Ephesians 4:22-24 (New Living Translation)
Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
“Headaches are like resolutions. You forget them as soon as they stop hurting.”
This quote from the movie Psycho (1960) gives us a clue as to why our New Year’s resolutions tend to give out before the winter snow melts. We may think we want to lose weight, give up smoking, or save more money, but unless the motivating hurt runs deep, we probably won’t change our ways. Our old, familiar habits have too strong a hold on us.
In the Ephesians passage above, Paul describes the motivating hurt for Christians who want to change their ways. We hurt because we are not who we were created to be, that is, perfect reflections of God’s own image. We live with a powerful sin nature that drives us to do things we know are not good for us, that offend the people around us, and that keep us distant from God. Lust and deception—thirst for pleasure and willingness to lie and cheat to get what we want—damage our relationships and erode our self-respect.
When the Spirit convicts us, our hurt runs deep. We realize the ugliness of our sinful ways and how far we have fallen from the shining beings God created us to be. We gaze upon God, we see his goodness and light and love, and we understand how our resolutions are hopelessly inadequate for making us “like God—truly righteous and holy.” We need God’s grace and forgiveness to make us right.
In this New Year, resolve to give the Spirit full access to your mind and heart. Accept the hurt of realizing your sinful ways and let it motivate you to surrender your thoughts and attitudes to the Spirit so he can renew and restore you. Pray with the psalmist:
Create in me a clean heart, O God; restore within me a sense of being brand new. (VOICE)
FATHER, I give you my heart and my life. Show me all the ways that I have strayed from being the person you created me to be. Help me not to fear the pain of exposure but to allow that pain to motivate change in me. I believe that no matter what I’ve done with my life or how I have sinned, what you originally created in me remains intact—fine and beautiful and uncorrupted. Restore me, Father, to that perfect reflection of you.
Romans 12:1-2; Psalm 51
Why is pain an effective motivator for change?