That is a question which plagues me. How do I know if I have really, truly changed?
I have had men say to me things like, “I quit looking at porn. I’m not sneaking off to strip clubs any more. How can my wife say I haven’t changed?!?”
We have to understand a couple of things. First, my wife didn’t even know about my hidden sin life, so why would she see any difference just because I have stopped secretly sinning?
Second, and most importantly, the bible speaks specifically to the fact that stopping, or putting off, the sin does not mean there has been a change of character. The bible says we also have to start doing something else, or “put on” a different character.
Ephesians 4:22-32 (HCSB)
22 You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires;
23 you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds;
24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s ⌊likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.
25 Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.
26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.
28 The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.
29 No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.
30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption.
31 All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice.
32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
So, instead of just stopping my lying, I need to start telling the truth. Instead of just stopping my sinful cursing and foul language, I need to bless others with my speech and build them up. All the bitterness and anger toward my wife and children has to be replaced with kindness and compassion!
What about the pornography, the adultery? Yes, it has to stop – but I also need to take pleasure and rejoice in the wife of my youth (Proverbs 5:18), showing her that she is my beloved and that my heart has truly changed.
I will know that I have changed when I put on the character of Jesus Christ, and my wife and children actually see that character living in me. pure and simple.