There is something exciting about the New Year! New year, fresh start, and a time of new beginnings! Many of us set New Year’s resolutions for things we want to accomplish for the upcoming year: get in shape, get a new job, build new relationships, and the list goes on. A New Year is exciting because hope springs eternal! Tragically though researchers have found that 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Hope always springs, but usually reality sets in. We just can’t change.
Depressed yet? I’m not trying to discourage you – entirely. The goal of New Year’s resolutions is to bring change, which I want for you. I am trying to discourage you from bringing change through a failed method – the way of the New Year’s resolution. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect different results. In order to see lasting change in our lives we need a new approach to change.
Before I share the new approach, I want to share the reason New Year’s resolutions typically fail. The reason they fail is because at the heart of the resolution is a trust in self. We are resolving with our great commitment, self-effort, and fortitude to do or be different. Even though we have tried in the past to lose those 15 pounds or read our Bible every day and have failed, we think this time will be different. This time we will be more committed, get rid of negative influences that hinder us, and nothing will stand in our way!
The children of Israel tried that once. Shortly after Moses led them out of Egypt, he brought them to Mount Sinai where God began to speak to them. This relationship with a living God speaking directly to them freaked them out so they told Moses, “Go talk to God for us and find out what He wants, and we’ll do it.” God called them to a relationship and instead they wanted a bunch of rules to live by. Exodus 24:3-8 records the confirming of the covenant God made with Israel on Mount Sinai. It was a covenant based on performance that said when the children of Israel did good, God would bless them, and when they did bad, they would be cursed.
So how did that work out? Failure. Why? Because the children of Israel couldn’t keep the law. Why was that? Because the heart of the law is about self-effort. It’s about trusting in self. It’s about being resolved to do good in human strength. As we study the biblical account of Israel we find they never could keep the law consistently. Sure, there were times they did good for a short season, but for 2,000 years from Moses to Jesus their history could be summed up with one pattern: commit to God, fail and sin, experience shame and run from God, God’s judgment would come, Israel would cry out for mercy and God would deliver them, and then they would re-commit. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I can almost see them digging in their heals and getting their resolve up and saying, “This time will be different!” But that’s not what happened. As we study it out, we find the longer the children of Israel stayed under the law, the less godly they became. More law, more failure!
1 Corinthians 15:56 says the strength of sin is the law. This doesn’t say the strength of sin is the flesh or lack of commitment. It says the strength of sin is the law which is rooted in self-effort. Trying hard empowers failure. So what is the new and better way? Hebrews 8 tells of the better way. In this way, God made a and better covenant based on Jesus’s performance and not ours. We get in on the covenant simply by and believing and not by striving. In this covenant God puts His spirit inside us and transforms us from the inside out. Sound too good to be true? That’s literally what gospel means. Almost too good to be true news!
This year, I want to encourage you not to be resolved. Spend time with God and allow him to change you by his grace. The spirit of God can flow more freely where there is less resolve because great resolve brings great tension. Anything that is tense restricts movement including that of the Holy Spirit. I really believe as I’m writing this that the Lord is telling folks there is life in relationship with Him. There will be life and supernatural ability to change as we learn to relax with God!
Happy New Year! Enjoy a year living in His ability and not your own! It’s gonna be amazing!
If you would like to learn more about growth in the Kingdom of God, check out this message I taught at Grace Life Church.