How are your New Year’s resolutions coming? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Do you know why so many New Year's resolutions fail? And why it’s so much easier to form a bad habit than a good one? The problem is we often try to change in our own strength, and contrary to popular opinion, the power of you is not that powerful. Good habits take discipline we often lack on our own.
The catalyst for real change is the work of the Holy Spirit. We can't reach deep into ourselves for lasting transformation. Trust me; I've tried. But we can turn to Christ. And when we do, the avalanche of strength backing any godly expedition is enough to keep even the weakest Christian moving in the right direction.
We Need Jesus for Godliness
Jesus didn't beat around the bush about the urgency with which we need Him. In John 15:5, He gets straight to the point: "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."
Jesus doesn't mean we're vegetables, unable to move a finger without His assistance. We can do lots of things without Jesus, which is the scary part. We can conquer the day. We can cross items off our list. We can work and make money and pursue dreams and raise kids. We can play sports and vacation and watch television. (The list is long, isn’t it?)
We can even sin and wander down wrong paths. We can mess up our lives and struggle with bitterness and envy and lack of hope and depression—all without Jesus. We can deflate our husbands and yell at our kids. We can succumb to the devil's lies and beat ourselves up. Apart from Christ, we can bring glory to ourselves and find continuous dead ends no matter where we seek satisfaction.
Sounds thrilling. (Please read with sarcasm.) But here's what we can't do without Jesus: live holy, kingdom-building, satisfying, eternal purpose-filled lives. It's just not possible. We can try, but we won't succeed. Neither can we love our spouses the way God intends or raise our kids to love the Lord or experience joy in difficult circumstances or walk forward in peace or not get mad when the grocery store limits us to only two packs of bacon. (Trust me. I have experience.)
We can try for patience apart from Jesus, but we'll fail because patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Along with other vital qualities such as self-control, kindness, gentleness, and faithfulness. The bottom line is this: we need God to exhibit Godly characteristics on any consistent basis. Our flesh will get the best of us without the help of the Spirit.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal. 5:17)
Did you catch that? Our flesh keeps us from doing the very things we want to do.
Real Change Takes Root in Christ
We understand this, but somehow we still try to achieve godliness in our flesh, apart from God. But it's impossible to foster our best selves without the Lord. Pursuing a better version of ourselves without Jesus is like trying to make apple pie without apples.
Whether your goal is to eat healthier or stress less or exercise more or love your people or read the Bible, you need the Lord if you want to succeed. Do you know the hymn "I Need Thee Every Hour"? Its lyrics could be the anthem for genuine change. When we pursue the Lord, He helps us pursue the right things.
Only Christ has the power to offer a complete internal makeover. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17). It's in Christ alone that we gain the ability to put off the old self and walk in the new, "which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" (Col. 3:10). God Himself is doing the hard internal work we can't do on our own, but we won't experience it until we learn to need Jesus in all things:
- To give us godly desires and not be overcome by the wrong desires.
- To develop habits of righteousness.
- To withstand temptation and not be led astray by the devil's cunning schemes.
- To live a life pleasing to God.
God's Word Is Essential
How do you get more of Jesus? You spend time in God's Word. Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14). You cannot know Christ apart from knowing His Word, and you cannot follow Christ apart from following God's Word. If you set Scripture aside, then you set aside Jesus.
The devil works hard at deceiving us into thinking there is little power in God's Word. He knows firsthand the power and strength of God's eternal words, so let's not fall for his notorious strategies. Above all things, the Bible is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12). The writer of Psalm 119 knew the power of God's Word, declaring in verse 92, "If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction."
God's Word is our lifeline.
Many New Year's resolutions fail because we seek to achieve them apart from Christ, nestling our hope in our own ideas instead of commissioning our minds with Scripture.
So this year, how about trying a different approach? Put God first by making His Word your priority. I've never met anyone who regrets spending time with Jesus, but I know many who live in constant regret for their lackluster regard for the Lord. An excellent place to start is praying and seeking His strength and counsel—God never intended that we live life without Him.
Real change begins with God's Word. There is no better use of your time than meditating on Scripture. It may sound redundant, but pursuing your relationship with the Lord through time in His Word is always the right path, no matter the goal.
Do yourself a favor this year and seek Jesus through His Word. I promise you won't regret it.