Every year on New Years Eve people make New Year’s Resolutions promising to change themselves for the better. But New Year’s resolutions are doomed to failure. If people want to change they don’t need resolutions, they need regeneration.
How Successful are New year’s Resolutions?
How successful are New Year’s resolutions? Statistics in a study from the Journal of Clinical Psychology showed the following:
40 to 45% of American adult make one or more resolutions each year.
• Among the top new years resolutions are resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and stopping to smoke. Also popular are resolutions dealing with better money management / debt reduction.
• The following shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:
- past the first week: 75%
- past 2 weeks: 71%
- after one month: 64%
- after 6 months: 46%
Another study estimated that 97% of New Year’s resolutions do not work. In this study entitled New Years Resolutions: Why Don’t They Work ? Michael York of the Michael York Learning Center theorized the reason why resolutions don’t work is because people expect to fail and that they don’t know how to properly set goals in order to keep their resolutions. But I would say that the reason people don’t expect to keep their resolutions is because they have learned from experience that they can’t keep their resolutions and no amount of proper goal setting is going to change that.
So what’s the answer; how can we change for the better? The answer is that we need regeneration not resolutions.
Why Resolutions Can’t Work
The reason why a resolution can’t work is because it depends on me, myself and I; it depends on my own “strength.” The Bible refers to this self-centered dependence upon self as the flesh. Paul was inspired to speak of the predicament of the flesh when in Romans he writes:
Romans 7:18-24 - 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Do you see the futility of relying on your own strength to try to do good things? The New Living Translation (more of a paraphrase) of the Bible renders this portion of scripture in the following way:
18 I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. 19 When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. 20 But if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it. 21 It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?
These words express the futility, frustrations and ultimate failure of attempts at self-reformation and that is exactly what a New Year’s resolution is. The reason such attempts at change are doomed to failure is because they depend on an inadequate power source, the sinful self. Read what the Bible says about our self, the me, myself and I of who we are:
Genesis 6:5 - 5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
• Job 14:4 - Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!
• Job 15:14-16 - “What is man, that he could be pure? And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous?15 If God puts no trust in His saints, And the heavens are not pure in His sight,16 How much less man, who is abominable and filthy, Who drinks iniquity like water!
• Psalm 5:9 - For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; Their inward part is destruction; Their throat is an open tomb; They flatter with their tongue.
• Psalm 51:5 - Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
• Isaiah 64:6 - But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.
• Jeremiah 17:9 - “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
• Mark 7:21-23 - 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
• Ephesians 2:1-3 - And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
These verses are ample evidence that anything that depends on this flesh or us, is doomed to fail to reach its goal. If that is the case, then how can a person change successfully?
Regeneration the Way to True Transformation
Sometimes we can have what we believe are the best of intentions, but they are the wrong intentions. Our motives are not always what they ought to be. We may want to change, but if our motive is only to please our self, then we are only compounding our problem and off the mark. What we need is an entirely new way of looking at things and an entirely new way of doing things. What we need is REGENERATION.
What is regeneration? Regeneration is a work of the Spirit wherein He gives spiritual eternal life to a repentant sinner. In Paul’s letter to Titus he is inspired to write:
Titus 3:3-7 - 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The term “regeneration” (παλιγγενεσία - paliggĕnĕsia, pal-ing-ghen-es-ee´-ah ) means new birth, regeneration, or rebirth. This is a compound word made up of the Greek term palin which means “again” and the Greek term genesis which means “birth.” Regeneration is the work of God to change us from death to life spiritually. God regenerates the person who receives Jesus as Savior. All of this is a work of God offered graciously as a gift to be received by us.
Jesus described regeneration with the following words:
John 5:24 - 24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
Regeneration is passing from death to life spiritually. Just as we are physically born, we must be spiritual born again if we are ever to be changed from our present state of sinful futility. Before we are spiritually born again we don’t even understand our true need (1 Corinthians 2:14). We need to be born again, we need to be spiritual born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 5).
How do I get this regeneration? If you want to change for the better you have to realize the following. That is what we will consider in the second part of this study. Start seeking God now and don’t miss the next part of this study! God be with you.