“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).
It’s that time again. People the world over have pledged to do better, to be better. Whether they have resolved to break bad habits or form good ones, at some point most will fail.
Some will quit, giving up on their goal after at the first setback. Some will hang on a little longer, but quit nonetheless. A few will continue, and achieve their goals.
The high rate of failure doesn’t mean, of course, that it is somehow bad to make resolutions. There is a place for self-discipline. Paul pointed out that “bodily training is of some value” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV).
But self-discipline can only get us so far. It’s amazing that we come to Jesus with the understanding that there is _nothing_ that we can do to be righteous in God’s sight, that we always fall short of His glory, but we somehow think that we can make ourselves holy from that point onward. It’s tragic, really.
In the end, most New Year’s resolutions cause more frustration, disappointment and regret than actual change.
But the good news (Gospel!) is that when we trust in Christ, we become new creatures. We are changed from the inside out! Our striving for holiness doesn’t get us any closer to actual holiness than wishing really hard gets us closer to winning the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.
The Galatian Christians encountered the same difficulties, prompting Paul to write, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh (Galatians 3:3 ESV)? The world wants us to believe that we can do anything, overcome anything, with our willpower, and in our own strength. But Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV).
It is only through faith in God and by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can truly move toward holiness. As we make the choice to seek to know God more fully, as we make it our deepest desire to have an intimate relationship with Him, as we long to love Him more and more every second of every day, we will then find that we are becoming more and more like Him. But without the striving.
That, of course, isn’t a license to sin! Certainly we must make an effort to keep ourselves pure. But when we fail, we don’t need to beat ourselves up and wallow in regret. Jesus has paid the price for all of our sin. Past. Present. Future. We are to repent and start fresh every time.
It is my sincere prayer for all of you that you would walk in “newness of life”. Paul put it this way: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4 ESV).
I look forward to walking with you in 2019 as we journey mindfully toward the promised land. Blessings on your new year!