Losing weight. Improving relationship. Kicking bad habits. Learning to really live again. These are important goals for many people. Yet, if we think the way to achieve a new "me" is through more willpower, as some of the popular self-help books promote, more often than not, our effort is short-lived. Willpower proves inadequate to overcome the troubles we face, so we continue along the same old paths.

Many people, however, have found answers (other than human will) in the Bible. One example is a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews (see John, chap. 3). Jesus startled Nicodemus by telling him how he could find the kingdom of God—by being "born again." To me, Jesus was saying that the answer was not in improving on an imperfect person but in dropping our assumptions about who we are—full of faults and flaws—in order to see a whole new selfhood, a spiritual one, the selfhood born of God.

Jesus also said, "No man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles" (Mark 2:22). Does this instruction apply to selfimprovement? Perhaps it means not trying to simply fix up the old bottle, the "old you," but to embrace the identity represented by the new bottle, the "new" you that is God-made. The wine might signify the inspiring, purely spiritual qualities that come from God and that each of us reflects, as His image.

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Are you guilty until proven innocent?
November 22, 1999

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