by Nathan Combs, Evangelist ~ Tyngsboro Church of Christ, 27 Old Tyng Rd., Tyngsboro, MA 01879

For thousands of years, people all over the globe have made resolutions for every New Year. Modern American lists probably include losing weight and exercising more, quitting a destructive habit, reading more books, or learning a new skill. Yet 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions will fail them by the second week of February. According to research conducted by Strava using 800 million user activities in 2019, most people had given up on their New Year’s resolutions by January 19! Changing our habits and everyday activities is a Biblical idea, but the motivation for doing so is not rooted in a superficial desire to become a better person. It stems from two ideas, primarily.

                First, changing our lives comes from a deep recognition of what God has done on our behalf. This is what Moses preached to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 10.15: “Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.” In other words, God did not make a casual decision to start a relationship with Abraham’s children. He locked himself into a permanent commitment of deep affection for Israel. He would still love them on January 19th and far beyond it. As we scan that context, we find many instructions for the Israelites before and after that verse: “Fear the Lord your God,” “walk in all his ways, “circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn,” etc. Obeying such lofty expectations is only possible when we embrace the idea that God has set his heart on us.

                 Second, lasting life changes are based in a desire for useful service. Ezra, the Old Testament priest and scribe, is a wonderful example of this. Ezra had grown up in Babylonia along with the other exiles of Judea. After the Persian king Cyrus told the Israelites they could return to their homeland, Ezra decided to make a dramatic life change and move back with the returning exiles. His permanent relocation to Israel was not convenient, nor did it help him climb a career ladder. He knew the journey was perilous and the circumstances of his final destination were unknown. As it happened, Judea faced significant moral problems, which he soon discovered upon arrival (Ezra 9-10). Why did Ezra change his life so significantly? The answer lies in Ezra 7.10: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” He did not gain extensive Biblical knowledge merely for the purpose of self-improvement. He did not practice the law just for his own benefit. He wanted to be used by God, therefore he changed himself. If we aspire to make meaningful change in our lives, that requires “setting our hearts” not on ourselves but on our Creator and our fellow men.

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