New Year, New You

Today is the first day of the New Year, 2023. For billions of people around the world, this day serves as an annual mulligan; a do-over for the things they wanted to change about themselves in the past year but failed to do so. This will finally be the year they lose weight, gain a better job, stop that unhealthy habit or mend that broken relationship. In addition to all that, people hope/pray that this year will be “better” than last year.

Wishing for a better new year was probably never more popular than at the end of 2020. The COVID pandemic had everyone believing 2021 just had to be better. And then, 2022 just had to be better than 2021. The problem is that whether it’s self-improvement or improvement in the world around them, people are often looking for change for the wrong reason. God wants you to change, but for His purpose and His glory.

God shared this desire through the prophet Ezekiel. He promised the wayward Israelites that He would change them to sanctify and glorify His great name. God explained how He would do it:

And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NIV)

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God does indeed give us a new heart and puts His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, in us. But this heart transplant is a lifelong process. Picture a piece of candy that has a soft center inside a hard shell. Your new heart has Christ at the center and God’s Spirit. But there is still plenty of stony exterior that He will change in you over time if you continue to surrender to Him. As we change, we reflect Jesus more and more and give glory to God. How does this work in practice?

  • If you want to lose weight, eat for the glory of God and not your own self-satisfaction.
  • If your goal is to exercise more, condition your body for the glory of God (not to impress others).
  • If you want a better-paying job, seek it with the intent of having more resources to share with others, giving glory to God.
  • If God doesn’t improve your circumstances, pray that you experience them with joy and peace no matter how difficult they are. That will bring glory to God.

If you haven’t accepted Christ into your life, I pray 2023 is the year that it happens. That you exchange that heart of solid stone for one with a fleshy center. If you have accepted Christ, I pray that this year you surrender more and more of that heart to Him, giving glory to Him and thereby receiving the lasting change you desire, the right way for the right reason.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Changes designed to impress others or please you are almost always temporary. The lasting, growing change you desire, only Jesus can bring about. I pray that this is the year you accept the change that lasts through eternity! Let today be the first day of the rest of your forever. Happy New Year!

— Pastor Jerry Bader

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