It’s that time of year again. The time when we plan and set spiritual, physical, relational, and financial goals for our lives. If I have to be honest, my New Year’s resolutions don’t always last. I am powerless to effect change in my life, I can want it with all my heart, but I often feel like the Apostle Paul.
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do. … 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:15-18 NIV)
We are all powerless to change ourselves without the power of the Holy Spirit living within us. Just as Jesus was powerless to do anything without the Father (John 5:19), we need Christ to change. When we come to faith in Christ, we have a new set of goals laid out for us – to be conformed to the image of Christ. Just as Paul had to change his old patterns and determine to put on a new Christ-like life, we must do the same. Don’t look back! Turn around and move forward. Looking back is what Lot’s wife did. She yearned for an old life when God had a better one planned. We know where we came from, but our focus needs to be on where we are going.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the city hardly resembled itself. The close friends and church family I held dear were scattered to the winds. Things had changed. The city was so damaged that I felt homesick for a place that no longer existed. So as I tried to navigate my family and my life to the triangle, I had to “forget what was behind and strain toward what would be ahead.” We had to move forward and make a new life for ourselves. The principle is the same when you accept Jesus as your Savior. You have to put off the old self (old behaviors) and put on the new. Like Paul, we need to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14).
What can we do to aid this transformation into Christlikeness? Matthew records Jesus’ instructions, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4). The more we read and study the Bible, the more we will understand the lifestyle that God wants for us. Reading and studying the Bible has become a priority for us. The Word of God’s truth sets us free to live in a way that glorifies God.
Where can we find hope? By ourselves, we are hopeless, but with God, there is every reason to have hope for a future. Jeremiah said, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (29:11 NIV). We do need God, but the good news is – He is with us! He lives in our hearts and guides us through the Holy Spirit. Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” He is the only one that can change our hearts to become more like Him. Start out the New Year with Jesus in your heart.