Looking back at the past year, I have much to be thankful for. I am truly blessed. But it’s a new year. It’s a chance to start fresh, have a new beginning, and to create new goals for the upcoming year. As much as I love setting goals (and checking them off… that part is my favorite!), God has placed something on my heart for the upcoming year that has nothing to do with tangible goals or resolutions. In fact, this newness He has placed on my heart is something that can’t be measured.
God longs to make all things new in my heart and in my life.
When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Bible tells us that we are transformed into a new creation. We are “born again” as children of God. But just because I have chosen to serve God, doesn’t mean that I won’t face temptation. I am imperfect to say the least. I still mess up. And I still have negative thoughts.
The process of being born again happens in an instant, but the process of growing up and becoming more like Jesus takes a lifetime.
And growing up in the Lord requires some effort on my part.
Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:24 (NLT)
Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. – Colossians 3:10 (NLT)
I should clarify a bit… the effort needed to grow in Christ is “putting on my new nature.” It’s not about trying harder to obey the rules. If rule-following is where I put all of my effort, sooner or later I will burn out. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Galatians:
How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? – Galatians 3:3 (NLT)
We are called to “be perfect” as God is perfect, and to mirror the actions of Christ in our day-to-day lives. (Matthew 5:48) But this perfection cannot be achieved by our own human effort. What leads to perfection is learning how to put on (and continually walk in) our new nature. In this way, we grow and become more like Jesus.
Our new nature is God-given. It’s His Holy Spirit living inside of us, guiding us as we live our daily lives.
Every day, we make the choice to live according to our new nature (guided by the Holy Spirit) or to live by our old habits.
So how do we “live by the Spirit”? I think I’ll let the apostle Paul answer this one:
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. – Galatians 5:19-25 (NLT)
The fruit we are producing will give us a clear indication as to which “nature” we are choosing to follow – the old sinful nature or the our new God-given nature. Only God can produce godly fruit in our lives, so it will be by our fruit that the world will know that we belong to Him.
We are called to make every effort to put on our new nature, to walk in it, and to produce godly fruit. This is more than a simple new year’s resolution. It’s a “resolution” for the Christian life.
He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. – Psalm 40:3 (NLT)