Pavel Goia, DMin, is the editor of Ministry.

One Sabbath evening long ago, after preaching at two different churches, I hit traffic while driving to a third church to begin an evangelistic series. At the interstate toll plaza, I chose the line with only two cars ahead of me, hoping to rush through. The driver of the first car threw coins in the funnel basket to pay the toll and then drove off. Good, one car left, I thought.

The next car pulled up to the funnel, stopped, then—nothing. I waited. What was the driver doing, making the coins? Finally, a woman threw coins toward the funnel—they did not make it. She tried to open her door, but the funnel blocked her. She started backing her car up. I, and the cars behind me, now had to back up.

She got out and retrieved all the coins. But, instead of throwing them in the funnel, she went to the toll booth window and struck up an animated conversation with the attendant. I could not hold in my impatience any longer. I honked the horn, threw up my hands, and cried out in the car, “Lady, please move; we are all waiting!” She waved—very nicely—got into her car, and left.

When I got to the funnel to pay my toll, the attendant called to me, “No need to pay; the lady before you paid for you. Her son has been in an accident, and she’s rushing to the emergency hospital. Her hands were shaking, so it took some time with the coins. She was so impressed with how calm you were. You even waved at her. So she paid for you.”

A new heart

I was so embarrassed by my behavior. I am a pastor! How could I only see things my way and judge her; how could I be so impatient? I had been impatient when young in life and had worked hard to overcome my temper, yet my nature was the same. If I do not know how to experience growth myself, how can I help others?

As pastors, we know and even preach that there is nothing good in any of us and we cannot do anything about it (Rom. 7:18, 19; Jer. 13:23). Only God can change hearts, and it is only by a continual walk with God that He can change us. Yet do we practice what we preach?

Author Ellen White says, “ ‘Except a man is born from above,’ unless he shall receive a new heart, new desires, purposes, and motives, leading to a new life, ‘he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ John 3:3.”1 The paragraph does not say that you achieve a new heart; no, you receive it! It is not what you do in your own power. It is God who gives us a new heart. “ ‘I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them’ ” (Ezek. 11:19, NIV).

What are a couple of ways that you can grow into God’s image?

Growing by faith

“ ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’ ” (Rom. 4:3, NIV; emphasis added). You must have faith in God's power and love to change your heart—faith that He is able to finish what He started (Phil. 1:6), that He is able to grow and save you (Heb. 7:25). “Through this simple act of believing God, the Holy Spirit has begotten a new life in your heart. You are as a child born into the family of God, and He loves you as He loves His Son.”2

Growing by relationship

Jesus promises that if you stay connected with Him, He will grow you, and there will be fruit: “ ‘Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me’ ” (John 15:4, NKJV; emphasis added).

But how? Remember, we are transformed by beholding (2 Cor. 3:18). “You are a sinner. You cannot atone for your past sins; you cannot change your heart and make yourself holy. But God promises to do all this for you through Christ. . . . If you believe the promise, . . . God supplies the fact; you are made whole. . . .

Do not wait to feel that you are made whole, but say, ‘I believe it; it is so, not because I feel it, but because God has promised.’ . . .

“ . . . Through this simple act of believing God, the Holy Spirit has begotten a new life in your heart. You are as a child born into the family of God, and He loves you as He loves His Son.”3

We ministers must keep in mind that we cannot preach the assurance of salvation and growth in Christ unless we personally experience it. God is calling us to talk with Him, walk with Him, and then lead our flock to the same experience.

  1. Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), 18; emphasis added.
  2. White, 52; emphasis added.
  3. White, 51 52; emphasis added.

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Pavel Goia, DMin, is the editor of Ministry.

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