ADRIAN, Mo. (BP) – January 1, 2014 is upon us. In what has become a tradition in our culture, many people will make a New Year's resolution in which they vow to make a significant change in their life for the coming year.
For some it will be to lose weight, to eat better, to work less, to work more, to fix a certain relationship, to … you get the picture.
Sadly, though, people start out with good intentions, but somewhere deep down, we forget that for better or for worse -- often for worse -- we tend to be creatures of habit. The resolution was made, but the resolve doesn't last. And suddenly our list becomes as void and outdated as all the ones we made before.
What we need is not another year of vowed resolutions that have failed; if we are in Christ, we need to live in the revolution that has already taken place in our hearts.
The on-line dictionary, dictionary.com, offers this definition for "resolution": the act of determining upon an action or course of action, method, or procedure, etc.
So, we make a decision and we're going to act on it. Maybe. We hope.
A "revolution," meanwhile, is this: a sudden, complete, or marked change in something.
The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." If we are in Christ -- meaning He is the object of our faith and devotion, and therefore the source of our salvation and life -- then we are new creations. The old life of sin and rebellion against God has passed; it is no more. Instead, we have new life.
This is Paul's way of saying what God already promised through Ezekiel: "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules" (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
God has accomplished all the work, and it is ours only if we trust in and follow Jesus -- an act which results in a personal revolution. Jesus changes us as His Spirit dwells within us. The question is: Will you walk in the newness of life according to the newness of your nature?
Go, pick up your Bible and read Colossians 3:1-17 where Paul gives us several characteristics of what it means to live as a new creation, framed in the language of "put to death" and "put on."
First, we must keep a proper mindset (3:1-4). Paul says to set our minds on the things above where Christ is and where our lives are hidden. This is a commitment to daily worship. We wake up each day and choose to let our minds focus on the things of God and let His will determine our actions. For some, you may need to wake up and have a morning devotion in the Bible and prayer over coffee. For others, you may need to wake up and listen to or sing some songs of praise. For others, you may need to write some Bible verses on sheets of paper and tape them to your ceiling or bedroom wall so they're the first thing you see in the morning, allowing your mind to meditate on those truths. Be creative as you think of your own strengths and weaknesses and do something to help you start your day with a proper mindset and hopefully keep it throughout the day.
Second, we must repent from our sins (3:5-11). Paul uses a very strong phrase: "Put to death what is earthly in you." He then lists various things such as sexual immorality, covetousness, anger and lying. The author of Hebrews calls sin a weight that clings closely or easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1). The point is that if we don't learn to master our sinful habits and tendencies, they will drag us down. The beauty is that we, as new creatures in Christ, do not have to be controlled and enslaved to our sin (read Romans 6). We overcome sin by praying to God for strength in the face of temptation, while fleeing from as many temptations as we can; by confessing to God when we fail, as well as to those we have sinned against as we seek their forgiveness, as well as to other faithful Christians we trust who can keep us accountable; and by staying constant in fellowship, the Word, prayer and praising God.
Third, we must pursue love, reconciliation and unity as brothers and sisters in Christ (3:12-15). Even among the church, some people seem to have the attitude, "I'll forgive you, but I don't have to like you and be your friend." If we truly have new hearts, it is time to stop acting like bitter, angry, selfish sinners who by our actions and attitudes seem to enjoy the company of Satan more than the company of Jesus. When we read Paul's words here (and what the Bible says plenty of places elsewhere), we see: compassion, kindness, humility, patience, forgiveness, love, harmony, peace, and thankfulness. If we took these ideas personally and seriously, the church would look a lot less like the world and a lot more like the Kingdom of God of which it is a part. When we die and stand in the presence of Jesus, the only thing that really is going to matter is relationship. Do we have a relationship with God through Jesus and His Spirit? And if so, do we have a relationship with others that reflects Christian unity
and love and that reflects Jesus' heart for the lost, poor and needy?
Fourth, we must worship God with other followers of Jesus (3:16-17). Individual worship is important, but there are far too many people who call themselves Christians who lock themselves away from regular fellowship with others in the gathering of the church. "I love Jesus, but I don't love the church," some seem to say either verbally or by attitude and action. Imagine telling a married man, "Man, I love you, but I just can't stand your wife." Jesus is the one who loves His bride, His church, enough that He voluntarily gave up His life by taking on all her faults and sins and giving her all His righteous perfection (Ephesians 5:22-33). You cannot at the same time love Jesus but not love His church. Corporate worship matters, greatly. According to Paul, this involves teaching the Word (the Bible) to each other, singing together and praying together with corporate unity. If you are not regularly worshiping with other followers of Jesus as a church body (Hebrews 10:24-25), and it's not due to issues of health
or some extreme burden beyond your control, then do away with your excuses and make the changes you need to make to be with others who love following Jesus.
Don't live in another year of failed resolutions. Instead, live a life that reflects the revolution God has given your heart and life.
Mike Bergman is pastor of First Baptist Church in Adrian, Mo., and a contributor to the SBC Voices website (www.sbcvoices.com) where this article first appeared.