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by Jacob Ninan

“Wish you a happy new year” is heard from around us at that time of the year. Atheists, agnostics and people of all faiths join in this form of greetings in different forms. It is but natural that everyone wishes for a happy year ahead, especially when they think of the problems and hardships that they faced in the previous year. Many hope that this wish would come true, and religious people turn to God to make it happen for them. Yet, if we pause to think of it, all this wishing is not going to do anything substantial towards making the year happy. All that happens is an exchange of goodwill and camaraderie. When the festivities finally close down, everyone returns to the drudgery of daily routines, and another year comes on with its challenges, sorrows and disappointments, along with a smattering of happiness.

The fact of the matter is that merely wishing for something has no power to make things happen, and if our hope is based on something as flimsy as wishes it has nothing going with it to make it happen. But we like to feel hopeful for the future; no one enjoys being without hope. So we like to make ourselves believe on occasions like the New Year that things are really going to be different this time. Some people sing Don’t worry, be happy thinking that somehow it can work for them. Some people make ‘positive’ declarations that things are going to be fine, and believe that they will be really fine. Some Christians blindly quote promises from the Bible, not recognising that not all promises are for everyone but many of them were for specific people in certain contexts. For example, we cannot take Joel 2:25,26 to mean that God will somehow turn things around, unless we have humbly acknowledged before God that we have gone wrong and then repented (vv.12-17). Wishing and hoping without anything actually changing from our side cannot produce any real result.

Albert Einstein is reported to have said that it would be foolish to repeat any experiment any number of times in a certain way and to hope that next time the results would be favourable! The result will follow the scientific rules that govern that experiment, and the only way to get different results is to change what we do with the experiment. But just like a man who buys lottery tickets, people hope that the next time luck will turn their way.

Another problem is that we want situations and people to change, but we hardly think of changing anything in ourselves – how we think, speak, make plans or act – and yet we wish and hope that the others and the situations will change! But unless we make changes from our side for the better, how can we wish and hope for things to change?

It does not occur to us that we need to change. Our observations have convinced us that the problem is all with the others! That is how all humanity has thought of life from the time of Adam and Eve. We wait for others to change and when they do not, we become more upset with them. We keep hoping that one day things will change, and when they do not, we seek for new ways to make that happen! We think positively (and refuse any negative thought that might come up), make positive confessions, give more offerings, fast and pray, go for pilgrimage, ask some great pastor to pray over us, etc. It does not occur to us in the midst of all such activities that perhaps there are some things we are not doing right in our life that need to be changed!

Even when we think of ‘salvation’, we think it is all about God taking us to heaven when we die. In order to get there, we are willing to ‘accept Jesus’, get baptised, go to church or do whatever it takes. It does not come to our thinking that there is perhaps something wrong with us which has to be changed.

We sin because we are sinners. We were born that way (Psa.51:5). From the time we were born, without any special training from anyone, we have started showing our true nature in different ways. It is natural for us to fight for what we want, tell lies, cheat, steal, scheme, manipulate, etc., from childhood. Even the children of godly parents exhibit the same nature. From the time Adam and Eve moved out of God’s patronage to Satan’s, all human beings are born as children of the Devil (Jn.8:44). And that is why we need to be born again in order to become children of God and citizens of heaven (Jn.3:3).

In order to be born again, the first thing we need to do is to recognise and acknowledge that we are sinners who are outside the kingdom of God and who deserve to be in hell. The second thing to do is to turn away from our life of sin, renounce all the pleasures of sin which we have been indulging in sin and then turn to God to submit to Him and to follow in His ways. This is what is involved in repentance. God is able to forgive us all our sins because His Son, Jesus Christ, has taken the punishment for our sins on the cross. We can receive that forgiveness when we place our trust in Jesus and His sacrifice for us. Then the rest of our life on earth, strengthened by the Holy Spirit who now dwells within us, we fight a battle to deny the desires that come up from our old life in order to do the will of God (Lk.9:23). As we do this we become transformed little by little into the character of Jesus.

When we are born again, our ‘flesh’, which is our old nature, does not automatically disappear. We need to keep it crucified (Gal.5:24). Death on the cross takes a long time. The more we indulge the desires of the flesh, it is like taking the flesh down from the cross and feeding it. But if we keep denying all the desires of the flesh with the strength of the Holy Spirit, the flesh will die and we will live (Rom.8:13).

Now we can see that a part of the reason why we have problems in this life is that we sometimes act according to our old nature. Of course, other people are also doing the same, and problems become bigger and bigger. Can we now change the situation and make things go well just by wishing and hoping for a change? Or even by declarations or positive confessions? Or merely by prayer? No. Of course, we need to pray for the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit in our life. But don’t we need to actually change the way we live in order to bring about changes in our situations? When we change the way we think (Rom.12:1,2), speak and behave, in order to live the way Jesus lived (1Jn.2:6), we will see that things begin to change in our situations also. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal.6:7,8).

-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, March 2017

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