It’s difficult to believe that 2018 has come to an end. For many, the new year is a chance to start over. It’s a chance to start the new year fresh with a new version of yourself that is, in some way, better than last year’s version. Your plan might be resolving to shed off those holiday pounds (raises hand), read more books, pray more, give more to charity, or perhaps something as simple as a resolution to let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth (Ephesians 4:29).
I think most of us can remember making a similar resolution last year and the year before that. A few nights ago, my wife and I were joking about our inabilities to stick to diets. We laughed about a “juice fast” that we attempted last January in order to lose a few pounds and have healthier bodies. I believe that 30 day fast lasted about 30 minutes.
Whether it be personality-wise or physical appearance, most people have something that they want to change about themselves. However, the desire is always to change for the better, not worse. You never hear about someone making a new year’s resolution to generally be more hateful towards other people; or resolving to just let themselves go physically. No, our resolutions are usually an attempt to live a less-sinful life in the new year.
Although they may not admit it, even non-Christians borrow from the Biblical worldview to set moral goals to meet. (Hashtag that’s for another article.)
“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 36:26-27)
I think the failing point is that more often than not, we attempt to modify our behavior without addressing the real problem: our hearts. We can’t expect outward change without inner renewal. Because our thoughts and desires naturally drift towards lust and idolatry, this poses a problem. How do we achieve change if we’re unable to produce it on our own? Our only hope for true inward change is through the Father.
Paul wrote about this struggle in his letter to the Galatian church. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16-17) So the problem that we want to resolve this year is to not gratify the desires of the flesh. How do we do that? We walk by the Spirit by fervent prayer and meditating on God’s Word.
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (vv 18-21)
You might be thinking that this is a little heavy-handed to be talking about a New Year’s Resolution. That’s because what we’re calling a resolution, the Bible calls repentance. It’s the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. If we are led by the Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (vv 22-24)
To me, the fruits of the Spirit sound an awful lot like the things we’re resolving to produce this year. Instead of trying to produce this fruit on our own, lets resolve to be led by the Spirit and witness Him produce these things within us as we begin to desire what He desires. Witness your patience overcome your anger. Witness your kindness grow towards other people. Witness your body become healthier because of self-control. And most importantly, witness the overwhelming love and joy you find in Christ Jesus.