New Year, Same Old Me

January 5, 2022
Personal Growth

There's a practice we do at home every New Year's Eve. We'd clean every nook and cranny of the house and then take a good long shower, washing away the dirt from every nook and cranny of our bodies. It somehow represented the hope that we'd leave behind all the mental and emotional dirt of the current year and go into the new year feeling (and hopefully, acting) like a new person inside and out.

And yet a hundred percent of the time, we find that illusion shattered within a few days, or sometimes, even a few hours into the new year. Sometimes the last few fireworks have barely been released before we get impatient and burst out in anger at a loved one. We could be scrolling through our social media just past midnight and have envious and jealous thoughts over other people's lives. We could have overwhelming emotions that lead to bad decisions during New Year's celebrations–wild partying, lustful pleasures, and drunkenness.

We can face the ugly realization that, yes, it's a new year, but it seems to be the same old me. Nothing has changed. And we find that Paul's struggle can be so relatable at this point when we badly want to turn over a new leaf.

"I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate... I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway." (Romans 7:15,19, NLT)

‍If we want to move forward and experience real change, what are some truths we need to embrace and live out?

1. New Year’s resolutions are helpless in changing our behavior.

You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as,  “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. (Colossians 2:20-23)

If you still believe that New Year's resolutions can help you overcome your issues, it's time to embrace the hard truth that they can't. Neither can praying more or reading the Bible more truly help us, if they are merely checklists to us. Neither can watching fewer popular TV shows, listening to fewer KPop music, or reading fewer comic books change us, if they are merely rules to us.

Something greater and deeper needs to happen that can help us conquer our evil desires.

2. Change can happen because Christ has overcome sin and death with His death and resurrection.

We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:9-11)

What could be great enough to help us conquer our evil desires? News flash: it's not any man-made rule. None of society's expectations on us or our self-imposed, rigid rules can take away our tendency to run after pleasure, comfort, approval, and power. These are pursuits that we tend to give our energies to, sometimes at the expense of our own health or our relationships. These are the idols that we devote our lives to, and unless we find a higher devotion, we can never break free from their hold.

God delights for us to be reconciled to Him, to live in harmony with Him and with others, for all eternity. But unless we break free from the hold of the idols of our lives, this harmonious relationship with God and His people can't happen. What a dilemma we are in! Thank God then that the answer is in our Lord Jesus Christ. When we submit ourselves to Him and trust in what He has done to save us, we will have the power to change.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 8:1-2, NLT)

3. Change happens, not with the New Year, but with a new spirit, heart, and mind.

How does this power to change happen? We have the power to change as we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (Romans 8:12-14, NLT)

Faced with any situation, we have the choice to be led by the Holy Spirit or by our sinful nature. That means, our decisions are influenced by our ultimate devotion.

When we choose to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ and devote our lives to Him by knowing Him through the Word of God, we will find that our priorities and values change. When we allow Him to search our hearts through His word and surrender to Him any sinful desire, we start to see the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships with others.

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 5:22-25, NLT)

If you're like me, a few days into the new year, and still being haunted by past issues, take heart. Every single day, in fact every moment, is an opportunity for change and growth as we abide in Christ, allow the word of God to illuminate our hearts, and choose to be led by the Holy Spirit.

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