Can People Really Change?

We’ve finally made our way through 2020, and now it’s January, the beginning of a new season. For many of us, this is a time of contemplation, of wondering where we’ve been, where we want to go, and who we want to be this coming year.

According to, the top 5 most popular New Year’s Resolutions here in America are to exercise more (44% of respondents), eat healthier (42%), spend time with family/friends (34%), lose weight (31%), and live more economically (30%). In other words, we want to be healthier and happier this year. We want to experience positive change.

But can people really change?

Sure, with enough determination, an overweight person can get fit, a smoker can kick the habit, and a parent can reconnect with his kids. But what about the deeper, more ingrained characteristics that determine our actions and who we really are?

Can an addict ever be free of his addiction? Can a hateful person learn to love others or a bitter person let go and forgive? Can a violent person choose peace? Or a cheater become honest?

Or, as the phrase goes, “Can a leopard change his spots?” Do you know who coined that phrase? It was God Himself, as He spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to the Jewish people who had turned away from Him:

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil” (Jeremiah 13:23 NAS).

With a bit of well-placed sarcasm, God sets the record straight: we are who we are. And while we can drop a few pounds or donate to worthy causes, we cannot effectuate real change in our own hearts.

But God can.

We cannot change our own hearts...but God can. Click To Tweet

We know that God the Father sent His Son to die on a cross in our place so that we might be reconciled to God. Peter said this quite plainly when speaking of Jesus:

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NAS).

Many people would define the term “to be saved” as “going to heaven.” But what of the here and now, you wonder?

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed'” (John 8:34-36 NAS).

Jesus not only saves us from the effects of our sins, He saves us from having to commit sin in the first place. How? Through the Holy Spirit:

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:6-9a NAS).

This transformation is so complete that we become something utterly new:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NAS).

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, sinful urges can dissipate or even disappear. But sometimes, it can still be a struggle, as Paul declared:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (Romans 7:18-19 NAS).

What is the end result, then?

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:1-2 NAS).

There we are, back at the source of our salvation, Jesus Himself. If we keep focused on the Holy Spirit, we can choose righteousness over sin. But if we fail, Jesus will forgive our sins—not so we can go and sin again but so that we can try to get it right the next time. In this way, we can be transformed from “glory to glory”—not in the next life but in this one right here. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

If you want to experience real change this year, then I encourage you to remember who you really are: a new creation in Christ.

If you want to experience real change this year, then I encourage you to remember who you really are: a new creation in Christ. Make a new habit of surrendering every sinful thought and action to God. Keep Him first and foremost on your mind and let Him guide your steps. In this way, you’ll find true freedom from your sins, including addictions and negative behaviors, and your relationships with flourish. This is my plan for 2021, and I pray that it becomes your plan, as well.

But if you don’t know the Lord yet, then I urge you to reach out to Him today. Don’t waste another minute. Let this be the year you start a truly new beginning.

“God, I want to know you personally. Please forgive me for my sins an fill me with your Holy Spirit. Be my guide forevermore. In the name of Jesus, the One who died for me. Amen.”

“The righteous man will be glad in the LORD and will take refuge in Him; And all the upright in heart will glory” (Psalm 64:10 NAS).

See similar posts:

Getting Help for Those New Year’s Resolutions

The Secret to Getting What You Want Out of Life

Do You Have Your Invitation to Heaven?

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Author: Ashley L Jones

I love encouraging people, whether that means digging into the Bible or making a homemade meal in cast iron. Check out the About section of my blog ( for more details. Thanks for stopping by!

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