“Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ… After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (Gal. 3:2-3, NET)
If you’re like me, you’ve been inundated by messages about how to start the new year out right. Many of us are telling ourselves, this year, I’m going to do it. I’m going to lose the weight. I’m going to take better care of myself. I’m going to work on my anger problem. I’m going to get more consistent taking my vitamins. I’m going to improve my skill set. I’m going to start working out. I’m going to be a more dedicated Christian. I’m going to adopt healthier eating habits. I’m going to be a more patient parent and a more loving spouse. I’m going to take the class. I’m going to better myself.
When 2017 was starting, what did you tell yourself? How about 2016? How has that been working for you?
Again, if you’re like me, you’ve no doubt run into a wall time and time again when it comes to “self-improvement.” The truth is, God never intended for you and me to better ourselves. He intended for us to let Him be in charge of the home improvement projects on His chosen habitation: you and me.
Look at the Galatians passage above. Holy Spirit is asking us a question. How did you get saved? Did you save yourself from hell? No? Well then, if you were utterly dependent on Me at the outset, dear child, what makes you think you can make it the rest of the way by pulling yourself up by your boot straps?
Human effort is so limited. Yes, God needs our will to be entirely submitted to His, in order to fully work His extraordinary transformation in our lives. However, our will is not the power source of said transformation. He is the power source. He is the Author and Finisher. He is the Initiator and Completer. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the One who will perfect the good work He began in you.
The philosophy of humanism, which directly contradicts this truth, is pervasive in our culture. The American Humanist Association (AHA) defines it as, “a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity”* (bold emphasis mine). In other words, it’s the belief that humans can perfect themselves, without God’s help. It makes men and women their own god. The AHA’s motto is “Good Without God.”
This message is one of the devil’s means of stealing from God’s children, to the degree that we let it subtly creep into our thinking. “If I can just pull it together in this area, God will be happy with me.” “If I just pray more fervently…” “If I just witness more faithfully to my coworkers…” “if I just try harder…”
No. God created us to be utterly, entirely dependent on Him for life… and breath… and growth… and transformation… and fruit bearing… and absolutely everything! Jesus became a human to model for us exactly how to do this. “So Jesus explained, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does’” (John 5:19, NLT, bold emphasis mine).
Here’s how it works: He initiates, you respond. He strengthens, you lean in. He flows, You channel. He moves, you yield. He leads, you follow. He empowers, you persevere.
So, about those New Years’ resolutions… Have you asked Him what’s on His heart for 2018?
Do you have any insights about making space for God’s process of change in your life? I’d love to hear about them below!