appointed as a ministerial servant, and for the past 20 years, he has been serving as a congregation elder. Even so, he sees the need to remain on guard against any spiritual relapse.
19 Kevin’s experience shows that the Bible helps God’s people to continue making positive changes in their life. Therefore, let us never give up in allowing God’s Word to keep transforming us and bringing us into a closer relationship with Jehovah. (Ps. 25:14) As we see Jehovah’s blessing on our efforts, we will have clear evidence that the Bible can keep changing our life.—Ps. 34:8.
 (paragraph 1) The name has been changed.