New year is a time when many people make resolutions saying this time, I will keep it. People resolve to do that because it’s a New Year, and people in some way also want to feel renewed. Sign-ups for new Gym Membership go through the roof at this time of year. Others, people resolve to stop smoking or to try and reduce or control their drinking. There are plenty of diets to choose from, you can go low calorie, low fat, low carb, or low sugar. How about the straight forward “No more chocolate in 2019, until reach my target weight”. On the first of January this nation collectively will promise to lose over a million kilograms of fat. Hundreds of thousands of miles will be run on streets, treadmills and cross trainers. Millions of cigarettes will be forsaken, for the first few days of January anyway. For many however this year’s resolutions will fall the same way as last year’s resolutions. People will try and change, but most will fail to do so.
What is the Christian view of how we can really change our behaviours? All these changes in life and behaviours I have described are minor and superficial in comparison to the Christian view of a just how changed a new you can really attain. The question we perhaps need to ask perhaps is how can we make a resolution to change that we can really believe in? Around 3000 years ago a man called Isaiah wrote; “We all we like sheep have gone astray, we turn each to his own way”. (Isaiah 53:6) What I believe he is simply telling us is that all of us fall short, we all get things wrong. We get things wrong by nature, and we get things wrong by choice. However, the Bible tells that we can actually gain a new nature when we make Jesus Lord of our life. The Apostle Paul told us this when he wrote: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here”. (II Corinthians 5:17) The Message is that if you have trusted Christ then you are given a new nature.
The word nature used in the Bible can also be translated as ability, or perhaps an even better translation would be capacity. This shows that there are always two options. One is to live according to the old nature, what the Bible calls “the Flesh” in other words the old capacity we had, or we can choose to live according to this new nature God has given us. If we focus our mind on the things of the old nature, we will see our personality and drives develop in that direction and those who set the mind on things of God will by nature then experience real spiritual growth. The fact of the matter is we can all choose to live one of two ways, we can carry on living according to the old nature, or we can live according to the Holy Spirit of God. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ and handed your life over to God you have a new nature, but you will still have some old habits. The problem is we bring some of our old destructive drives and desires with us, even when we have a new nature bestowed upon us by God. We are told that what we have here is a new capability but how can we grow in that new capacity and live according to God’s plan for us. Generally, in life we all follow our emotional desires and do what they tell us to do. Maybe on an emotional level we need to say to ourselves I’m going to change my emotional drives. I’m going to choose to focus on things of the Spirit rather than on things of the flesh. Instead of focusing on guilt, or fear and anger, I’m now going to focus on love joy and peace. Instead of focusing on my physical craving. I am going to allow myself to focus on my spiritual needs and allow God to renew me that way.
To be a new you in the New Year, you simply need to allow God to renew your life. The Apostle Paul when writing to the Christian church in Rome refers to this issue when he said; “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”. (Romans 12:2 NIV) This transformation is not about cramming more and more knowledge into our brains, it’s about “understanding and applying” the basic truths we are being taught. God said; “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”.(Isaiah 55:9 NIV) This is the heart of what it takes to really change our lives. We now need see things from God’s point of view, we all need to integrate God’s plan and purpose into our lives.
The things of the Spirit are revealed primarily by the word of God. The life and spoken words of Jesus have always been the 1st point of call for Christians who want to know and understand the will of God in their lives. What you take in, what you think about, what you meditate on, determines the way you think, therefore, to be renewed you actually need to be renewed emotionally and mentally in the way that you think and that is an everyday ongoing process. It’s not a single event once a year like a New Year resolution it’s a commitment to the way you think, all the time. That’s why the Psalmist wrote; Blessed is the one who delights is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law, day and night. (Psalm 1:2 NIV) This means that when you encounter a difficult situation, your mind should automatically try and think, what is the Christ-like approach to this situation? What would Jesus do? It’s a whole new way of thinking. It’s sad that as human beings we all have the capacity to fly in the Spirit and yet so many chose to crawl along in the old nature. We have the capacity to be joyful, yet we often choose to be bitter or disappointed. We have the capacity to love yet we let ourselves be drawn to hate. We all live in a culture surrounded by many negative influences and perhaps we grow up in an environment where we were expected to crawl. If you want to be a New You in the New Year, we need is the power to make new choices.
There is an application of the will involved here. This passage talks about taking off, and putting on, that’s all about making a choice. It’s all about acting in free will and choosing actively to do something different. It’s all about the decisions we make. Perhaps your old nature has driven you to make the wrong choices in the past, but at least now you can choose to take the higher route, you can now choose to fly instead of crawl. You can choose to repeat the mistakes like you always have or you can choose to listen to the prompting of the Lord. The trick is to live by God prompting but also to rejoice in doing it. Not just when things are going well, but also when things are tough because that’s when it really matters. That’s living in the spirit and choosing to fly when you might have previously have only been able to crawl.
Let me issue you with a challenge for the new year if you want to be a new year, a better you in the New Year? Are there parts of you that need to change this year? Do you need to be renewed? I know I do. The way to have a new you, is to have a new nature, a new mind set on new better choices.
Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so, we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”.
(II Corinthians 3: 16-18) The Message
I’m asking you to renew your emotions this year. I’m asking you to renew your mind and to renew your choices this year but to do it by submitting your life to Jesus and allowing him to place His nature, a new nature in you. No longer following the prompting of the old nature that used to dominate your life. Rather following the new promptings of the Spirit of God.
The you might have a truly Happy New Year.