In nineteen days our lives will all change for the better! We will get healthy and lose weight. We will stop smoking. We will stop gossiping. We will start going to church every week and reading our Bibles every day. We will aggressively pound the pavement till we find a job. We will end bad habits and start good ones.
Are you making a New Year’s Resolution? I’m not. I used to, but I decided that I don’t like nailing down one specific area where I need to change. And I don’t like knowing I am probably going to fail before I start.
“Oh,” you say, “you don’t have to fail, Marcia, you can succeed! You can leave the bad habits and weaknesses behind! This is a new year, a fresh start! It is your opportunity for change!”
Perhaps the real issue is that I am not resolute enough in my resolutions. I’m fine with wishful thinking or having a hopeful attitude, but keeping a resolution requires determination and a whole lot of inner fortitude. A resolution is more than a suggestion. Resolutions are about purposeful change. And purposeful change requires self-denial.
Who wants to deny themselves anything? Whatever we want we’ll find a way to get. We manipulate, lie, cheat, steal, beg, borrow, flirt, cry, scream, or whatever else it takes to get what we think we should have. After all, we deserve the things we want.
Self-denial isn’t easy and the alternative isn’t pretty. No one would ever describe themselves as self-absorbed, self-focused, or selfish. It’s so much better to think of ourselves as self-less! But if that were the case, though, Jesus wouldn’t have taught so much about self-denial.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” – Matthew 16:24-16 NIV
As a Christian, the place where your will for yourself intersects with God’s will for you is the place of your cross. It is that place of self-denial. When you lay down your will and take up God’s will for you, you are taking up your cross and following Jesus. And that requires purposeful change — a one-time resolution? Or an on-going way of life?
“Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy.” – Ephesians 4:21-24 NLT
For Christians, the changes God would have us make are not simply things we decide to try to change on January 1 and then cast aside on or about January 2 — change is our way of life. The Christian life is a life of purposeful change; it is a commitment to work with God so that we grow in holiness.
What would Jesus have you throw off as 2014 ends and 2015 begins? Will this be the beginning of a life of purposeful change for you?
(While on Christmas vacation, I am running some blog posts from years past. Merry Christmas to you, one and all)
If starting, or maintaining, a daily habit of quiet time is on your list of things for the new year, please give this devotional a try!