The ad in my email reads “New Year, New You! Everything you need to start the year off right!” Pictured below are a pair of name brand running shoes, a gps watch, and a can of V8.
My email, my twitter, my radio all blasting me with the message that it’s time to hit the restart button; to lay aside all my faults and failings and pick up the “new me”. A new pair of running shoes, a new list of books to read, a new diet, a new gym membership, a new goal; more rest, more yoga, more spinach, more adventure; less gossip, less sugar, less tv… all promising me a NEW self in the coming year. It sounds exciting! But what happens 6 weeks down the road when I only ran twice, pulled my hamstring in the yoga class I tried once, didn’t pick up that book I was supposed to read, and ate too much sugar during the super bowl party? I feel defeated and I settle back into the “old” self, laying aside the hope of New Year – New You until late December rolls around again.
Don’t get me wrong, I love New Years resolutions, and I love the heart behind all the goals of healthy eating, peaceful living, and bigger dreaming! But when it comes to reality and I find myself sitting with a girlfriend trying to encourage her when all her resolutions have failed, what am I to say? We have a distorted view on how to go about the process. We want a new self, but we think that somehow our old self can create it. We look to external things to make an internal shift, and in the long run we always come up short.
A few years back God started teaching me a lesson on self-control. I loved vanilla lattes and I loved pepsi freezes, but I realized I spent a lot of wasted calories, and probably more money than was justifiable, on both. So I set out to limit my intake to just once a week (a reasonable resolution, or so I thought). It wasn’t very long before I had failed miserably! I couldn’t resist the urge to stop at the place with the lovely green lady, and I didn’t resist that temptation of a refreshingly cool freeze that I so often “deserved” after my hard workout session. I justified my way right out of the resolution I had so willingly set for myself. The problem was that I possessed very little self-control, if any at all. The more I fought the internal battle, the more I lost. Galatians 5 says that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If I loved Jesus and I was supposed to possess the fruit of the Spirit then why did I find myself in lack? I was looking to external behavior to make my internal shift. I was a broken person trying to fix broken behavior.
But God was pleading with me to surrender my self-control and allow myself to become spirit-controlled. Only then would the fruit of self-control begin to show its face. He was revealing to me my utter inability to do anything sustainable on my own, yet graciously reminding me that I have the absolute power of the Holy Spirit living inside me to accomplish all things. It was about learning to rely on Him and not on myself. It was about learning that nothing I crave could ever satisfy me more than He could. So I started bringing Him into the battle. Every time I drove home from practice and the craving would hit, I would ask Him whether I should stop or not. And you know what? He answered. There would be a gentle prodding to just keep driving, and when I listened, I felt peace. I felt strengthened. It was about learning to trust that He is good, and what He calls of me is for good. The answer He gave me was most often no, but every once in a while I would get the go ahead nudge and it made the experience so much more enjoyable, because I knew He was with me. I was learning to be filled with the Spirit on all occasions at all times of the day. And for the first time the fruit of self-control started to blossom.
Truth is, new years resolutions have gospel written all over them! Embedded deep within every person is the desire to become something new. Our resolutions to be restored to health, to take care of our bodies, to spend more time with family, to love deeper, to gain wisdom and knowledge, to exercise peace, patience, and self-control, scream out the gospel truth that we are broken trying to be made whole. But these resolutions were never and can never be accomplished on our own. Because in reality it is not really about the resolution, it’s about the change. Only He provides the ability to fulfill the true desire rooted deep in our soul, the longing to be made completely new. I am reminded of the passage in 1 Corinthians where Paul tells us that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, the old has passed, and the new has come! Did you hear that? The new has come for those who are IN CHRIST. Let’s remember that truth as we make those New Years resolutions! Let’s use them this year as a way of learning to be filled with the Spirit. It’s not about the external; it’s about the internal. It’s not about the temporary fixes we can make, but about the eternal shift that occurs when you know and trust the Creator. So let’s make those resolutions, let’s let the old self disappear, let’s be made into the people we know we were created to be. Let’s look forward to New Year – New You!