Tradition has it that we make resolutions for the New Year…and also that we will break said resolutions. However, this time of resolutions leads us to speak of change. How do Christians undergo change; specifically change into Christ’s image? We often think of change as being something that happens rather quickly but let us examine the (roughly) average experience with keeping a New Year’s resolution. There first comes the decision to make a change. For example, we decide that we are not going to eat cupcakes anymore. Then we set about making the change. We may take all of the cupcakes out of our residence and resolve not to eat them wherever else we may have the opportunity.
However, we soon become dreadfully aware that making the resolution is not the same as making the change as we come to believe that we will most certainly go mad if we don’t get our hands on a cupcake!
Additionally, there are also times that we hang our heads in shame as we finish inhaling a cupcake that happened to cross our path in a moment of weakness.
Yet, this despair is momentary as we soon take heart and get back on the path towards our goal. Most likely, we have enlisted the help of a few trusted friends to encourage us and keep us accountable for seeing our resolution through. They are often instrumental in helping us get back on our feet after we stumble.
Eventually, after a number of weeks spent in cupcake withdrawal and doubting whether we will ever find happiness again, the cupcake pangs start to lessen. Given more time, we begin to wonder why we were ever so dependent upon cupcakes.
However, we will have to remain vigilant that we do not take our new broken habit for granted and thereby fall back into it.
Similarly, change in a Christian’s life is not instant. There is the decision to make a change, the decision to accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. Yet this is only the beginning of our journey and transformation. When we set about making the change, there is a key difference between the example above and growing into Christ’s image. The Christian doesn’t bring about the change in his/her own heart; it is God who does that. Instead of resisting sin head-on in a battle of wills, the Christian is concerned with spending time in God’s presence by way of prayer, Scripture, service, etc. This time spent with God has the effect of cultivating the soil of our hearts and makes it into the good soil from Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23) which yields a crop. As we spend time with God, He gradually brings about change in our hearts.
Having friends and mentors to help and encourage us is as important in our journey to become like Christ as they are in our quest to free ourselves from cupcakes. They not only help keep us accountable for our sins, they also encourage us and help us to continue down the straight and narrow path when we don’t think we can anymore.
Our transformation into the image of Christ is, admittedly, of much greater importance and on a grander scale than the cupcake resolution discussed above. However, the cupcake example calls our attention to the amount of progress that we make by imperceptible increments when we seriously seek transformation. Therefore, we can take heart if we are not now the super-saints we seek to be, for as long as we remain on the straight and narrow path, God will guide us along at His pace, step by step.