Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Are Your New Year's Resolutions? Part One

Time for New Year’s resolutions! Or, if you are like me, you may have tried it once and, come February, thrown the whole idea overboard only to become cynical about the life-changes people struggle with come January 2 (can’t start on the 1st, that’s a day off). And it’s always the same old thing every year. The top resolutions rarely change. The leader is to lose weight, followed by getting fit, getting out of debt, stop smoking, stop drinking, getting organized, and so on, and so on. Why is it that you never hear anyone say, “This year, I’m going to eat more chocolate” or “I plan on sitting in front of the TV eating Cheetos and watching reality television at least 30 hours a week”? It is because those things are easy to us. They are natural. Pleasing the flesh is natural. Resolutions are about bringing the flesh into submission, which, to the Christian, is not only Biblical, it is commanded.

Resolutions to be subject to God go back as far as God given commands. When Moses read the Law to the children of Israel as told in Exodus 24, verse 7, the people responded by saying, “All that the Lord has said, we will do, and be obedient.” Many years later, when Hezekiah became king and restored Godly worship to Israel, he set in his heart to once again observe the Passover, which had not been done for quite some time, perhaps over 200 years. In 2 Chronicles 30:5, it says that the leaders of Israel resolved to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that they should come to keep the Passover to the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem. And in verse 20, we see that God is pleased with them.

In the New Testament, we see commands scattered throughout, calling the child of God to be self-controlled and obedient. In Acts 24:25, Paul reasons with Felix about righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come. Notice the progression? It is righteousness, then self-control, then judgment. 2 Peter 1: 5-6 says we are, with diligence, to add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self control… Why? Because we are partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (more about this in part two).

So we are commanded by God to be resolute in putting to death the flesh and heed the things of God. The flesh is no longer a slave to sin, but it has been trained well by sin. The flesh often wants to go back to the things it once knew. It does not want to become weak as the spiritual man becomes strong. Our problem is that we grow weary in running. There is great difficulty in denying the flesh. It cries out for more and more. Why do you think Paul likened the Christian life to running a race? Running is not easy for those who do not do it and do it often. It takes much self discipline to become a good runner. The flesh must be brought into subjection when it comes to eating, drinking, sleeping, and enduring. But when a dedicated runner reaches his objective, he finds that the sacrifices made along the way are nothing compared to reaching his goal. As the writer of Hebrews says: let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. The race is clear. Our goal is Christ. And He calls us to run to Him, building up our endurance and bringing the flesh into subjection to do so.

So why is it so important? Many see Christianity as their ticket to heaven. It is a matter of obtaining a get-out-of-hell-free card. While getting into heaven and staying out of hell are certainly part of the divine transaction, the greater part of salvation is God bringing rebels out of their blind state of spiritual death and changing them from God-hating sinners to the God-loving redeemed who long to know their Savior and are pressing toward the goal of knowing Him in His fullness and His glory. Going to heaven is a great benefit, but the goal of knowing our God surpasses all. Our flesh, however, is a barrier to knowing and experiencing our God this side of death. Therefore, we are called to be self-controlled in order to experience God even more.

The spiritual realm is the reality we cannot comprehend well with our physical senses. Yet the two are inexplicably linked in ways we don’t understand. We want to think of the two being completely separate, but they are not. If they were, we would not be told to be self-controlled throughout the New Testament. And I also know this from personal experience. As a person who, at one time, was in tremendous physical shape, I know what can be lost in a spiritual sense when the flesh is allowed to dominate. Now, as I am obese, I find my spiritual senses often dulled as compared to the days when my body was under control in that area. The flesh puts up a fight, but I find that times of great spiritual fulfillment are accompanied with a body whose desires are under control and subdued.

What I need in this new year is to know my Savior even more. It is a God-given desire I am thankful for, and running that race means bringing my flesh into subjection. There are a few areas I need great help with, and God will do that. I must see the flesh die more in order to know him more.

There is one caveat in a study like this, however. We cannot see our salvation based upon us doing such things. Salvation is through Christ alone through His grace. Otherwise, we are pursuing salvation by our works, which can never be done. The same grace that saved us is the same grace that causes our hearts to want to persevere. And perseverance is a lifelong journey. There will be issues of the flesh that we will be struggling with all the way up until our deaths. At that time, Christ will give us the final victory over our flesh and complete our sanctification. This post is not about trying to be perfect to please our Lord. If you are converted and belong to Him, your worth and acceptance is found in Christ, not in what you do. This post is about Christians longing to experience more of Him by pursuing the grace He has given us that is molding us into His image.

More to come in part two.


No comments:

Post a Comment