Welcome to 2020! Most of us, on only the second day of a new year, can relate to the popular Michael Bublé song lyrics, “It's a new dawn, It's a new day, It's a new life for me, And I'm feeling good.” But how can we make the hope and resolve we feel at the start of a new year last beyond today, or tomorrow, or next week?
How many of you have already made, and broken a new year’s resolution? Maya Angelou once wrote, “When we know better, we do better.” I would only add…hopefully, but not always. The Apostle Paul seemed to have a bit of this problem as well: “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18b-19). Did Paul know better? Yes, indeed. He was a pretty smart, redeemed and faithful fellow. But he still struggled with his sinful nature, as do we all.
Now, I generally agree with Angelou’s declaration. We tend to do better when we know better. When we understand the issues behind our family’s (and our own) dysfunction, we can then do something about it. Knowledge is the first step in self-awareness, which can lead to behavior change and attitude adjustments. Hosea 4:6 tells us, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” So, knowing better can lead to doing better.
However, good information doesn’t always lead to sustained transformation. We need something else. We need something that empowers information, something that transfers information into action leading to transformation. Information is like the engine, but without any fuel, the engine can’t go.
Our culture is certainly not lacking information; we lack the fuel to make the engine go. Most people want to do the right thing, at least most of the time. They want to be good husbands or wives, good parents, good employees, good people. The problem is not in the want to or with the knowledge of what is right or wrong. The problem is the how-to. How do we overcome our struggle with sin? How do we do the right thing? How do we change our lives? It requires something different altogether. The Apostle Paul rightly acknowledged, “I don’t have the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18).
The first two steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are to admit you are powerless, and you need a Power greater than yourself to bring restoration. Romans 7 and 8 affirm both steps. We are powerless (Romans 7), and there is a Power able to bring restoration and healing (Romans 8). In Romans 8, Paul identifies this Power as the Holy Spirit who is the source of our strength and the ability to help us in our inability.
The SPIRIT has set you free (Romans 8:1). We are to walk according to the SPIRIT (v. 4). We set our minds on the SPIRIT (v. 5). We are to be in the SPIRIT (v. 9). We have life through Christ’s SPIRIT who dwells in us (v. 11). By the SPIRIT we put to death the deeds of the body (v. 13). We are to be led by the SPIRIT (v. 14). The SPIRIT bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (v. 16). The SPIRIT helps us in our weakness (v. 26). The SPIRIT intercedes for us (v. 26).
The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is not just the fuel that makes the engine go, He is the Person with whom we connect who helps us fight the good fight and overcome our weakness, sin and dysfunction. Now that’s the kind of information we need to activate and sustain our resolve to be and do better.