Matthew 26:41 -- Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
January the month of the resolutions. It's the month of do-overs. We resolve to go on a diet and lose 20 pounds. We resolve to be more organized, spend more time reading our Bibles, watch less TV, spend more time with our families, be kinder to people, do more for charity, etc. Each of us has things in our life we want to change and we have the best of intentions . . . for about a week or two and then we fall back into our old patterns. February rolls around and we realize we haven't made any progress toward our goal.
Then there will be that one person who makes it. You run into him about March and you notice that something is different about him. Something about this person has changed. If you are not afraid to ask, the person might share with you what he has been doing and how he did it. More than likely, it could all be summed up that he started saying "no" to something and "yes" to something better.
Titus 2:11-12 NIV -- For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
As Christians, the biggest change we ever made in our lives came when we asked Jesus to be the Lord and Savior of our lives. When we said "yes" to Christ, we had to start saying "no" to our old ways, and it wasn't always easy. The more we learn about Jesus and the closer we are to Him, the easier it becomes. I've said before in other articles that unsaved people have their thinking about salvation turned around the wrong way. They think they have to clean up every aspect of their life before they come to Jesus, when He just wants to come to them with a willing, repentant heart. He will take things from there and do the transforming work.
When I was in a preschool mothers group at a local church, a woman shared with us the story of her husband's salvation. For years she went to church without him, but prayed for God to save him. He started going to church with her occasionally and then more regularly, and he did get saved. However, he loved hard rock and heavy metal music, which has some pretty bad language and concepts in the lyrics. He had a huge collection and listened to it all the time. He told her when he got saved that he wasn't going to give that up. She told him not to worry about it, because she knew that God would take care of it. He continued to listen to his music at home and in the car, and he continued to go to church. Gradually, over time he spent less time listening to his much loved music. One day she had to drive his vehicle for some reason. She turned on the radio expecting to hear rock and roll, but found that the dial was set on a Christian music station. You can imagine the smile on her face, knowing that indeed God had done the work that needed to be done.
My favorite part about the above scripture from Titus 2 is that is says God's grace teaches us how to live "godly lives in this present age." Some might say that the people who lived in the days when Titus wrote this don't face the same challenges and adversity that we do today in 2015, but certainly we face the same enemy with the same agenda. Each generation has its own demons, but the power of God is greater than any of them. Hebrews 13:8 says: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." We see that year after year, the morality of this world gets worse, but we have to remember that where sin abounds, grace abounds even more (Romans 5:20).
2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV -- For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
This scripture in the NIV reads "power, love and self-discipline". Change requires self-discipline and self-control. I think where the struggle comes is with that word "self". We think that because it takes self-control, then it has to come from our own self, our own strength within ourselves. However, the ability to have self-discipline comes from the Spirit of God. Galatians 5:22-23 says: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Self-control is produced through the Spirit of God working in our lives. If we need to have more self-control over something in our lives, we can remind ourselves that we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
If we really want to make changes in our lives, then we have to do things differently. As someone at church reminded us recently, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Change is hard, but you don't have to go through it alone. The Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak. We can only strengthen ourselves and win the battle against the flesh by growing in our spirit life. Galatians 6:8 cautions us: "For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."
James 1:14-15 -- But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Before you embark on a change or make a resolution, pray about it. What is your ultimate goal in making this change? Is it in the will of God? Ask God for guidance on the best way to accomplish this goal. You will need His strength and power to "just say no" to your flesh and everything else that will try to stand in the way, and you will need it to keep saying "yes" to the better life He has for you.