Still making resolutions?
Somewhere I remember reading that by the end of January 85% of people who made New Year’s resolutions will have already failed to keep them and thrown in the towel. I haven’t run the numbers on my own track record, but that sounds about right. The problem for most of us is that we keep such things pretty much to ourselves–try to make the Big Change in our own strength and resolve. Little wonder, then…
In Romans 12:2 Paul uses the Greek word metamorphoo (from which we get our English word “metamorphosis”) to suggest that lasting change in the life of a Christ follower doesn’t come so much from learning to do things in a new way as it does in becoming the kind of people who are that way. It’s what pastor and writer John Ortberg is getting at in a book a colleague shared with me this week: “The good news as Jesus preached it is that now it is possible for ordinary men and women to live in the presence and under the power of God… It is not about the minimal entrance requirements for getting into heaven when you die. It is about the glorious redemption of a human life–your life. It’s morphing time.” (From The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People.)
The suggestion, here, is that real spiritual transformation involves a process whereby we are transformed into the likeness and image of Jesus. We begin to think and act as Jesus would in response to what comes our way. It’s God’s doing in us, that change, but the Bible also makes it clear that we can inhibit the transforming work of God in us in so many ways. In Matthew 23 Jesus warned us of the danger of settling for a false kind of transformation. That happens when we:
- Demand obedience from others without practicing what we preach; burdening others with all kinds of rules for them to follow without helping to bear the burden.
- Do our spiritual duty in a way that makes sure others notice and honor us; taking pride in our knowledge or position.
- Follow the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit; dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s while neglecting justice, mercy and faithfulness.
- Become preoccupied with the appearance of spirituality on the outside while doing nothing to clean up our lives on the inside, thus becoming hypocritical.
Lots of ways we get set up for failure as opposed to humbling ourselves before a God who is absolutely committed to our success…
So maybe the whole resolutions thing is flawed at its core. Maybe the first step is less presumptuous and a great deal more humble. Maybe it starts with a simple prayer, like the one my friends who are serious about getting in on God’s transformation have found it necessary to begin with:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.