Two-stage Resolutions

The end of one year means the start of another - so it's time for New Year's Resolutions'. But if you are like me you have lost track of the number of times you have made them yet not kept them. Why is this? How can we make this better? And in this season when so much is already challenging us, how do we make good decisions for positive change so we're not just heaping more pressure on ourselves, or setting ourselves up to fail?

The short answer is that we are back to front - we are trying to do something new before we stop doing something old. Romans 12v2 says :"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." We are busy trying to transform our minds [and bodies?], but are still conforming to the pattern of the world! One needs to stop before the other can begin.

Take a typical example - going to the gym (when we can again!) or doing more regular exercise, and losing weight. By the way, did you know that 50% of gym memberships are taken out in the new year? Anyway, most people think it's a matter of stopping eating the pies and signing on the dotted line. But there is a key word in the verse above - "PATTERN".

The two things people normally do [stop eating & start paying or take those first exercise classes] are not patterns, but one-off actions. The stopping eating has to continue for long enough to be a pattern of behaviour and, more importantly as far as Romans 12v2 is concerned, the old pattern has to be understood, given due respect and then taken out by the root.

You see, the pattern is in the mind, not the stomach. It is a way of thinking filled with thoughts like  "the gym is too expensive" or "It's too cold to go out today" or "maybe next week" or "what does a couple of pounds matter" or "it's no good, I'll never be athletic again." This is what God wants us to be rid of and instead to have our minds renewed with his beliefs about our body - temple, created, in His image...

I hope you are going to make some new years resolutions that are a bit more serious than just dropping a belt hole or dress size, but the principle is the same. If you are wanting to start doing something new, as well as making the behaviour switch, you also have to understand the pattern of thinking that is associated with the old way of being. This pattern is often 'of this world' and somewhat different to what the Bible has to say on the topic. Try making two lists [the behaviour and the thinking behind it] and you'll see what I mean.

But if you do make two lists - be warned... It may emphasise just how far away your way of thinking is from God's. Don't worry, as most people are in the same position. So remember the most important bit of Romans 12v2: 'BE transformed...'. We are to BE transformed by God's Holy Spirit and not by our own guilt or our own effort. This is a journey and will take time - that's why we have a new year every year!

The Holy Spirit is sometimes called the 'Parakletos' - the 'Alongside Presence' of God. Whatever you are facing at the start of this year - and whatever decisions you are making about how to carry on through lockdown living, remember God is not standing at the finish line tapping his foot waiting for you to get a move on. He is walking alongside us as we journey, helping now and again, sometimes carrying, always encouraging! When we understand this, then we "will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will" for you (and others) this year of all years, in spite of all the chaos and restriction.

"Do not conform any longer 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 12v2



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