New Year- New You?

Dear Friends,

At this time of year, we can be bombarded with messages via magazines, newspapers, radio and TV telling us “New Year – New You”.  Giving promises of a whole new way of life if we will just follow the latest diet fad or buy a celebrity’s exercise DVD etc.  But when promises of change and trying to be different don’t work we become discouraged and loose hope.

 Today I’d like to give you encouragement and hope that change is possible – that there is a new life waiting for each of us if we are willing to embrace it.

14 Whatever we do, it is because Christ's love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now! 17 What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! 18 All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did.  2 Corinthians 5:14-18 (NLT)

God offers us the opportunity of a fresh start, one where the slate is wiped clean, where our mistakes and offences are forgiven and forgotten and we can begin again. 

We have been given a new life, and we have been given God’s Holy Spirit to enable us to live out the new life that is now ours.  The Holy Spirit does in us everything that Jesus has accomplished for us. The question is: am I, are you, willing to allow him to work in us?
 
Let’s look at some practical ideas to help us in living this new life:

1. Abiding in Christ

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.  2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)
 
Becoming like Christ, and living out this new life is a progressive experience.  The closer we follow him, the more we will be like him.  It is important to keep close to God, to abide in him and focus on what he wants for us.  Because he loves us he always wants the best for us.  He gently points out to us when there is something he wants us to work on – a wrong attitude, such as envy, or a certain behaviour, such as selfishness, that needs changing. 

 2. Attentive to God’s Word
 
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

To be transformed means to be changed at the deepest level.  It’s a continual process of having our mind renewed. God does this as we study and meditate on his Word.  We need to not just spend time in God's Word, but also take the time to listen to him while we do it. We need to also be open to obeying the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

 3. Accountable Friendships

When God has revealed to you a certain attitude or behaviour to work on then it can be helpful to share it with a close friend.  Someone who will encourage you to keep going when you feel like giving up.  Someone who will support you when it’s particularly tough.   Someone to point out when you’ve made a mistake but in such a way that you know it’s done out of love and because they want what God wants for you.  This kind of accountable friendship works both ways. 

Sometimes it can be helpful if both of you are working on the same thing.  At other times it’s helpful to build a relationship with someone else who is further along in the journey than you are, who understands what you’re going through and are more aware of the pitfalls or temptations.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a (NLT)

4. Avoid Triggers/Temptation

Don’t place yourself in situations where you know you will be tempted to go back to your old way of living.  For example, if God has spoken to you about your tendency to gossip, then don’t mix with people you know are likely to feed that habit – who listen to your gossip or encourage you to participate in gossip.  Instead, surround yourself with friends who don’t have that weakness, who use their words lovingly to build up one another.

5. Allow Time

There is many a time when I have been frustrated over my seemingly lack of progress or slow progress.  I wish I could change overnight, but that’s not usually how it works.  Mostly, change does take time, especially if we are dealing with a bad habit that we have unknowingly nurtured for years.  We need to be realistic about the time it will take.  It’s another reason why it’s so valuable to have a good friend who you can share with, because they can encourage when you feel discouraged and they are able to see things more objectively.

6. Achievable goals

Set goals that are achievable – be realistic in your goal setting.  If you set yourself a huge task then you are almost certain to fail even before you begin.  Use a set of smaller goals to fulfil the bigger goal. 
 
7. Keep an Account of Progress

It can be helpful to keep a journal as a practical reminder of what God has done and is doing in your life.  It’s a way of looking back over the past to see that you have progressed.  If you’re anything like me, then you may find it easier to remember when you’ve messed up or done something wrong, and you feel like you’re getting nowhere.  But having a written record can give a more accurate picture of the progress you’ve made.  You can also look back and see how God has been with you throughout and what he can accomplish when you allow him to have his way.

 

To Think About:
Which one of these seven points do you think God is asking you to focus on? 

Is there one you feel challenged over?  One that you feel deep within God is pointing out to you?  One that has stuck in your mind more than the others?  One that God has been prompting you on even before today?

What will you do about it?

Vicki

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