Can You Change Yourself?

Cameron Buettel urges Christian leaders to repudiate the philosophy that says you can change yourself that’s promoted by self-help gurus Anthony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey and their ilk and replace that worldly philosophy with “the truth of biblical anthropology—that all men are, by nature, totally depraved sinners.” But instead, pastors with rock star status like Joel Osteen and Steven Furtick “see it as an opportunity to market a ‘Christianized’ version of the same lie.” 

So, can the self-help or positive confession of Osteen and Furtick and their ilk change the nature of a sinner? The answer is no, says Buettel. He believes that “Nothing less than divine regeneration is needed.”

In his post over at Grace to You, Cameron Buettel reveals what he means by divine regeneration. He writes:

Just reading billboards on a road trip is enough to realize that people want to change their lives. Whether it be physical, financial, or relational, there are a vast range of self-help industries that have sprung up around the world’s insatiable demand for self-improvement. In effect, they perpetuate a lie that dominates the world: you can change yourself.

Of course, it is possible to change some features of our lives—at least temporarily. We can change our hairstyles, get makeovers, lose weight, make more money, find love, change careers, or move to a new city and start all over. But our root problem always remains—an inner sinful nature that refuses to change.

You Can’t Change Yourself

Many of the changes in your life are a function of self-restraint or self-discipline. If you earnestly want to lose weight, stop smoking, or find a better job, you can achieve those external goals through acts of willpower.

But no amount of willpower can change the essentials of who you are. Your intellectual capacity and your genetic makeup are not malleable. Nor, critically, is the fundamental spiritual state you were born into. There is nothing you can do to shed your sin nature. The prophet Jeremiah effectively said as much when he rebuked Israel for their continual rebellion against God: “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).

Jeremiah understood the issue we discussed in our previous post—that all men are sinners by nature. He knew that we have as much chance of altering our own nature as changing the color of our skin, or stripping the spots off a leopard.

Self-help gurus like Tony Robbins may profess that “we can change our lives. We can dohave, and be exactly what we wish.” [1] But it’s nothing more than a bogus promise built upon bankrupt theology.

Christian leaders should repudiate the worldly philosophy of Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, and their ilk with the truth of biblical anthropology—that all men are, by nature, totally depraved sinners. Instead, preachers like Joel Osteen and Steven Furtick see it as an opportunity to market a “Christianized” version of the same lie. In fact, Osteen has written an entire book on the subject. The promotional summary for his book The Power of I Am explains:

Can two words give you the power to change your life? Yes they can! In the pages of his new book, bestselling author Joel Osteen shares a profound principle based on a simple truth. Whatever follows the words “I am” will always come looking for you.

Osteen’s book wouldn’t be so offensive if it was properly categorized as fiction. Somehow it manages to adorn the shelves of Christian bookstores as biblical truth.

Yet no amount of self-help or positive confession can change the nature of a sinner. Nothing less than divine regeneration is needed.  Continue reading


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