It’s been thirty years since Stephen Covey wrote his paradigm-shifting self-help book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.’ Its popularity exposes the broad consciousness we humans have for personal development. We are built for change. The right kind of change takes us from irrational to thoughtful thinkers, from immature to wise decision-makers, from dependent relationships to independence and finally interdependence within a community. Covey’s concepts have sweeping relevance to living effective lives.
If the full extent and potential of our lives was the eighty-some year span allotted each of us on this earth, those seven habits would be enough. But if the main theme and thread running through the Bible is true, our earthly potential is only the beginning of who we may ultimately become. It’s an alchemy accomplished by the most controversial historical figure ever to have walked this earth. Through His perfectly-lived life, debt-paying death, and death-defying resurrection, Jesus offers something immense to you and me. He gives us the opportunity to be changed into being (somehow) like Him.
C.S. Lewis puts it like this: “Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else…God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man…It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).
How does this beyond-remarkable transformation occur? It happens like all other lesser changes in our lives—four simple elements that move us from pedestrian creatures to winged Pegasuses: It’s as easy and difficult as to rightly see, think, feel, and do.
Seeing: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2). It’s not our physical eyes we are using here—it’s a deeper vision we need to exercise. Making a priority of informing ourselves of the truth of God’s existence and of His relevance to our lives must be a moment-by-moment event. It means reading His Word with a view to seeing Christ through every genre expressed in the Bible so that we begin to see Him for who He is. And one day, “when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).
Thinking: “(W)hatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Jesus epitomizes the best of these values. Aligning the myriad of choices we make each day with Jesus’ commands and exhortations builds a mind that is becoming incrementally more Christlike.
Feeling: “I will give them an undivided heart,” promises God, “and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). Our emotions are designed to follow on the heels of our thinking, giving us impetus to act cohesively with our understanding of things. We see, then we think about what we’ve seen, and then we feel motivated to act. Hearts of stone are disabled emotions, incapable of moving us to the kind of actions God designed us to participate in. One of the ways God changes us is to put into our hearts a joy of praising Him. This leads us to actions we would neither have thought of nor dared to do before.
Doing: “He has showed you, O man (and woman), what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Justice, mercy, and a humble walk—these are high standards. We fail daily. So we go back to seeing, and from there to thinking, and so on. It’s how change happens, little by little.
But we all know things are never as easy to do as they appear on paper. We’ve all done more than our share of failed seeing, thinking feeling and doing. That’s why we’re given the key to this amazing process in the Apostle Paul’s first century letter to a group of early Christ-followers.
“Therefore, my dear friends…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12,13).
Who works out this amazing transformation? You do, yes. But God does too. It’s a coalition, a collaboration on a supernatural project, a union of wills. It’s like glue that must have equal parts of catalyst and resin to create a form-setting epoxy—not one or the other, but both. So let’s resolve to be part of this project with God. Let’s see if we don’t eventually—in time for eternity—become eye-blinkingly changed.