“But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Who we are can change. But all true change comes from God; and change comes slowly to the best of us.
Trials don’t bring out the best in us at first. Before we succeed, we fail. We are brought face to face with who we are apart from God. We truly have nothing to glory in. “In our flesh (i.e., in ourselves) dwells no good thing.” (Rom. 7:18) Christ in us is our hope of glory. (Col. 1:27)
The world’s message – “be who you are” – doesn’t wash with those who know who they are apart from Christ. Paul certainly didn’t want to be who he was: “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious” (1 Tim. 1:13) Paul was ever so grateful for the grace to become other than he was. “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 1:14)
God does not help us to become who we are; He saves us from who we are, and enables us to become as He is. Sinners need saving, not just from the consequences of what they have done, but from the sad reality of who they are. God saves us from ourselves. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim. 1:15)
No man ever had a greater turnaround than the Apostle Paul. He was so mindful of who he was apart from Christ that he called himself the chief of sinners. But he had changed, he was no longer doing what he once did. He was a trophy of God’s grace. He had become a new man, by the grace of God.