The beginning of a New Year affords us a fresh start; but let us base all of our commitments on the understanding that unless Jesus does the work in us, our intentions are in vain.
Jesus is constantly pruning us. He loves us so much that He constantly takes the initiative, through His Spirit, to remove from us what He hates that we might grow into what He loves. It is a mistake to think that this divine dividing, His “pruning,” is seasonal; for He is a constant gardener. Now this pruning of the sin in us is the work of the Holy Spirit. And “God works in us and with us – not against us, or in spite of us, or without us” (Owen).
You see, God hovers over our deformity as well as our form. It is His intention to bring light to what is dark in us. He intends to separate out that darkness, to do the fine surgery that divides those aspects of our character and nature that disgust Him from those that bring Him glory. He does this that we might produce fruit that lasts. This divine dividing is beautiful and yet costly. It cost Him sweat and blood; it will likely cost us similarly: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, because I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:19-20 NIV).
We may not appreciate what He, by His Spirit, births in us either – but the changes should be embraced without fear. Jesus, through His death and resurrection, completed the long journey which Abraham began toward everlasting life. This journey was born in Abram’s heart. The God who is with us often conceives and births the unique and the unprecedented: Jochebed-Moses, Hannah-Samuel, Elizabeth-John, and Mary-Jesus (These people all had great faith in God).
Without abiding in Jesus (as our pastors-in-training have been telling us) we can do nothing. So this means the daily spending of meaningful time in His presence and in ongoing communion with God. Our responsibility is to position ourselves where Jesus can flood us with mercy, thereby washing out the darkness within.
We first start with desperation. There must be an inner cry for help, based on the realization that we need certain things pruned out of our lives and other things grafted in. This desperation helps us to become disciplined, discipline then yields desire, and desire bears de-light. Delight bears fruit.
When we delight in Jesus – when He is all that thrills and fuels us – then we have the means to represent Him well among all the peoples of the earth. Clothed in Him, we have His power and His character. This is a winsome combination. I call it a win-win combination.
Have a Happy New Start!
Carlos M. with inspiration from Dick Brogden
(Owen, John. Triumph over Temptation. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook 2004.)