New Year, New Attitude :: By Nathele Graham

Have you made any New Year resolutions yet? I seem to have the same list year after year. I resolve to lose weight, be more organized, stop procrastinating, allow God’s love to show more in my life, and study Scripture daily. I have great intentions and usually start out on the right foot. My resolve lasts for about a week. This year I think I’ll let the Apostle Paul give me some better things to strive for.

“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:9-18).

Christians sometimes forget that Scripture is our guide. Instead of asking “What would Jesus do” and then doing it, we identify with the world’s way of behaving. If we try to put Jesus first in every situation, then His way will become a habit and our worldly habits will begin to fade.

“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9). 

The word “love” in Scripture comes from various Greek words, each one with a different shade of meaning. Here, the word “agape” is used. We often say this is God’s love, and it is. Affection, good will, and brotherly love are examples of agape. This is a good thing to strive for, and I will take my thoughts captive before the Lord and love as He loves. This love needs to be without “dissimulation,” which means it has to be sincere. I can’t be two-faced about agape. It might be easier to abhor evil than it is to love with the love of God. I really don’t like the wickedness in this world, like people who commit murder or continually lie and such. On the other hand, Jesus said that if I’m angry with someone, I’m in danger of judgment; and if I call someone a fool, I’m in danger of hell fire! I need to see evil from God’s point of view and mold my attitudes around His example.

I need to hold tighter to things that are good, upright, and honorable, and to make His ways my ways. It’s easy to make resolutions, but it’s a choice whether we follow through with them. That can be difficult.

“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10).

Brotherly love is the love between family members. Christians are one family in Christ, so the same love I feel for my earthly family is how I should feel towards my Christian brothers and sisters. I need to treat them honestly and encourage them in a closer walk with Jesus. Paul isn’t advocating being nice to Christians while not caring for non-Christians, but he was admonishing me to respect my Christian brothers and sisters. The truth is, I have much more in common with fellow Christians. We have faith in Christ in common.

The next verse should be easy. “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

I don’t have a business, so I don’t have to worry about being slothful there. Now, what about “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord”? The word “fervent” means like boiling water…bubbling and alive. That’s how my spirit needs to be…bubbling and alive with God’s love. That’s how I need to serve the Lord. Oops. Wait a minute. When Jesus was twelve, He and His family had gone to Jerusalem for Passover. When Joseph and Mary headed home, Jesus wasn’t with them. They searched for Him and finally found Him in the Temple talking with the religious teachers. Mary reprimanded Him, but His answer is something I need to pay attention to as I put my resolution into effect.

“And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49).

Maybe I do have business. I shouldn’t be slothful in it, and it’s one that I need to be fervent in: Serving the Lord.

I see that I have a lot to work on in myself this year, but there’s more.

“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

I’ve got this one covered. When things are going my way, I rejoice! I sing songs of praise and thank God in prayer. Wait a minute. Paul said to rejoice in “hope.” That doesn’t mean to rejoice in things I have here and now. Hope looks forward to things to come. So, even if I’m going through some trials and tribulation, I still need to rejoice. No matter what I’m facing, Jesus will never leave me alone. He will see me through problems, so I need to rejoice in Him. That’s what it means to be patient in tribulation. I won’t face the Great Tribulation, but there are troubles in life that come along each day. Even so, I need to be patient and rejoice.

“Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13).

I’ve noticed that many well-meaning Christians will do anything and everything to help the unsaved. Bless their hearts for their kindness. I’ve also noticed that these same Christians ignore the needs of the brethren. I need to pay attention to this and look for needs that my brothers and sisters have, then do what I can to help. Maybe the need is to comfort or encourage a fellow Christian, or be hospitable by inviting someone for lunch or dinner. It’s Scriptural to help fellow Christians. We are seen by God as holy because He sees us through the blood of Jesus Christ. My holiness isn’t because of anything I’ve done to earn it, but it’s because of my faith in what Jesus did to redeem me. I can show my gratitude for what He did by caring about fellow Christians.

“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not” (Romans 12:14).

This won’t be easy. How can I possibly bless someone who persecutes me? I’m only human, and it hurts to be persecuted, especially for something I don’t deserve. If someone mocks my faith, or snubs me because I’m a Christian, that’s just wrong. How can I not curse them? Once again, I’m convicted. Jesus is my example. He was perfect and had no sin, yet He was persecuted and mocked. He was arrested and crucified by people who should have praised Him. He was betrayed by His friend Judas, and snubbed by His friend Peter. He could have cursed Jew and Gentile alike for what was done to Him. Yet, He willingly went to the cross. As He hung there suffering for my sins, He looked down upon the Roman soldiers and the others at the foot of the cross and forgave them.

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots” (Luke 23:34).

Jesus forgave all those who persecuted Him. Jesus forgave me. This year, I need to be more forgiving.

Is it easy to be happy for someone else, or feel deep sorrow in their grief? Not always. Some people seem to have everything going their way. Others face sorrow, but it can seem as if they deserve what they get. Oh, that’s a very bad attitude, and I need to pray that God will change my heart about this.

“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15).

We are all just humans with emotions. We all are happy when something good happens to us, and our heart breaks when we’re in deep sorrow. When I was a child, I would rant and rave to my mother about how unfair life was. Why did others seem to have so many wonderful things, and I seemed to have a lot of struggles? I have to admit if something bad happened to someone who, in my opinion, deserved to hurt, I wasn’t sorry. My mother would tell me that I should put myself in their place and understand the joy and sorrow of other people. I can’t possibly know what another person is going through. The smile they have may cover up a lot of pain and sorrow. When something good happens to a fellow Christian, I need to truly be happy for them.

As for weeping, that’s when we need each other most. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

I need to keep my heart turned to Jesus because He is my example to follow. He didn’t care what social status a person had; His grace was for anyone who came to Him. He came to sinners.

“Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:16-17).

Humility is something I need to work on and treat others in the same manner in which I would like to be treated. I am a sinner saved by the grace of God, and no matter what their lot in life is, everyone needs that grace. Once again, Jesus is my example. He loves all sinners no matter what their social status happens to be. He loves me.

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

Walking away when someone is “pushing my buttons” could be the way I can live peaceably. I need to consider my actions and my motives before I do anything that might antagonize someone else. An apology can go a long way to keep peace with others.

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:10).

Humbling myself before the Lord will show others that I am a peaceful person. I need to keep Jesus first in my thoughts and live my faith rather than just profess it. Paul doesn’t say to just live peaceable with Christians, but with all men. If I’m peaceful and humble, I can be a better witness for Jesus.

Each morning I will start anew. I’ll ask God to guide me to a closer walk with Him, then make decisions based on Christ’s example.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

By God’s strength, I can set aside my pride and sacrifice my will to His.

My resolution this year may be harder to keep than losing weight or not procrastinating. If I can stick with it, though, it will be much more important.

Thank You, Jesus, for forgiving me when I fail and helping me to make a fresh start each day.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

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All original scripture is “theopneustos” – God breathed.

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