One way to think about salvation is that God saves us from ourselves and He saves us from our sins. Even after we become children of God by faith in Christ, habits hound us and true and lasting change can seem hard to come by.
When you try to change yourself, the change is often partial and temporary. But when God is the One doing it, the change is deep and lasting. How's that work?
God's love is revealed through forgiveness, and "deep forgiveness" produces deep change. This is why in Luke chapter 7, when Simon the Pharisee questioned why Jesus would let a woman who was a known sinner wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair that Jesus said to him, "…her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." (Luke 7:47 ESV).
Think about it…that's a lot of tears. You can't wash someone's dusty feet with just moist eyes. Was she unable to speak? Able only to weep? Were they tears of repentance or tears of joy? It doesn't really matter—she knew she was forgiven, and forgiveness changes you.
And think about this too…that ointment she anointed Jesus with cost nearly a year's worth of the average laborer's wages. Can you imagine someone feeling so grateful to God that he or she had been forgiven that they would give Him a year's worth of their income? That would only happen if that person had been deeply affected.
Do you think that woman was worse than Simon in the eyes of God? I think not. Simon was as much in need of forgiveness as she was, but he was blinded and deceived by his self-righteousness. She on the other hand had no illusions. She openly acknowledged her need of forgiveness, and she drank deeply of the forgiveness that Jesus gave. And when you combine those two things, it produces deep and lasting change.