I have been thinking lately about the the difference between willing yourself to change vs. being changed through and by the Holy Spirit. What’s the difference? I ask this because it seems as though when God wants you to grow in an area He allows you to go through situations that mold you into who He wants you to be (if you learn from the situation). But other people (people who do not have the Holy Spirit) are taught by life circumstances as well and learn and change. For instance Philippians 4:11 Paul states that he learned contentment by being put through rough situations and plentiful situations, thus he learned contentment through those situations. As of right now I am trying to see the difference between repentance abs behavioral modification, for lack of a better way to put it. Hopefully you understand my question. Thanks!
You will never be able to sort this out and you will probably be better off not trying to separate changing by our own decision versus God working on us in spite of ourselves. This is like the classical conundrum. Should I act my way toward a better way of feeling or should I feel my way toward a better way of acting? This is not an all-or-nothing proposition. I am sure that God can work in situations which are partly your will to change and partly his changing you by the Holy Spirit. All this can lead to paralysis of analysis and Satan would love you to descend into paralysis of analysis. So, here is my suggestion. Do not worry yourself for one moment about this issue. Your “job” is to do the best you can do with what God has given you and leave the rest to God. How much of it is your effort, how much of it is explainable by worldly logic and how much of is simply the work of the Holy Spirit you will never be able to know, so do not worry yourself over it. In any case, you should do your part and let God do his part. Your part is to take serious stock of yourself and make every effort with the limited ability God has given you serve God with all your heart, to avoid sin and to believe the truth. Fortunately, in Christianity, God promises to make up for what is lacking. Two passages that I like to think about in such situations are 2 Corinthians 13:5 (be prepared to examine yourself and to change based on what you find) and Philippians 3:15-16 (be busy doing the things you already know to do and let God take care of the things on which you are not in the right place to understand yet).