According to Statisticsbrain 21% of us resolved to losing weight, 17% of us want to make life improvements and do more good deeds and 27% of us did not maintain our resolutions through the first week of January. How are you doing?
If you are experiencing success, let me encourage you to hang in there because almost half of us will fail in our resolutions by January 30. The statistics are not promising for long-term success.
Why is it so hard to change? How is it that the threads of behavior, attitudes, and actions that we don’t like are so tightly woven into the fabric of who we are? Why is time flying by so quickly, leaving us with less time to become the person we want to be rather than the person we are?
How do we generate real, life-altering change? If the scales are going up, what needs to change is clear, definable, and measurable and there are a ton of formulas for counting points, measuring carbs, or eating special food that guarantee success. The formulas work – but the application of the formula – well, that’s where we fail. Maybe formulas aren’t the key.
However, isn’t that what we’re all looking for; the formula that will fix us and make us better in every arena? We know what we don’t like about our personalities: We don’t like having a short fuse. We hate when our anger spills over and pollutes relationships. We don’t enjoy being negative. We loathe our impatience. We detest our jealousy and envy. We are tired of feeling frustrated at every turn.
Consequently, we resolve to become better Christians, because we think that will manifest in the personality changes we want. Of course, the formula for becoming a better Christian always seems to begin with an enhanced quiet time, or a deeper Bible study, or taking on more of a role in church leadership. As we do one or more of those things, we will grow spiritually and when we grow spiritually, we will become the better Christian that we resolved to become, and our personality will reflect the change.
Part of that is true – as we grow spiritually, we will change – however, and I’m sorry to say, there is no formula for spiritual change. There are no spiritual diets or formulaic disciplines sufficient to bring about the change we want. True spiritual growth comes from within.
If we want to change the manifestation of who we are – our attitudes, actions, personality – the outward revelation of what flows from within our hearts, then our hearts must change (Matthew 15:17-20). We cannot change our lives for good, until our hearts are changed for good, and we can’t change our hearts from the outside in. Only God can change the heart and he does it from the inside through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
To know God in an intimate way, close enough that he is able to produce heart-change, means that we must be in a completely open, honest, authentic, and transparent relationship with him. This is not a formula; this is being in God’s presence, wholly yielded to what he wants to do and say.
When we learn what it is like to yield to God, rather than dictate to him, we will find that we are being formed by him into the person he would have us be, rather than feverishly trying to conform ourselves into the image that we think we should be. In other words, we must learn to be pliable clay in the Master’s hands (Isaiah 64:8).
This yieldedness is not a one-time event, it is not a program, it is not a formula – it is a life of gradual change accomplished through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. That does not mean we are off the hook, and must simply sit back and let God do all the work to change us. No, we must avail ourselves of every grace that he has given.
As we choose to participate in life change with God, through prayer, Bible study, serving others, spending time with other Christians, sharing our lives, struggles, temptations, victories and sorrows as they share theirs, and as we worship together, we will experience the transformation that we desire. God will change our character and personality as we deliberately choose to spend time with him, completely yielded to him.
We must choose not to conform to the way the world does things, but be open to the way God would have us do things. (Romans 12:1-2) Everything in life is a choice and every choice we make either cooperates with God in our transformation into who he would have us be (being transformed into the image of Christ Jesus), or it works against God, solidifying who we currently are apart from him.
What is your resolution this year? Will you yield yourself to God so that he can transform you and make the changes you so desperately desire?
“All our promises and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to accomplish them. When we come to the end of ourselves, not just mentally but completely, we are able to ‘receive the Holy Spirit.’ The idea is that of invasion.”
– Oswald Chambers
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