A brand new year stretches out before us and, characteristically, it’s at this time when people reassess where they are and think about setting new goals to make positive changes in their lives. I’m sure all of us could probably think of a few things we wished we’d done differently in 2014, and a few other things we would love to accomplish over the next twelve months.
But instead of just focusing on how to lose a few pounds, improve a strained relationship, or have little more productivity at work, I encourage you to take some time to think specifically about your relationship with the Lord. Though it’s common to reach the end of December with the fog and funk of regret permeating our thoughts, scripture reminds us that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be broken by the failures of yesterday nor should we rest on our accomplishments of today. (Phil 3:13-14)
But regardless of whether your 2014 was good or bad, God has something new planned for you in the months and years ahead. In Isaiah 43:18-19, He says
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!”
With that in mind here are a few tips on how to make that F.R.E.S.H. start a reality in 2015!
F – Forgive Your Failures
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:12
If asked you what you did wrong this year, you could probably name something pretty quickly. Some of us could recount the details of more than one thing we messed up long before 2014 even got rolling. Why is it that we tenaciously hold onto those kinds of things when believers are repeatedly told in scripture that our sins are forgiven and no longer held against us? And while I don’t want to encourage you to too easily excuse areas of disobedience that need to be brought in line with the teachings of scripture, the truth is that you’ll never be able to move forward as long as you keep looking backward. You will make mistakes and fall, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay down. God is ready to restore you and give you a new direction. So when you sin, acknowledge your failings to the Lord, accept His pardon, then forgive yourself and move on in faithfulness
R – Refocus your thinking
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Phil.4:8
All behavior begins with thought, so if we really want our actions to change, we have to begin by altering what goes on in our minds. That’s one of the main purposes of the Word of God. It shines a light on our thoughts and teaches us how to reorder our motivations and priorities in ways that are consistent with our new life in Christ. The Bible calls this practice “renewing your mind” (Rom. 12: 2) Consistently saturating your thoughts with His truth is the only way to see real and lasting change become a reality.
E – Establish the right goal
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 1 Cor. 2:2
As believers, most of us start out the new year filled with good intentions to do things like read the Bible every day, pray more diligently, and increase our church involvement. But, most of the time, we end up not following through with these commitments. Not because we don’t know these disciplines are important, but because we started by only focusing on WHAT we do, and not on WHY. When simply lengthening the time we spend in scripture reading or more fervent intercession becomes our main focus, we quickly tire and lose interest. It is imperative that we set as our focus the goal of knowing Christ. Once that is established, the spiritual disciplines of prayer and study become vehicles through which we then deepen our relationship with Him.
S – Seize every opportunity
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. – Ephesians 5:15-17
In a world filled with distractions, it’s easy to drop into the habit of putting off things until later, but the danger of that practice is that there are some things that once put off, won’t come around again. That’s why sin is so harmful. It’s more than a bad choice. It’s a diversion, and a misdirection from God’s purpose and an interruption to His plan for your life. Like a train that goes down the wrong track, sometimes returning to God’s best might not be possible. A commitment to godliness greatly increases your awareness of the opportunities that He sends, and gives you a single-mindedness that opens the door for you to know the Lord and walk in His will.
H – Hide in Him
Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. – Zechariah 4:6
I think the biggest mistake believers make is trying to make changes to our lives on our own. Oh sure, we can make a few external adjustments stick for a little while, but key to making long term/enduring alterations of true spiritual value is for them to grow from and be rooted in a love and true devotion for the Lord. Genuine transformation is a work of the Holy Spirit that begins with an encounter with Jesus. Without a changed heart as the starting point, our best efforts become only a flawed self-improvement plan that will never result in a real and enduring inner change.
So if we are to resolve anything in the year 2015, let it be for us to take the advice of the scripture and “set our hearts” and “minds on things above” (Col. 3:1-2) and “draw near to God.” (Heb. 10:22)