TONY ELDER: Yield to the work of God's spirit to transform yourself in the coming year

Tony Elder

Tony Elder

I saw that one of the morning TV news programs was running a special feature this week entitled "A New Year, A New You." From the glimpse I got of it, this series of reports seemed to be focusing on some of those areas of change that we often resolve to make in ourselves as we replace our old calendars with new ones.

The one episode I viewed early in the week showed some different kinds of fitness programs, such as karaoke yoga. It looked like they would be covering other areas like clothing styles and healthy eating as the week progressed.

If you could be "a new you" in some way in this coming year, what would you envision and how would you go about achieving it? Do you see a thinner you, a more healthy you, or a more stylish you? Is a new exercise program, or a different menu, or shopping for new clothes on your to-do list for the coming months?

While those types of changes may be good for us, they don't really make us a new person. They may make us look differently on the outside, improving other people's perception of us and even making us feel better about ourselves. Such alterations in our lives can significantly improve our lifestyles, our physical health and our outlook.

However, we also know that we can change our outward appearance or behavior yet still be the same person on the inside. We can look beautiful on the surface, but underneath possess that same ugly spirit or selfish attitude. We can get our bodies in tip-top condition, while our souls continue to languish and feel empty.

The way to truly become a new person is to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (II Corinthians 5:17).

Faith in Christ changes our hearts. He transforms us from the inside out. He can give us peace with God, love for others, and a purity of heart that will make us beautiful inwardly, as it also engenders a change in our outward behavior and lifestyle.

While that inner metamorphosis may be most noticeable when we first put our trust in Christ as our Savior, there should continue to be positive changes within us as we grow in that relationship year by year, day by day.

How do we achieve becoming such a new person? There are certainly numerous plans and programs to aid us in our spiritual development regular Bible reading, daily prayer, faithful participation in public worship and fellowship.

But becoming that new person is not something we can do for ourselves, even through the use of those effective means God's provided for us. It's something that only He can do within us.

Well-intended resolutions, determination to turn over a new leaf, and diligent self-effort won't transform us into the new persons we need to be. Such a transformation doesn't result from our trying harder, but rather from us yielding more to the work of God's Spirit within us.

Seek to be "a new you" in the new year. But don't just focus on the physical part of your being.

Instead of starting with the outward you, begin by letting God change your heart. Envision a more godly, loving, Christlike you in the coming year. Put your faith in Christ and then let His Spirit daily continue that work of making you more into the person God wants you to be.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.