Dear Church Family,

“You’re perfect just the way you are” and “Don’t ever change” are two expressions of the same popular sentiment in our culture. Those are comforting and encouraging words to hear, but if we take these statements at face value, we find them to be false. In and of ourselves we are not perfect because in this life we are always struggling and often succumbing to sin. If we define perfection as flawlessness, then we will only be flawless when we are sinless.

Now, to be sure, there is certainly a sense in which the Christian is in fact already perfect because the righteousness of Christ has been applied to him and the blood of Christ has completely cleansed him. We are becoming what we are as it were, but though God has committed to accomplish His purposes in us to the end, we are not yet what we will be.

Why do I bring this up at the beginning of this year? There is a false assurance hissing behind those two claims with which we began and I hope to guard you from them. But my greater desire is for your true encouragement and comfort to be rooted in the promise that the One who never changes has committed to continually be about the work to change us. Meditate on that for a moment. God, who is perfect, is actively involved in the process of gradually changing us to be like Him.

At the start of a new year it is good to remember we are called and also empowered by the Holy Spirit to change. If you have not already paused to assess your life (whether you are nine or ninety makes little difference), begin this year by prayerfully considering how you might grow in your faithfulness “as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” And when He opens your eyes to the follies and failures of your life up until this point—don’t be discouraged, but rejoice that the God who wills your sanctification will supply your need and see you through.

If we are in Christ, we are not locked in or enslaved to any sin, ungodliness, or bad habit that may have characterized us in the past. “Don’t ever change” only sounds liberating. As Christians indwelt by the Spirit, we must be an ever-changing people by the grace of God, through the power of God, and for the glory of God alone. Living in this way truly frees us from the prison of sin’s tyranny.

So then, in light of His indwelling power to change us, what are your plans and godly ambitions for this year? May the Holy Spirit fill us with a love for God that calls us into greater obedience to His Word.