As we begin the new year it is good to reflect on the meaning and purpose of our life, considering our overall fulfillment and joy. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” An honest evaluation will most likely reveal that we could improve and grow in certain areas. Maybe some want to begin to lose weight, others may want to adjust their spending habits or be more disciplined with time management. Self improvement can be in many forms but can we really make those significant adjustments and will they last? Often a needed change is evident, the good intentions are sincere, but lasting change fails to be developed. What is the key to making positive changes a reality in our lives? Changes that take root and become ingrained as good, healthy habits both physically and mentally will transform an ordinary life into an extraordinary adventure filled with love and hope.
The journey of lasting change begins with the ability to discern between good and bad habits. The answers to “what is virtue” and “what is vice” lie in the writings of the Bible. For example a Proverb a day will help one become wise in what is virtuous. Without the Scriptures to guide us in this needed wisdom for life, we are left to pick and choose from what the world has to offer. God’s Word tells us that those who live their lives apart from God are “hopelessly confused” (Ephesians 4:17, NLT). To find the necessary changes that will bring eternal significance to our lives we need to read God’s truth to clear up any confusion on what is right and wrong about ourselves.
The Scriptures tell us our problem is far worse than we think. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). Here we are told we are sinners heading toward eternal hell and we are in need of a Savior. But we also find that the solution is far better than we could possibly hope, “to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). We find hope in God who has provided the answer for us in His Son who was sinless and came to die in our place. Believers gain eternal life by confessing their sin and placing their trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord of their lives. He loves us just where he finds us but he also loves us too much to leave us there. His plan is to change our lives for our good and His glory thereby becoming the people He created us to be.
Believers are called to make major adjustments in their lives. We are no longer to live the way we did before we knew our Savior. “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life which is corrupted by lust and deception….let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God, truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4: 21-24). Therefore, we are not simply to hear what the Word of God says but we are to obey it. If you call God “Lord” you signed up for change. So, when looking in the mirror of Scripture, if you see something in yourself that does not line up with God’s Word you need to deal with it.
Our first big issue is sin which has its roots in selfishness and a mindset that says, “it is all about me.” According to the Bible this is wrong and needs adjusted. Instead of thinking about ourselves first, we ought to focus on God and others. Loving God and our neighbor are the virtues we need to work towards and are also the two great commands of the Bible. Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Finally, we need to put our faith into action really doing the hard work which will bring the needed character change in our lives. Then we will reflect His glory as children of the King. “Those who engage in the struggle by God’s strength seek the extraordinary life!” says Pastor Jonathan Loerop of Cypress Wood Presbyterian Church. Major adjustments in life require faith and action. We cannot stay where we are and move forward with God. The key to making lasting changes in our lives is to trust and obey God. Obedience is costly but it is the only way to transforming change.
So after the Christmas presents are unwrapped and the holiday parties concluded begin the transformation by getting serious about your goal for the upcoming new year. Will that goal be to glorify God or self? I encourage you to spend time with your Bible all year getting to know the Lover of your soul. As you spend time with Him He will change you forever. Ask Him to open your eyes to the truth so you can learn to be like Him. There are many promises in the Bible for God’s children, one states “if you seek me with all your heart you will find me” (Jeremiah 29:13). Find Him and experience a truly joyful New Year.