New Year’s resolutions are all well and good, but you’ll never truly change the way you act – until you change the way you think.
In his latest devotional post, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren uses a Biblical framework to offer some tips and advice for those hoping to stick to their resolutions this year, arguing that in order to change, we must learn the truth and start making good choices, but we also must change the way we think.
“The battle for sin starts in your mind, not in your behavior,” he writes. “The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel determines the way you act. If you want to change the way you act, you start by changing the way you think. In addition, if you want to change the way you feel, you must start with changing the way you think.”
Simply making resolutions like “I need to love my children more” simply won’t work, he says: “You can’t fight your way into a feeling. You must change the way you think about your kids, about your husband, about your wife, and that will change the way you feel, which will then change the way you act.”
Warren goes on to argue that you are not what you think you are; instead, what you think, you are.
“The battle to deal with those defects in your life that you don’t like starts in your mind,” he says. “If you want to change anything in your behavior or anything in your emotions, start with your thoughts and your attitude.”
Ultimately, the renewal of your mind is related to the word “repentance” – simply meaning to “make a mental U-turn.”
“It’s something you do in your mind, not with your behavior. Changing the way you think will then affect your emotions and your behavior,” he concludes. “When I repent, I turn from guilt to forgiveness. I turn from Hell to Heaven. I turn from purposelessness to purpose in life. I turn from no hope to new hope. I turn from frustration to freedom. I turn from darkness to light!”
According to statistics, 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year, but just 8% are successful in achieving their resolution.
In a recent blog post, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, encourages believers to ask themselves, “What’s one thing I want to change and build into my life?” when making a resolution.
“Try to build into your life something specific and concrete,” he writes. “This is especially true in your own spiritual life. If you don’t have a consistent plan for Bible reading and prayer, for example, you may say, ‘I am going to self consciously set aside time for these things.’ In doing this, though, make sure you have something that is doable. If you don’t have any sort of Bible reading in your life, don’t resolve to read 3 chapters a day. Resolve instead to read 1 chapter a week, and start with something manageable that you can build on as time goes on.”
While he believes resolutions can be a “good thing”, he advises against becoming a “slave” to a resolution: “If you have a resolution that you see as something that’s going to be a drudgery for you throughout the year, don’t do it. That’s not going to be helpful. But find a way to build these patterns into your life in a way that will benefit you in the year to come. This isn’t a legalistic ‘performance’ mentality, as long as you keep it in perspective.”