The Holy Spirit and How People Change

When George Whitefield was asked how many people were saved in a meeting where he had preached, he answered, “I don’t know. We should know more in six months.” Whenever the gospel is preached, we know that God works to convert people. But even Jesus indicated in the parable of the sower that we cannot judge if a person is converted by an immediate response (Mark 4:1–20). Outward appearances can be deceiving. Like in the seed in the parable, some people grow at first, but in the end they bear no fruit. Jesus teaches that we will know if people are true disciples if they bears fruit over time.

In Conversion and Discipleship, I discuss how salvation is both an event and a process. We are saved, yet we are also being saved. But what actually happens within people to effect transformation? How do we change? How does the inward transformation we experience manifest in our decisions and conduct? The answer is to all of these questions is the Holy Spirit. This process of change can’t possibly happen without the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.

How the Spirit Works

The Holy Spirit is in the business of making us new people by transforming our mind and changing our character. The transformed mind informs the will, and from the will, we act. We all know this by experience. However, we don’t change by just wishing or praying it to happen. A simple exhortation to stop doing something will rarely make a dent in overcoming habitual sin. Some excuse their lack of progress by claiming they need more time to come up with a more profound insight or plan. But the brutal truth is that they use up this time in the same unproductive ways. We need the work of the Holy Spirit to change us.

This was originally posted by Bill Hull on The Bonhoeffer Project blog here.


Written by Bill Hull

This excerpt has been adapted from Conversion and Discipleship.

Image credit: Shutterstock.

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