New Year, New You
Find deliverance from the tyranny of self.
…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
I heard someone call a New Year’s resolution a “to-do list for the first week of January.” A sense of relief passed over me when I read this and realized that I’m not the only one who finds it’s hard to stick to resolutions.
Why are resolutions tough to stick to?
No one ever makes resolutions to do more wrong, to be lazier or less responsible. We all want to be better versions of ourselves, but there are so many of us who find it very difficult to change.
You see, resolutions for the new year are like laws or promises to ourselves, and like laws, they are made to restrain evil. (1 Timothy 1:8-9) Even though the law gives us greater knowledge of sin, it doesn’t give us the ability to make us sinless: “…by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)
In the same way, seeing that a change is needed is a gift from the Lord, but identification is just the first step toward change. How can we take the next step from identification to action?
Where is the ‘new’ me?
If rules can only clarify, but not remove sin, how can we get to lasting self-improvement? This is like the question the Apostle Paul asked when he admitted, “…I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15), and “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out… Who will deliver me?” (Romans 7:18,24)
Paul told the Galatians their desire to be better Christians by following the Jewish Law was “foolish” (Galatians 3:1-3). Instead, the law was meant to be a “guardian” to bring us to Christ, so that we could be made right by faith alone (Galatians 3:24). His gift of salvation includes the Holy Spirit and, by Him, we can resist our sinful flesh (Galatians 5:16).
A right relationship to rules and resolutions
A big part of following Jesus is allowing His Word to shape my understanding. Like Paul, it saddens me to know that I cannot do what is right within myself. But it also makes me more grateful for what Jesus did for me. I know He doesn’t want me to “sin that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1) but to “…be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). For this reason, it’s a good thing not to be satisfied with myself, but to embrace discipline, especially spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible reading, fasting and giving.
When I resolve that something about me needs to change, I can ask God for help. I acknowledge only His Holy Spirit can enable me to change, so I have no excuse for pride or self-righteousness if I meet a goal. I think this was the attitude of Paul when he wrote in another book, “I discipline my body and keep it under control.” (1 Corinthians 9:27) A new year is a great time to ask God to help you with this. May 2020 be a beautiful experience of His power to make a new “you” out of you!
Pray this week:
Jesus, you are holy, and I want to be holy. Please let this year be a great time of growth in my relationship with you!
What does God want you to change about yourself this year?