January. The first month of a new year. The possibility of change.
Every one of us has a bit of an adventurous spirit in the depths of our being. As Americans, we live in the shadow of the legacy of Christopher Columbus in search of a new land, and we long for some new discovery or some new experience. The realists among us will curtail their adventurous tendency, bringing it into submission of the practical and attainable. But for a few moments, we’ll all dream of what can be this coming year.
There are two verses in Jeremiah that I often reflect on this season. The first is rather cynical. It’s found in chapter 13, verse 23: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then can you do good, who are accustomed to doing evil?” In a sense, the verse is a terse wake up call. Old patterns will be lived again. Ruts and rottenous routines will rule our lives. Jeremiah is almost taunting is this statement as he promotes a fatalistic view of altering our flaws. An Ethiopian can’t change his skin color; a leopard cannot rid himself of his spots; and wayward people cannot change their moral behavior. Draw that point home. Can you who have neglect God’s Word and the habit of praying, change? Can you move from evangelistic silence to proclaiming the gospel? Jeremiah’s answer is an emphatic “NO!”
That’s why the second verse I referred to is so important. Without it, those infamous “New Year’s Resolutions” would be an exercise in futility. The verse that puts Jeremiah 13:23 into perspective is Jeremiah 32:27. That verse says: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” Left to ourselves and the power of our will to implement our desires, we won’t accomplish the things we value. But with our firm reliance on God, and walking in the power of His spirit, we can change. No, the leopard cannot change his spots—but God can. God can paint the leopard green with pink polka-dots, because, indeed, there is nothing too hard for Him. And with God’s enabling power, we can achieve spiritual victories and develop the proper spiritual patterns in our life.
Take some time this week, or even today before you get too far away from this article, to reflect on the changes you need to make. Every living thing will change. Those changes will either be helpful or detrimental. We’ve watched maple trees change from green foliage, to vibrant red and orange hues, to withered, dry brown leaves that have fallen and left bare branches. We will soon see the heads of crocus and tulips peeking through cold earth to blossom into beautiful colors. Change is happening to your spiritual life. Make sure it’s the kind of change that glorifies God and reflects the true nature of Christ’s disciples.
List those things out that need change and then commit your way to the Lord. Remember, you can’t change your ways (can a leopard change his spots). But with willful reliance and repeated dependence on God, He can do a new work in you. Let’s put ourselves into the Potter’s hand… “mold me, make me…” It will be an incredible adventure with the One who knows the destination!