A Living Sacrifice
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform 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.
Every January 1st, people across the globe make New Year’s resolutions. Many times, however, these resolutions don’t even last through the month of January. And while we think about resolutions sort of half-heartedly because they tend to fail so often, I suspect most resolutions are created out of a real desire to do or be better.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul urged the people to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” As followers of Christ, God offers us the daily chance to renew our minds. Through the saving grace of Jesus, we wake up each day able to “transform” ourselves. It takes effort on our part, of course, but we really do have the miraculous ability to change our way of thinking and being in the world. So while getting rid of old habits or even starting new healthier habits is a good idea, perhaps renewing our mind should be the number one resolution for all of us. To shift our thinking from resolutions to the renewing of our minds, we need to do two things.
First, figure out the thinking behind your old habit or old self. Don’t make this complicated, I’m not suggesting counseling, here. Simply figure out the mindset that has you stuck or unhealthy. Is it being physically unhealthy that is a problem? Then perhaps it’s about shifting from seeing food as a treat, to food as fuel. Maybe you need to recognize that every time you work out, it’s not a burden, it’s a way to extend your life for more enjoyment in later years. If you seek to give more (time, money, etc), shift from thinking about what you will lose or give away, and recognize what others will gain when you share your resources. Or shift your thinking to recognize all we have is gift from God. It only becomes a blessing when we give it away.
Second, start a mind-renewing practice that you have not done before. Spend dedicated time reflecting and praying each day. Increase the amount of time you already spend in prayer. Try meditation. Simply read and study the Bible with a daily reading plan. Start journaling your prayers. Develop a mind renewal journal. If you are a smartphone user, look for free apps that help you meditate, read the Bible out loud on your commute, or offer a daily scripture reading plan. Write a little each day about the habits you are trying to shift and how God is speaking to you or leading you in this effort.
This mind renewing business is still about starting new habits and ending old ones, but the shift is in the reliance on the Holy Spirit to not only change our ways, but to also change our thinking. Habits are hard to break, especially in our own strength. But with Christ, all things are possible. We can make new resolutions every day, but nothing is going to change unless Christ is living in us and through us. Thankfully, this is available to all of us. We can get off the treadmill of turning over a new leaf and instead ask the Holy Spirit for strength to break old habits and the grace to renew our mind.
Dear God, as I stand at the beginning of this new year, I confess my deep need for your presence and guidance as I move into the future. I have hopes, plans, and expectations for the year ahead. But you alone hold the future. It is by your strength and wisdom that I can meet the challenges in the days, weeks, and months to come. So I humbly put my plans and dreams into your hands, and I trust you to go before me and with me into the future. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.