Grace for Your New Years Resolutions

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New Year's Resolutions: You either love them or you hate them. If your like me, at this time of year you are filled with past reflection and future hope.

You are looking over the past year and examining your life. "How have I grown spiritually this year?" or "Am I more like Jesus than I was a year ago?". These are great questions to ask. We need to constantly be examine our lives and seeing where we can grow and mature.

You are looking towards the future year as well. "What will this next year bring?" or "What areas of my life need to be changed?" or "What ways will I grow and what ways do I need to repent of sin?". Again, these are all great questions to ask and the end of the year brings these questions to to forefront of our minds. We form our resolutions and our hopes based off of the answers to those questions.

Tomorrow is 2013. You will begin to put those resolutions into practice. Filled with hope and excitement, I'm sure you will start off strong. You will hit the gym every day this week. You will read that book every single day. You will have great success for the first couple weeks. As we all know, starting something new is easy, but finishing is very difficult. We are all great at starting new years resolutions, but we are terrible at finishing them. Let me give you an example.  We all know that the busiest time of year at the gym is in January. Why? Because everyone is starting their resolution, but by the end of the month those resolutions wain and those new people disappear. Each and everyone of us has experienced personal failure like this. Why do we have such a hard time with follow through? Why is change so difficult for us?

I want to provide you with some encouragement to help give wind to the wings of your resolution. It is a simple truth, but I think understanding this will greatly aid us as we make changes to our lives. The simple truth is this:

Whether you succeed or fail in your resolutions, God's love for you does not change.

You see, even though we have put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Even though we believe that we are justified by faith and not by works, we still believe that we have to earn God's favor. So often, our twisted motivation for our New Years resolution is some hopeless attempt to make God love us. We think, "If I read my Bible more, then God will really love me" or "If I can start being a more loving spouse, then God will really care about me". So often we are trying to earn God's factor through our actions and through our New Years resolutions.

Here is the good news, God's love for you will not change depending on your behavior. Your standing before God has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to keep New Years resolutions! Your worth, your righteousness, and your hope is intricately tied to your union with Christ! As the Scripture says, "Even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). Even when we fail miserably, God's love for us doesn't change. God loved you at your worst. He loved you when you couldn't sink any lower, and his love towards you is just as extravagant whether you keep your New Years Resolution or not.

There is that dose of grace to help you in your New Years Resolution. Work hard and make sacrificial changes so that you can ben more like your Lord Jesus. Make those resolutions and do your best to keep them. However, even when we fail or fall short, God's grace enables us to get back up and try again. His merciful unconditional love for us empowers us for change.

What are your New Years resolutions? Have you had success in keeping them in the past? Why or why not? Share with us in the comments!

The Power for Change

There is a sea of self help books in the book store. They are out there telling us the 10 ways to change our life.  In fact, it seems that the whole self help industry has sky rocketed over my life time.  Pop Psychologists like Dr. Phil seem to be every where. On our televisions, on our radios, and in our books. What is it about the condition of our own hearts that makes this self-help industry so huge? In an age where tolerance and a "be who you are" worldview is so widely promoted, you'd think there wouldn't be a whole industry of self improvement. It is almost as if we know that there is something incredibly wrong with us and we scavenge around looking for the quickest way to lose weight or the easiest way to repair our marriage or the painless way to break free from addictions, all the while we remain incredibly frustrated in our own reality. We want to cover up who we are. We want to improve ourselves so that the world can't see how filthy we really are. We need help, but no amount of will power, self-esteem, or pop psychology will fix this.  We need something more… We need the Gospel.

The Bible in Ephesians 2:1 states that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are so consumed with ourselves that there is literally no life. We are nothing but a corpse. We are Lazarus rotting in the grave. The stench and foulness of our condition is gross and disgusting. We try to fix ourselves, but there is no life.  If we are successful in change, we replace our sin with another sin, normally an arrogant pride, or we stay miserably addicted to our sin. Within in ourselves there is no power for drastic heart transformational change. The only hope comes from the same power that raised Christ from the dead, the resurrecting and regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus died on the cross, he defeated the power sin has over us. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us at the moment of conversion, we are given a brand new heart. A heart in which sin has no power. Ezekiel talks about this incredible transformation called by theologians, regeneration.

 "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone 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 observe my ordinances." -Ezekiel 36:26-27

This miraculous heart change is a mystery to us. I do not pretend to fully understand it.  Jesus made it clear that "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit."

I do know this however, that the only hope and power for change comes from the gracious gift of God found in Jesus. When we place our hope and trust in Jesus for Salvation this miraculous event takes place in our hearts. If you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus, He is your hope for transformation and new life, not Dr. Phil. Trust in Jesus today. If you are a Christian, you are not dependent on pop-psychology, you are dependent on Jesus for the power and source of change as you work out your salvation, "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil 2:12-13).

As you begin to make your New Years Resolutions, be sure to trust in Jesus not yourself. You will fail, Jesus will not. However always remember, that even if you do fail, and lets be honest most of us will, your right standing with God isn't based on your performance, it is based on the blood of Jesus Christ. In Jesus you have a perfect righteousness credited to your account, therefore you have the freedom to fail, and that means the gift of 2nd chances, and 3rd chances, and 4th chances…