As 2022 comes to an end it’s time to think about what you want to bring into the new year and what you want to become. As a follower of Jesus, the end of one year and the beginning of another always reminds me of 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says…
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)
The condition of becoming new is immediate when you choose to follow Jesus, but the process of becoming new takes time because it involves our feelings and our mind. Many times, we don’t feel new, or we have trouble believing we are new because we struggle with the same behaviors and challenges as before we met Jesus. I get it!
The truth is we ARE a finished work IN process. The key is to continue to walk in the truth that you ARE new even you stumble. This is why the new year is such a great opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been and set a course for where you want to grow! I want to continue to grow in the fruit of the Spirit and become the person He wants me to be! I want to be bold, full of love, and holding out the Word of Truth. So, this is a great time to commit to walk in the freedom we have been given as a new creation and let go of anything that hinders our forward progress. So, what does that look like? For me, it means the following:
It means I commit to renewing my mind daily. Spending time every day in my Bible is THE essential element to freedom.
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”” (John 8:31–32, NKJV)
To abide means to stay, remain, reside. Listen, it’s the Word of God that changes our thinking and it’s our thinking that directs our emotions and actions. You must immerse yourself in the Word to find freedom and to grow. His Word is refreshing! And by the way it is the TRUTH. There is no such thing as my truth or your truth – that makes truth relative and suspectable to the winds of change. There is only THE truth which is the person of Jesus and His Word that never changes. You must decide for yourself if you believe it and Him. This year commit to reading it or listening to it daily. Let Him teach you the truth. Measure your thoughts against it and ask is this true? The more you deposit the seeds of truth in your heart and mind the more you will grow and change. Make it your daily habit to read or listen to it.
It means I commit to shaking off shame! When we commit to walking daily with Jesus and reading His Word, we might start to feel guilt over our past, the way we treated someone, a behavior we struggle with, or whatever… you fill in the blank. Guilt is a good thing as it simply means we recognize our sin or where we missed. Guilt motivates us change our mind and therefore our behavior. However, guilt can cross over to shame. Guilt and shame are very different. Guilt says I did something bad. Shame says I am bad. See the difference? One is a behavior the other an identity. As humans we tend to beat ourselves over our mistakes punishing ourselves mentally as we relive it over and over. This is counterproductive to freedom. Jesus paid the price for our sin. Our responsibility is to ADMIT it and TURN from it or REPENT. To repent means to acknowledge what you did was against God’s will for your life, ask for forgiveness and turn from it. When you mess up clean it up. If you hurt someone apologize. If you went too far acknowledge it. Be remorseful and honest. Own your behavior and commit to being better. Speak to God about what happened. Ask for His help. Our sin should drive us to a greater dependence on Him. Our sin should make us realize how much we need Him.
I want you to remember that shame is the devil’s tool to keep you stuck in the past. He loves to remind you of your sins. He sits eating his popcorn as he turns on the movie theater in your mind and laughs as you squirm. Don’t fall for it! Remember Jesus paid the price for your sins! He wants you to move forward. He forgives you and has an amazing plan for you. So, when you feel shame… stop and say out loud, “Thank you Jesus for forgiving me and making me new! I receive your forgiveness and I choose to walk in it so get behind me Satan!” Keep your eyes on Jesus and not your mistakes.
“They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed.” (Psalm 34:5, NKJV)
It means I choose Faith over Fear. 365 times the Bible tells us to FEAR NOT and yet today fear is rampant. I believe fear is the enemies most powerful weapon against humanity. Fear is poison to our soul. It keeps you from living your life. It separates you from people you love. It paralyzes you. I once saw an acronym for fear – false evidence appearing real. What do you think of that? Here is a great example for you to think about… Goliath appeared as an undefeatable giant. He was big, had scary weapons, and was threatening in his stature and speech. He was so scary that the entire army of Israel ran and hid when Goliath approached the battle line. But then David, a young man who loved and trusted God, recognized the giant as nothing more than a big blowhard. His faith in God allowed him to see the situation from a heavenly perspective. He knew God would give him the victory and so he bravely ran toward what others were running away from. He struck down that sword wielding giant with a slingshot! That day the nation of Israel realized fear was a liar! I want that kind of faith! Fearless faith. A faith that runs to the battle with the confidence that if God is for me who can stand against me! How do we get it? It’s built over time in relationship. David recounted his past when he had faced the lion and the bear. He recognized God had given him the victory over both. Simply put he recognized God’s work in his life training him for battle and he let that build his faith.
