New Year is a time for resolutions and changes – a time to strive a little harder to be a little better. Whether you want to build a new you or to improve the existing you, you need to understand that achieving your goals starts with developing good habits. As Will Durant once wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Start your New Year right by developing these four good habits.
Prayer is a form of communication between humans and God. If you are working towards a great life, you need the guidance from above that comes through prayer. But, where do you begin? Establishing a habit of prayer begins with knowing the correct pattern of praying. Here are a few simple steps to help you:
Call God By Name. Understanding His names bring revelation.
Say Thank You – In ALL things give thanks. ALL things in the lives of true believers work together for good in the lives of those who truly Love and serve God.
Share Your Feelings: “Sharing our feelings with others is helpful in managing emotions. The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. God has given us the gift of other believers who can share our burdens and whose burdens we share (Romans 12; Galatians 6:1–10; 2 Corinthians 1:3–5; Hebrews 3:13).
Ask For What You Need
Close in the Name of Jesus Christ: Jesus repeatedly taught His disciples to pray in His name (John 14:13–14; 15:16; 16:23–24). To pray in Jesus’ name is to acknowledge that our access to God in prayer comes only through Jesus. As sinners, we are separated from God and have lost fellowship with Him.
Prayer is a personal thing between you and God. There is no specific standard for the content and length of your prayers. It’s enough to be sincere and honest with God. Your goal is to establish a deeper connection with Him and to receive guidance for your day-to-day interactions.
The Christian must be concerned with developing good habits in the New Year. When someone has lived in sin for a long time, it may be hard to change. Well-worn paths are formed, which create the path of least resistance. However, the same can be said of living in holiness. After a period of persistence in the new motive, attitude, or action, the Christian will see that he has grown in the Lord and the presence of Christ is increasing in his life.
The Bible makes it clear that people can get stuck in their old ways. When habits form and are carried out over a long period, a person might be reluctant to change even when confronted with biblical truth.
If you are stuck in your old ways, note what is said about the people in 2 Kings. Scripture says, “Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not The Lord, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law and commandment, which The Lord commanded the children of Jacob…” (KJV, 2 Kings 17:34). God looked upon the people and saw they had not turned from their former manner of living, which consisted of a lack of fearing The Lord and walking in the commandments and statutes of God.
If sinful habits have developed in your life, it is essential to see what God’s Word says about it. Look at the reference in the book Jeremiah. Scripture says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). The illustration is telling. Here we see a man cannot change when he has been accustomed to doing evil.
Sin grabs hold of a person and does not let go. But where does this leave us? Where is our hope?
Getting out (Gospel)
When someone who is accustomed to doing evil may appear to be hopeless, there is hope to be found in the Gospel. The Gospel is more than forgiveness, although it includes forgiveness. In the Garden, after Adam and Eve sinned, bondage and slavery became the natural course of mankind.
The Bible tells us that the unbeliever is enslaved to Satan and sin. This means that the unbeliever cannot live for God; he lacks the ability to do so. However, God “has delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath transferred us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sin” (Col. 1:13-14). If someone has never believed the Gospel message, he must believe in order to break his sinful habits. While the unbeliever may be able to stop a particular sin, he will never eliminate the practice of sin as he is still in the domain of darkness.
If someone has never believed the Gospel, he must learn that his sin has offended a holy, righteous, and just God. Second, he must understand that his sin is punishable by God, and without forgiveness, he will be cast into hell for all eternity. Third, he must learn that Christ came to die for sinners and when Jesus hung on the cross, God the Father punished Jesus in the sinner’s place. Finally, he must learn that to be forgiven, he must repent and have faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin.
However, if someone has already come to Christ, he must see that the Gospel is still the foundation for change. The only way to change is through Christ, as He has been revealed in His Gospel. Therefore, the New Year will only be a time of developing good habits as someone learns to do so through the message that has come in power.
The Christian must see that the Gospel is a message of redemption, not simply the forgiveness of sin. Therefore, thoughts of redemption must permeate his mind as he seeks to develop new habits in the New Year.
Identity in Christ
One element of the Gospel deserves special attention. The Christian needs to lay a foundation in the New Year that is saturated with the Gospel and his identity in Christ. Some would say that doctrine does not matter. When people think this way, they often rush to the practical application of the Bible in an attempt to go over the “important” aspects of living for Christ. However, doctrine is vitally important, and a person will never break his old sinful habits if he does not get the doctrine right first.
Many of Paul’s letters consist of doctrine first than application. For example, Romans 1-11 is almost all doctrine before Paul gets to the practical application in Romans 12-16. In Ephesians 1-3, we read of the doctrine, and in 4-6, we read of practical application. But why?
In Romans 12, when Paul finally starts to teach various application points, he begins by saying, “I bessech you therefore… do not be conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:1-2). Sound doctrine will cause transformation in the life of the believer.
This brings us to our union with Christ. A branch bears fruit only because it is connected to the vine. Jesus taught this principle in John 15. The branch must abide in Christ, Who is Vine. Abiding in Christ comes first and foremost through union with Christ. Union with Christ comes at salvation through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The power to break sinful habits does not come through being strong enough in the New Year. The ability to change comes through union with Christ. The vine supplies the life-giving sap to the branch so that that branch can bear fruit. It is the vine that enables the branch to do what the branch has been created to do.
If the Christian does not lay this foundation in his thinking and faith, he will inevitably be trusting in himself throughout the New Year to promote change in his life.
Mortify the flesh
After one understands the Gospel and lays a proper foundation, he must look to the Holy Spirit for help. The Holy Spirit is called the Helper in the New Testament. Scripture says, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13). Here we see Paul’s striking words. The one who lives after the flesh will die. Nevertheless, the one who mortifies the deeds of the body will live.
But how must the Christian put to death the sin that remains? Paul tells us that we do so by the power of the Holy Spirit. What is about to be said may sound oversimplified, but it is not. The way to overcome sinful habits is by exercising the fruit of the Spirit.
When someone has laid a proper foundation of faith in the Gospel and union with Christ, he will see that there is power in the commands of the Bible. Galatians tells us about the fruit of the Spirit. When someone grows in love, joy, peace, patience, etc., he will find that he is putting to death the deeds of the body as a result. The Spirit of God will go to war against the sin in his life as he learns to walk by the Spirit.
When Jesus healed the lepers, He first gave them a command. The Bible tells us that they were healed as they obeyed the command. Likewise, the power for change will come as one walks in the way of the Spirit with a foundation of faith in Christ.
Then comes the growth process, which can be somewhat discouraging at times. When someone looks upon Christ, he sees perfection. When he looks at himself, he often sees iniquity and shortcomings. But do not forget, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). Change takes time, as does reaping a harvest after planting a seed. Persevere in patience, and the harvest will come.
Father, I thank You for desiring to help me grow. Thank You for giving me Christ to redeem me from bondage. Help me to honor You this New Year. In Jesus’ name, Amen.