How to Grow Closer to God this year.

I love new beginnings.  There is something about a fresh start that fills my heart with dreams and visions.  A blank calendar is a new year waiting for me to live it.  The emptiness of its pages is an invitation to make the new year something of my choosing.  I get to decide how those days are lived.  I determine what kind of person I will be and what I will give myself to.  Anything seems possible.

And so, here we are at the beginning of a new year.  Research shows that about fifty percent of us will make formal new years resolutions.  Now, resolutions seem to get a bad rap these days.  Many are renaming them in order to avoid the new years cliché.  They are setting goals or making lifestyle changes.  I think the dismal success rate of resolutions has led people to dismiss them as useful.

According to statisticbrain.com, only eight percent of people are successful in achieving their resolution.  Not great, but I am still encouraged by the practice of making resolutions and setting goals because it demonstrates a desire to grow to be a better person.  That is a good thing.  That is a hopeful thing.  That is something worth holding onto.  Resigning yourself to the past is enslaving.  Shed those shackles.  It is a new year.

I would suggest one simple resolution that will enable you to grow closer to God in the new year:  Be a learner.

In Christian circles, we are familiar with terms like discipleship and making disciples.  However, I think we miss the simple truth of being disciples that changes everything.  I am under the impression that most people think that a disciple is a really, really mature Christian.  That is not true.  The word disciple simply means “learner.”  A disciple is a student.  We are not called to reach a special spiritual level that will qualify us as disciples.  We are called to take the position of a student and learn from Jesus.

Jesus began his ministry by calling twelve guys to be his students and he is still looking for more. What if our resolution in the new year wasn’t some spiritual feat of strength, but a simple commitment to let Jesus teach us.

Specific spiritual goals can be helpful.  I make them, but we have to be careful to not forget the real goal.  The real goal isn’t to read through the Bible in a year, but to get to know Jesus better.  The real goal isn’t to spend thirty minutes a day in prayer, but to learn how to talk and listen to God.  The real goal isn’t to never miss a church service, but to engage with people who can teach you how to walk with Jesus.

One of the beautiful truths of Jesus’ call to be learners is that it values progress.  It is easy to become discouraged over our lack of perfection.  Godliness can seem a long way off.  I have been a Christian for twenty-five years.  I thought I’d be a lot more holy by now, but growth is a long journey.  Jesus knows that.  He calls us to walk with him and learn. So, let’s make that our resolution.

Read your bible with the simple prayer “God teach me.”  Listen to a sermon and expect to hear from God.  Approach every person you meet with the humble attitude that they have something to teach you.  Assume that God is saying something through the events of your life.  Be a learner.  Read something.  Attend a conference.  Go on a retreat.  Take someone to lunch and ask them about their experiences.

This blog is a place to learn about walking with Jesus.  I am on the road and I invite you along.  My resolution is to write weekly about discipleship and spiritual formation.  Sign up to receive every blog in your e-mail each week.  Just click on the follow button at the top of the sidebar.  God has a lot to teach us.  I can’t wait!

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