Wednesday, January 17, 2018

So How's That New Year's Resolution Doing?

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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So How’s That New Year’s Resolution Doing?

          Lots of folks have already given up on resolutions for the new year for obvious reasons.

          Goals set were rarely met; and if we stop setting goals, we don’t have to worry about meeting ‘em.

          I think of the fellah who kept setting a goal that he never met and deadpanned, “I’ve resolved to quit smoking; and I know I can do it because I’ve quit a thousand times.”

          Then there’s the realistic person who confessed, “I’m making a new year’s resolution to stop smoking.  I decided this would be the only one that I could ever be sure to keep since I don’t smoke.”

          Mark Twain had a whimsical way of understanding this annual frustration: “Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

          So how’s your new year’s resolution doing?

          How long has it been?

          Whoa.

          If you’re like me and wanted to lose an inch or ten off the waistline, it’s been tough.

          I mean, really, how are we supposed to drop pounds with all of those cookies around?

          Yet, candidly, my guess is it wouldn’t matter if we changed the day for making resolutions from January 1 to August 1. 

          It’s tough to improve.

          Of course, lots of resolutions are selfish: “I’m going to lose weight…use less credit and more cash…stay away from…”

          You know what I mean; and there’s nothing wrong with that because, as the psalmist and apostle noted, our bodies housing our souls are wonderfully made and worthy of our best stewardship.

          Taking care of our bodies honors God.

          I remember Paul Roberts, the proverbial father of the Confessing Church Movement in our denomination, chastising me about getting into better shape because pastors who are not in better shape are bad role models for people.

          Ouch.

          Yet, while I can see his point and agree with David and Paul on taking care of the temples of our souls, it’s still kinda selfish in that we should want to take care of ourselves if we have respect for ourselves not to mention even if we should mention how it’s the Godly thing to do.

          Or something like that.

          While I may be wrong, I know God wants us to be good stewards of our bodies yet believe He’s more concerned about our relationship with Him as reflected in our relationships with others.

          I think of how He said, “Love each other just as much as I have loved you…As you love others, you’re loving Me…Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself…”

          Knowing the soul lasts longer than the body – like, uh, forever by grace through faith in Jesus – it makes sense to take care of the body and spend even more time and effort in taking care of the soul.

          Have we resolved for our souls to be increasingly right with God?

          Again, I’m not putting down those resolutions to getting our bodies in shape.  I’m only saying it makes sense to spend more time and effort on our souls that outlive our bodies.

          Yes, let’s lose some pounds and watch our wallets and stay away from bad people and substances; yet let’s also or moreover or more than less or more than before pray and labor and try to be more Christian with Christlike qualities such as mercy, grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation radiating/reflecting/revealing our love for Him; or as Paul wrote, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

          Too often, too many people who say they’re Christians like you and me haven’t been resolved obviously to radiate/reflect/reveal those basic character traits of Christianity; prompting Mark Twain to lament, “The church is always trying to get other people to reform.  It might not be a bad idea to reform itself a little by way of example.”

          We’re not gonna change the world for the better if we don’t change for the better first.

          Resolving to change ourselves for the better comes before resolving to change the world for the better; for when we change for the better, so does our part of the world.

          Apart from saying everybody needs Jesus as personal Lord and Savior by grace through faith to experience confident living in the assurance of eternal life, I would never presume to say how I’m praying and laboring and trying and resolving to improve my relationship with Him that always improves my relationships with others works for everybody, it never hurts to share what works for us because it may work for others like us.

          Let me put it another way.

          How’s your new year’s resolution doing?

          Not that I’m doing that much better than anybody else; but, truly, I am doing a little better because I’ve been resolving the same thing for the past decade or so; and while I’m just scratching the surface of my relationship with Jesus by resolving over and over and over again to get closer to Him, I am scratching and getting closer to Him.

          I’ve got a long way to go; but I’m going.

          My decade-old now resolution is two Bible verses.

          First, Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Jesus living in/through me.”

          I think of it/Him more like this: “As I get closer to Jesus, He dominates more and more and more of my head, heart, and gut.  The more intimate that I become with Him, the more He incarnates in what I say and do and even how I appear.  The more I invite Him into my head, heart, and gut, the more of His goodness pushes out the badness in me.  In short, it is no longer I who live, but it is Jesus living in me.”

          I have resolved to make more and more and more room for Jesus in my head, heart, and gut so that I can love Him better by loving others better by loving more and more and more like Him.

          Second, Galatians 5:22: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, fidelity, humility, and self-control.”

          The miracle of being increasingly intimate with Jesus is we will enflesh those qualities because they are the supernatural enfleshments of intimacy with Jesus.

          Those Christlike characteristics prove intimacy with Jesus; for, again, the closer we get to Jesus, the more that He fills our heads and hearts and guts and the more His goodness will push our badness out of us so that we can say increasingly, “It is not longer I who live, but it is Jesus living in/through me.”

          Two of my favorite authors get it/Him and understand how this resolution works.

          Tony Evans: “Let me make this bold statement to every local church.  The fuller of the Spirit you are, the fewer ‘programs’ you need.  Because no program on earth can match the filling from heaven.  Counseling would be cut short if more people who are being counseled were instead being filled.”

          Rhonda Hughey: “If we aren’t longing for Jesus, our ministry activities will be routine and hollow.  There is certainly no shortage of ideas, plans, methods, books, teachings, programs, and activities in the church.  What we are suffering from is a drought of desperation for God!  Desperation is the underlying fuel that ignites our hearts for unity, prayer, worship, and repentance.”

          So how’s that new year’s resolution doing?

          If it’s going well, I praise the Lord with you!

          If not, why not join me for another year or two or decade or however long it takes to become much, much, much better?

          One more word.

          It’s already been several weeks since January 1.

          Stop waiting!

          Do it now!

          I think of Theophane the Monk: “I had just one desire – to give myself completely to God…An old monk asked me, ‘What is it you want?’
I said, ‘I just want to give myself to God.’  I expected him to be gentle…but he shouted at me, ‘Now!’  I was stunned.  He shouted again, ‘Now!  Now!  Now!’”

          Now is the time to resolve greater intimacy with Jesus.

          It’s the most important resolution of all.

          It lasts forever; and it takes care of all those other resolutions along the way.


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Blessings and Love!

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Shatter the sound of silence!

Wake up!  Look up!  Stand up!  Speak up!  Act up for Jesus!

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!

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