Thursday, January 1, 2009

What Are Your New Year's Resolutions - Part Two

There are many barriers to controlling the flesh, but there is one I want to mention before we move on. There is a tendency to want to “feel right” about something before entering into disciplining the flesh. I heard some Christian brothers talking recently about behaviors in their lives that they knew did not honor God. But then they reasoned that they really did not feel bad about it and would have to wait for God to bring conviction before making any changes. While conviction does often come from God with feelings that are appropriate, we cannot knowingly defy God based upon our lack of felt guilt. I once heard a comedian say, “I used to think my brain was the greatest part of my body. But then I realized who was telling me that!” We too cannot rely on our flesh to solely inform us of which parts of itself want to be controlled or destroyed. We rely on the word of God.

1 Peter 1:13 says to gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” So how do we tie up the loose ends of our thinking and gird up our minds? I will borrow a bit from my good friend John MacArthur. In his two sermons on The Art of Self Discipline (highly recommended for deeper study:, he says to start about first realizing whose you are. You, as a Christian, no longer belong to yourself. You are not your own. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20 you were bought at a price. It is a price so infinite in value… the very life and blood of the Son of the Living God. Starting there brings things into perspective.

Secondly, we must remember the covenant of our salvation. When you and I were saved, we came to Christ as Lord. That means submission to Him and His ways. We were saved to submit the direction of our lives to the purposes of God. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Inherent in God’s covenant with us is our covenant with Him for Christ to be Lord over our lives. We often need to go back and remember that.

Thirdly, sin should be recognized as a violation of our relationship to God. Sin is not merely a violation of God’s law, it is a violation against Him personally. We often stress this to the unbelieving, yet we so quickly forget after we are saved. How even more important we remember this as we bring our flesh into subjection as children of God. We are partakers of the divine nature, and when we bring ourselves into sin, which is ultimately following the fleshly lusts that should be under control, we are joining Christ with sin. 1 Corinthians 6: 15-17 says Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” In sin, you march yourself and Christ into union with fleshly lusts. I often have the tendency to want to compartmentalize these things. I can sin over here, and give in to the flesh, yet keep that separate from my relationship with God. One can certainly try to do that, but according to scripture, it is impossible in reality. So sin is a violation of my relationship with Him and an abuse of His compassion and grace.

Fourthly, we need to have a God-focused conscious. The conscious is a God-designed tool to direct us in ways that are right and away from things that are not right. But the conscious does not stand alone. It can be dulled or misinformed. The way to properly inform the conscious is through the study and internalization of God’s word. We are not left to the whims of our feelings, but a mind that is shaped by the principles and words of God. Feelings will follow, but the Bible is our plumb line. Our conscious, properly defined by God, will either accuse us or excuse us. It may not always be pleasant, but it is necessary.

These lead us to reigning in the thoughts and imaginations of the mind. James 1:14-15 says that each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Our thoughts and desires must be brought under the rule of God. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says that this battle’s goal is to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. That is where we are headed, if we are His. That is our goal. As you read through the Bible, and especially commands given to us in the New Testament, you will see this theme across every page.

In the next post, I will wrap this up, and move forward in the new year with a new perspective on resolutions.


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