Faith is built in our lives the same way. We recognize God’s work, and we remember. I like to journal. I wish I was better at it. But I do try to record the situations I struggle with and how they worked out. I am constantly looking to see how God is working and when I see it, I write it down. Recording what He has done builds your faith. It encourages you when you are tempted to fall into fear. It reminds you God has a plan. It also demonstrates that He is with you! He loves you. He cares about what happens to you. What do I do when I feel fearful. I talk to Him. I choose to trust Him over what I see and feel. I CHOOSE to believe Him and not that false evidence appearing real. Ask God to show you what He has done in your life. Remember it. Write it down. Tell others about it and in doing so you will grow in your faith!
“Do not be afraid; only believe.”” (Mark 5:36b, NKJV)
Finally, it means I choose love. I don’t mean light, fluffy, easy love. Nope, I mean in the trenches, hard work, honest, love. Today’s definition of love seems to encompass this permissive, look the other way, mind your business type of love. That is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the type of love that cares enough to get messy. As a mother, wife, and friend I want to have the agape love of 1 Corinthians 13 and the boldness of love from Ephesians 4:15.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–13, NKJV)
“…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—” (Ephesians 4:15, NKJV)
The more I read 1 Cor. 13, the more I come to realize this love is otherworldly. It is bold yet humble, strong but gentle, firm but kind. It seeks the good of others, the spiritual, eternal good. Friends, I believe we are coming to the end of the church age and Jesus will soon return for His Church. We live in a time of great deception and lies. People are without love for their fellow man and seeking their own interests. To choose love is counter cultural. Phrases like love wins or love is love are misleading. They reduce love to a live and let live mindset. Frankly that is not love. On the contrary. Love, true Godly love, seeks the spiritual good of others. Love rejoices with the TRUTH. Not your truth, but God’s truth. True love doesn’t stand idly by and let someone go to hell. Love steps in. We are called to share the truth in love. We are called to operate in love. Love leans in. And because love is long suffering, we keep leaning in. We don’t give up; we don’t give in, and we don’t walk away. I wish I had learned this when I was younger. I have lost friends because I did not lean in, I gave in, to fear, anger, pride. I have learned the hard way.
Here is what I commit to in the coming year, truth (Scriptural) bathed in love. I commit to having the difficult conversations that lead to a better understanding of where someone is coming from while pointing them to Jesus and His life changing Word. I commit to relentless prayer for those I love. I commit to speaking the truth of God’s love and forgiveness in love. I commit to listening. I commit to cleaning up my side of the mess in an argument. And speaking of… may I just say the phrase, “I’m sorry I hurt you” is extremely powerful. It allows a person to feel heard and not judged while opening the door for forgiveness and reconciliation. Try it. And do try it in person. Young people learn to talk not text. TALK to each other. In person preferably. Your texts lack love. An emoji cannot replace tone, voice inflection or facial expressions. Love is courageousness enough to speak to someone face to face, heart to heart.
Love in a way that others see Jesus in you.
It is a commitment to these disciplines that will help you to walk-in ever-increasing freedom and to grow up in Christ. They will help you live a transformed life, and others God has put in your life as well. We live in a day where we must stand strong in our faith. Stand for what is right. The world needs God, and the Lord needs you to share about Him. He is life. He is hope. He is love. He is freedom. He is everything.
May you continue to grow up in Him. May you be immersed in His truth, free from shame, free from fear and full of love for God and others. May you be found about His business when He returns. May you walk in the freedom found in a relationship with Jesus; the Way, the Truth, and the Life!
Happy New Year!