Perhaps you have once again made a decision – or if not an iron-clad decision – an effort at wishful thinking, to set a new goal for this new year, hoping for a new you – all well and good. In other words, now is the annual opportunity for you to think, feel and start anew. It could be an exercise program; it could be a new diet and eating more healthy; it could be a plan for a new career or to begin a new job. This month of January is a time both for reflection and personal inventory as it is for anticipation and embracing the opportunity.
Often it is the case with a New Year’s resolution that we are not able to follow through and continue with our January plan. That can be disappointing and can make us skeptical about the whole notion of making changes in our life. Most of it is coming to the realization that we can be our own worst enemy, and that failure to continue and complete our resolution does not rest with someone or something else. We will have to take ownership for our inability to follow through.
Perhaps you are full-steam ahead with a resolution that is already weeks old and are going to keep it going for the rest of the year and beyond. That is great. However, for many of us, the resolution will turn into dissolution and disillusion.
The struggle in all of this reminds me of what the apostle Paul experienced and shares with us about himself: “The good that I want to do, that I am not able to do; and the evil that I don’t want to do, that I find myself doing.” (Romans 7) And this is from a man who was once from the camp of the Pharisees of the Jews, but one who realized his inability to do what he should be doing and failure to do what he knew God wanted him to do.
As spiritual creatures, the struggle and challenge is not to be found only in the matter of New Year’s resolutions but rather in the daily warfare of fighting against the negative and evil urges that come from within and the desire to have God’s Good win over evil in our personal lives. Lest we be skeptical about making good resolutions, we should know that it is God and his power working within us that allows us to do the good and resist the evil. The same apostle would conclude this chapter by saying, “O wretched man that I am … who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“Repent and believe the good news” is the message that goes out in this time of personal resolutions. This is what Jesus preached in person, and still does through the messengers of his church. It is this message that draws people to follow him. There is an honesty with regard to our failures but also a hope and assurance for a new you – a change that happens from the inside out – a change of the heart.
Repentance and faith is the two-pronged message for real and abiding change in the hope of a new you. Learning to take ownership for our shortcomings and failures is a first step but then embracing the gift of God in making all things new – even you.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Thomas Petersen is the pastor at Shepherd of the Lake Church in Garrison.