New Year, New You?
It’s the first week of a new year. Many of us want to be better people in 2022 than we were last year. We make lists and promises to ourselves of what we will change.
But we probably remember times we’ve tried in the past and failed. We might feel a little discouraged or not very hopeful that this year will actually be better.
So what’s a person to DO? Just give up? NO! God is here to help us.
Note: This post will make the most sense to people who are already believers in Jesus. If you’re reading this and not yet a believer, you may find it confusing. But I hope you will read it with curiosity and consider the transforming power that is available to followers of Jesus. See here for more information about the purpose of life.
New Year, New You? Letting God be the driver of your life in 2022 season 2 Ep 1 – Blue Skies and Green Pastures with Paula Adams
What is sanctification?
Does God want us to grow and become more like Jesus? Yes. He saves us while we are still sinners, but he wants us to stop sinning and stop living like unbelievers. We are to become more and more like Jesus.
This lifelong process of being transformed and walking in newness of life (Romans 6) is called sanctification. We are justified (saved from our sins) when we believe in Jesus. And we are sanctified, or set apart for God, at that point, but we also continue to be sanctified until we are glorified.
We are not robots or victims, nor are we totally in control of our destiny. We are to cooperate with God in the sanctification process by living in obedience to Scripture, but this is only possible with faith.
Even if we like the way things are going right now, it’s pretty hard for humans to just stay the same forever. Due to the passage of time, our relationships with others, the aging process, and the need to survive, things are going to change. So we are either falling behind or we are moving forward, but we are not sitting still.
But mentally we can get stuck and the past two years have been very difficult for many of us. The pressures of the pandemic caused many to shift their faith to the government and experts instead of God. Now is the time to return to trusting God first.
How can God help you be better?
Here’s a simple list to get you started.
- Step one for changing is to prayerfully submit your will to God.
- Step two is to methodically and prayerfully study your Bible.
- Step three is to begin to make right choices regarding how you treat others and giving God the rightful place in your life.
- Step four is to pray daily that God’s will be done in your life and for Him to guide you to glorify Him by serving others.
- Step five is to be alert for opportunities that God puts in your path that require you to make a choice whether to obey or not.
- Repeat daily.
1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.Romans 12:1-2
Trials, Tests, and Temptations
Sanctification is related to what James says about faith and works. Our faith is proven by our works/obedience and it also is transformed by that obedience. Often the ‘obedience’ refers to continuing to believe God is in control rather than trying to handle things in our power.
- Trust and obey. Expect trials, tests of your faith, and temptations to increase as you seek to obey God. Difficulties don’t mean you’re doing something wrong. This is the way we are transformed. The process of obeying God in tough times makes our faith grow and makes us more like Jesus who obeyed even to the point of death on the cross. Read the Book of Hebrews for a list of people who obeyed in trials.
- Even Jesus was taken into the wilderness to be tested right after he was baptized! Note that it was Satan who tempted Jesus, not God. This had to happen so it could be true that Jesus understands what we mere humans go through.
- In my experience, if we don’t obey the first time, God often gives us another chance to get it right. If you failed to submit to a certain thing before, ask God for grace and strength to help you obey the next time. This might be loving difficult people, trusting God with our money, being honest, or anything that requires a lot of faith and self-control
- Remember that the trial brings the growth! God is worthy of your trust. He is able to carry you though it may be painful at the time.
Did my family want to go through a very difficult time last year when my husband was hospitalized with Covid? No, of course not. But our faith grew when we did not stop trusting God’s goodness and believing that no matter what happened, God is always right. Day by day we had to lean on Him and ask for prayers from friends and continue to believe that God was with us. It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely transforming.
Free to serve God
- Ask yourself if the reason you want change is to bring glory to God, or to yourself. As sinners saved by grace, our duty is now to glorify God with our lives. We are no longer slaves to the flesh, we now belong to God. The goal of our ‘change’ should be that our lives will reflect Jesus to others.
- Stop trying to change your life and, instead, make it your goal to surrender to God’s will and plans for your life. There is a big difference! When you try to fix yourself apart from God’s power, you will make mistakes.
- Learn what surrender means. If you have never considered this idea, it will take a little time to understand and begin to practice. Instead of being in charge, you are going to submit to God. Instead of reading self-help books, you are going to read the Bible and pray and ask for God to show you the way.
- Some people are about to click away from this page. Wait!
- Ask God for help when you are not sure what to do. Sometimes the answer will be wait.
- The Holy Spirit will help you as you yield to God’s will.
- Just to be clear, the Spirit always agrees with the Word!
- Knowing God’s word is the first and most important step and you cannot skip it and go straight to relying on the Spirit to guide you because then you will be easily deceived by the world and false teachers. Even people who know the Bible well need to continue to read it as the Spirit will continue to illuminate the Word and give you new insights.
What happens when you change your perspective from ‘working for God’ to ‘obeying God’? It’s pretty amazing really! If you imagine moving from the driver seat to the passenger seat, or even the back seat, and trusting God to drive the car of your life, you can get an idea of how he will carry you.
He might take you to places you never even thought of, or places you’d probably rather not go, but since you trust that He knows best, you go with Him. And as you move through good, bad, exciting, boring, mundane and unexpected days, God will TRANSFORM you when you keep obeying Him and acting in faith during trials and temptations.
When you obey God, you can’t help but become more like Jesus!
Here is a more concrete example. Say you wake up and are getting ready for your day. You say your prayer, “Please take my life and use it for your glory God”. Then you go outside and your neighbor is in his driveway and needs his car battery jumped. You’re in a hurry! What do you do? You might be tempted to tell him that you are in a hurry and can’t help. But what if you could consider this God’s plan and go help your neighbor? Why? Because you prayed for God’s will for your day and then this unexpected thing happened.
Trust that God has a plan even if means you are late to work. This is living by the Spirit. How does this line up with Scripture? Because we are to love our neighbor and treat them as we would want to be treated. This simple act of service could be part of a bigger plan! This neighbor might not be saved, and might know that you are a Christian. He needs to see your faith is real and that God is not just a backseat driver to your life. God gets the glory! And you get the transformation. 🙂
God’s got this!
There is no mysticism here. This is what the Bible teaches. God would not tell us to be transformed if it was not possible. But what many people miss is that we are not given the task of transforming ourselves, just the task of submitting and following. God acts when we stop trying to be in control. He gets the glory when we stop being selfish and start living a life of faith.
This SUBMISSION is so subtle, but it is the key to change! The hard part is laying down our own will.
It’s in the LETTING GO of trying to change ourselves through self-help or our own choice of good works and in the TRUSTING GOD and serving where he puts us that the Spirit will work. God doesn’t need our help. We need His!
Now you can get started on your goal to be a better person this year. Not just a better person, but a more Christ-like person! I hope you will wake up every day and say ‘Thank you God for saving me and for your grace and mercy. Please take control of me today and keep me in your will and make me who you want me to be so that I can bring glory to YOU!”