As Christians, we know we are called and empowered toward lives full of joy. How could we not be joyous, our King has risen and He has freed us from the power of sin and the grip of death! If we are honest, though, we may not always feel joyous....
With January 1st behind us, we’re still thinking about our New Year resolutions. People bought shiny new planners hoping that this will finally be the year they are punctual and organized. Vows were made never to touch “x” product again, whether it be chocolate, coffee, cigarettes, or the like. Daily Bible reading plans have begun.
However, each year sadly follows the same pattern. Those planners become dusty and shoved to the back of the desk drawer. “X” product gets picked up again. The Bible reading plan keeps getting put off.
We wait expectantly for January 1st, holding off change, assuming that when we wake up that morning we’re sprinkled with magic abilities to change. Sadly, many of us have discovered that there is nothing special about January 1st.
But there is something special about you, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus. You have the Holy Spirit living inside you, who gives you the ability to change daily (Romans 8:1-17).
Christians, we don’t need to wait for a new year in order to grow in our obedience to God. Instead of getting stuck in New Year Resolutions this year, let’s seek to change daily.
But first we must recognize why we need to change daily, how to change, and finally how to persevere in daily change.
Why We Need to Change Daily
First, God calls us to change.
Romans chapter three reminds us that every human on earth is a sinner (Romans 3:10, 23). We don’t simply make mistakes. We sin against the Holy God each day. We selfishly seek to steal his glory for ourselves, we harm other people made in his image, and we rebel against his law seeking to go our own way. And we don’t do this on occasion. We do this constantly. We’re not good people who occasionally misstep; we’re evil at heart (Jeremiah 17:9, Genesis 8:21, Psalm 51:5).
Thanks be to God that he didn’t leave us in this sin-stuck state:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
This is the glorious exchange: On the cross, Christ took the wrath we deserved and gave us his righteousness. Those who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised them from the dead, they are saved from condemnation for sin and are counted righteous in Christ before God (Romans 10:9-10).
Romans 8:29-30 reminds us that God has chosen us for the purpose of changing us into the likeness of Jesus, with the goal of one day glorifying us. This is his eternal plan: saving sin-filled man to fill them with the Holy Spirit, to conform them to Christ, and bring glory to his name.
Second, God commands us to change.
This doesn’t mean that we are now perfect as believers. We still sin, because we are still living in our flesh. But when we were saved God gave his Spirit, who enables us to live a life pleasing to God, and the desire to do so (Romans 8:1-11). We’re no longer slaves to sin but to righteousness.
After all Christ has done for us, we desire to live a life that brings glory to him! Although we continue to sin, our lives should be characterized with repentance and turning to obedience.
Not only that, but as believers, we’re called to take careful watch of how we walk. We are commanded to be obedient to God’s law as his children.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
We need to carefully watch how we live, striving to be obedient daily, rather than putting off our obedience until a special day of the year.
How to Cultivate Daily Change
God’s Spirit Works in You.
Change comes with both obedient action and dependence on the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:12-13). When we read God’s Word, he applies it to our hearts and convicts us of what sins we need to repent of. He promises to change our attitudes and renew our hearts with the Holy Spirit so that we desire to do what is righteous (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
Strive to obey in faith.
Ephesians 4:20-24 (ESV) outlines a pattern of change for us to follow:
But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
First, we put off sin, our old self.
For the person who lies, Paul writes that they must put off falsehood (v. 25). In this action, there must be a clear repenting of and putting away sin.
We need to confess how we have sinned against God and then fight against repeating such sin.
Second, we are to be renewed in our minds.
There needs to be a godly motive for putting off sin—a heart change—otherwise you are simply modifying your behaviors like a Pharisee.
For the person who lies, Paul says they need to realize that they are members of the body of Christ (v. 25), and that their lies will harm the entire body.
Thirdly, we are to put on godliness in place of our old self.
For the liar, this is simply telling the truth (v. 25).
What active obedience can you put in place of your sin? Could you replace complaining with thanksgiving? Or anger with kindness? Irritability with patience?
How to Persevere: Remembering Grace for the Daily Battle
We will not always succeed in the daily battle, but instead, will give way to sin. This is the point where the world usually gives up on their New Year resolutions.
But for you, a truly born-again soul, you have God’s grace and his Spirit. When you sin, God not only forgives you, but also gives you the grace to continue striving for change.
His grace doesn’t simply come at salvation, but continues for your entire race of the faith. Don’t lose heart, but let us proclaim with Paul, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV).
Let’s strive to be obedient to God every day, giving glory to Christ, all the while resting in the power of the Holy Spirit.