'Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.' (Hebrews 12:12)
Got any New Year's resolutions?
It is the inevitable question that comes our way at this time of year. I am not greatly into making new resolutions in January, but certainly a helpful aspect of this question is that it assumes a need for change.
Yet where the world might tell us we need to change our appearance, our grades, how accepted we are by our peers; as Christians we are not to look sideways to those around us for the answers. We are to lift our eyes upwards to Jesus. For it is into ‘his image’ that we are 'being transformed’ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
It is only once we have gazed on the beauty of Christ that we can then begin to glimpse inwards, contemplating the areas of our own lives needing changed.
Seeing the beauty of the masterpiece on which we are being modelled inspires us and guides us as we seek after the ‘renewal of our minds’ (Romans 12:1) and hearts.
As we start to examine ourselves, we must not feel condemned by either the magnitude of the task in having ‘the same mindset as Christ Jesus’ (Phillipians 2:5) or our own disqualifications to complete it.
For the liberating truth is that we do not bring about any change ourselves.
In Philippians we are told that ‘he who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus' (Phil 1:6). Jesus gave us our faith and he will continue to perfect it, through the work of the Spirit. He is the pioneer, author, and therefore master crafter and perfecter of the change He wishes to bring about in us.
And yet we cannot sit back and just passively wait for the Spirit to work miracles. We have to actually run the race set before us, actively making our way towards the finish line. Paul recognises this and exhorts us to ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ (Phil 2:12).
Yet, maybe like me, at times there seem to be too many changes that need to be made.
Confusion can set in when thoughts like, ‘should I seek to cultivate more of Jesus ’servant heartedness, or more of his joy’, hang mid-air. All of a sudden worry becomes a greater reality than either servant heartedness or joy.
At times like these, I have often heard the still, quiet voice of God reminding me that it is Jesus who is the author and perfecter of my faith, not me. He knows every twist and turn of the race course ahead of me and in his wisdom and love, he will use each circumstance I face to make me more pure in heart; if I let him.
That brings me so much comfort. I do not need to action plan my sanctification. Instead I need to wait on the Lord and ask Him what He wants to teach me through this coming season. I need to give myself into his hands and say, come, have your way in me. And then I need to trust.
For the sobering reality is that the race we run will not be easy. Jesus himself says ‘whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me’ (Luke 9:23). There will be times of suffering and hardship on the course ahead; putting sin to death and lavishing love is not easy.
And yet the means by which we are to keep going when it gets tough is to remain focused on the one who has gone through it all before us: it is to remember that He overcame the consequences of sin with love; it is to hear His words of encouragement as he continues to run by our side; it is by remembering that our lives are in the hands of ‘God who is love’ (1 John 4:8) that we will be able to keep going.
So take some time at the start of this new year to ask Jesus about the changes He wishes to bring in your life. Perhaps put on the More Precious Soul Detox playlist in the background, and create that restful, quiet place. Gaze on his loving kindness and ask for His wisdom and guidance.
Are there any habits or attitudes which come to mind that need stripped off? If so, how might you go about practically taking steps towards doing this?
Or perhaps God will not reveal these things up front, but will do so over time, gently, and is simply waiting for you to invite him to do his work.
And then keep running, trusting that you are both following and being encouraged by your number one fan.