by Kevin Burton
I have long since written off New Year’s resolutions. Good habits, bad habits, these things are stubborn and rarely conform to my list of plans.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have plans and goals. They just aren’t tied to days like today, the beginning of a new year.
If resolutions work for you, cool. But don’t be bothered if your victory starts on say Jan. 11 or Feb. 6, whatever day.
It’s far too easy to become content with our flaws and excuse them. It’s a problem for all of us all the time, not just on New Year’s Day.
It’s also not just about self-improvement. The Bible teaches us to be renewed. Here’s Paul, writing to the Ephesian church.
“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4: 22-24 KJV).
Notice something that’s right in the middle of that passage, “deceit.” Never forget that.
If you are just trying to shed a few pounds in the new year that’s one thing. But if you are trying to reform your whole being in the name of Jesus, you have just signed up for a battle. Go two chapters forward in Ephesians to see what Paul says about that.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12 KJV).
This is a God-sized battle, not to be attempted in one’s own power.
Jesus is our Savior, but also an example for what a holy life looks like. God has recorded for us a book of instruction to keep us on track.
Agents trying to detect counterfeit currency start with the genuine article and stamp out all that does not conform to that. Changing in Jesus’ name requires that we follow the Biblical example.
I’ve been known to present God with several great ideas, worthy of Power Point presentations. In those cases when they don’t conform to His Word, He rejects them as counterfeit. Some of my shiniest creations have hit the celestial trash can with a thud.
I don’t always love this process, but it’s necessary and in the end, we will love the result.
To combat deceit unleashed by the enemy of souls, we have to follow God’s perfect example.
On a very small level, deceit might be a television commercial for a sugary cereal. It tricks young viewers into thinking that’s the best breakfast for them.
On a grown-up level, sin comes packaged even more attractively than that box of sugar. The deceit is greater, as are the consequences of falling to it. You and I will not get to victory without God and the resources he has given us.
In the earlier passage Paul identifies the battleground for change as your mind. He returns to that theme in the book of Romans.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2 NKJV).
How many magazine articles have you seen that talk about “the new you?” A new me. That would be great.
But I have to make sure that new me isn’t just another counterfeit that will need reforming later.
A final thought about change, Also from Paul, is in 2 Corinthians.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor. 5; 17 KJV).
When you see what I call an “if clause,” an opposite is understood. In this case, if in Christ, old things out, new things in. Its opposite: if NOT in Christ, old things remain, no new things. To me this is a sobering thought.
This is a place where we could easily get into being judgmental. That is not my intention.
Back to the resolutions. When you get on that bathroom scale, you pretty much know what it’s going to say, right? You know what you ate, how much you exercised.
Well God has a scale. He knows the intent of the heart.
His love for us is so great that He sent Jesus to die to save us from eternal damnation. But He isn’t fooled by lip service any more than your bathroom scale is.