No doubt about it. It’s hard to change. That makes New Year’s resolutions a joking subject for the TV pundits, who simply reflect what we all know. Two psychologists, J.O. Prochaska and C.C. DiClemente, have researched and identified three marks of successful change. First, it involves a process, not a one-time decision. Second, successful change is based on perceived reality and reflects deeply-held beliefs. Third, it involves goals that can be expressed in positive terms.
All three characteristics express core biblical teaching. New Testament words for change include “conversion,” “repentance, “and “transform,” among others. Repentance is more than a one-time act or event. It involves a mental U-turn and from John the Baptist to the final words of the New Testament it leads to a change of life as well.The gospel presents us with a new reality in the story of Jesus. That new reality shapes our new life. The New Testament describes this new life in positive detail.
In Romans 6, Paul first describes the new reality. Jesus died and rose from the dead. Because sin ends at the grave, Jesus is beyond its reach. But Jesus is our representative and what he did, we did in him. We died. We rose. Sin has no power over us. We can change our old ways if we accept the new reality as true and act on it. This means that we “reckon” or “consider” these things to be real, and “yield” or “present” ourselves to God for his purposes. Or take Colossians 3, where Paul urges us to fix our minds on heavenly things, meaning to tune our thoughts to match the new realities the gospel declares. Philippians 2 brings the familiar call to let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Next time you have a minute, read through some New Testament epistle and notice all the positive commands, instructions, and words of encouragement. They all describe the new life in Christ, a life that grows and blossoms (super-)naturally in the process of our “conversion.” It all is based on the new realities declared by the gospel story in which we have placed our trust. Sit down some day and make a list of the positive statements you find in reading your New Testament. Plenty to keep us all busy! “Happy Changing” to you and to me in this new year!