For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4
Tomorrow people will welcome 2019 with much fanfare. The allure of a fresh start has us believing the next 365 days will be our “best year yet.” Many of us set New Year’s resolutions. Whether it be waking up earlier, going to the gym more often, becoming financial responsible, we hope these goals will spark a positive change in our lives. We start off with all the best intentions, but the odds that new habits form over the long haul aren’t in our favor. Most statistics say 80% of us won’t even make it to the second week in February before we give up on all that transformation talk.
The problem with resolutions and promises lies in their "all or nothing" belief system. It's either perfection or utter failure. One either fixes everything entirely, or they've dropped the ball completely. The pressure this places on our shoulders is often too much to bear. We usually respond by settling for the status quo or relying solely on our strength and will-power to produce the change we desire.
When this occurs, a vicious cycle begins to spin out of control. The reliance on ourselves never produces the change we hope for, which in turn amps up our disappointment and frustration. We reason that we just didn't work hard enough this time, so we try and try again, with even more determination. We pull up our bootstraps and exert extra effort, only to inevitably find ourselves coming face-to-face with futility. Rinse and repeat.
Here's the hard truth: no matter how strong we make it, our flesh is still weak. If it were capable of transforming our heart and altering our character, there would be no need for Jesus. We could've saved ourselves. Our spirit (in Christ) is willing, ready and prepared for God’s will and God’s ways. But, even though our spirit is willing, our flesh is weak.
The flesh can’t be trusted but instead must be trained and brought into submission to the truth of our willing spirit. What are we teaching our flesh to do? TRUST. We need to prepare our flesh to trust. Before we can submit our will to His, we must believe what we've received in Christ.
Our hope for change begins by thinking process over perfection and promises. Rather than promising to commit, we commit to depend. To watch is to fix our eyes on what is true about ourselves and the hope that Christ provides. Keeping in step with the Holy Spirit helps in our tendency to try harder and go ahead without Him. The body must be trained to do what the mind says. We buffet our bodies and make them our slaves so that our bodies are servants instead of masters.
Where are you relying solely on your willpower and strength to bring about change in your life? What is fueling this approach?
God, change only comes when I stay in step with Your spirit. Rather than rush, may I rest, reflect, and then respond today. Help me to transform my mind and sharpen my focus so I can walk with You in obedience. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.