In View of God's Mercy..... Resolve Away (Part II)

by PastorErick | 1/10/18, 8:31 AM

[5]….Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, [6] and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, [7] and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. [8] For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV)

Over the last couple weeks we’ve been talking about areas of our lives that the Bible would call us to grow in for 2018. For many of you there are probably very specific ways you’d like to see yourself improve: You’d like to really make some headway on your degree, you’d like to spend 20 minutes more a day with your kids, you’d like to lose 23.6 lbs. etc. Others of you don’t have anything specific at all in your mind, but you just know THERE ARE THINGS THAT NEED TO CHANGE.

So what you’re told is “Discipline yourself, practice, practice, practice and become the little engine that could.” But there’s a huge problem with that: In it of yourself you can’t change (sorry Tony Robbins and almost all other Motivational Speakers). In order for real change to happen, something deeper than “I think I can, I think I can” needs to take place in your life. Here’s why:

What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. (Quoted in this piece here).

What we often think is that our will is in charge. So we say “Mind over matter,” or “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” But that’s just not true. The truth is, in our nature, our Will is held captive to sin. Luther put it this way:

Let all the ‘free-will’ in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength.“ (Bondage of the Will, pg. 202)

For real change to take place, our heart’s affections (what we love) have to be changed. You know it’s true right? You might say you want to eat less fatty food this year, but because you love ice cream (and bacon!) you don’t. You may say you want to spend more time with your spouse, but because you love football, you don’t. You may say you want to engage your kids, but because you love your bosses approval more, you work longer instead. You know it shouldn’t be like this, so often times what’s really going on when you make resolutions is you’re starting off from a place of guilt:

"I know I ought to spend more time with my wife, hang out with the kids, and eat less bacon. I should display "self-control” and “steadfastness” as Peter says in our text! So….this year, it’s gonna be different!“

Now, please understand that guilt you feel about not being the person you should be? That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Your conscience is probably giving you a sign that's something is not as it should be.....

But….

That guilt you feel to change CANNOT BE THE THING THAT CHANGES YOU. Only Jesus can do that. That guilt you feel is meant to drive you to Him so HE CAN CHANGE YOU (Galatians 3, 1 John 1, Rom. 3 etc. etc. etc.), in His time, according to His plan. Let guilt, fear and shame bring you to an end of yourself and your own efforts, so that you might experience the freedom of trusting Christ to change you. He will start to change your affections (albeit, slower than you might expect) and from that begin to change your habits (again, slower than you might expect).

Now does that mean you shouldn’t try to change? To have more "self-control” and to be more “steadfast” in your relationships, at work, with your kids, etc? Not at all. Seek to change in the areas that need change, just don’t dare try to do it yourself. Seek His Kingdom first and “all these things shall be added unto you."

Let me conclude by saying: When you fall short (and you will), don’t get discouraged, just go to Jesus and press forward. One of my favorite illustrations of this "pressing forward" is from a Christian writer in the 18th century named Samuel Johnson. Resolving to get up earlier and be more diligent in prayer, he records in his diary throughout his life how it goes.

1738: He wrote, “Oh Lord, enable me to redeem the time which I have spent in sloth.”

1757: (19 years later) “Oh mighty God, enable me to shake off sloth and redeem the time misspent in idleness and sin by diligent application of the days yet remaining.”

1759: (2 years later) “Enable me to shake off idleness and sloth.”

1761: “I have resolved until I have resolved that I am afraid to resolve again.”

1764: “My indolence since my last reception of the sacrament has sunk into grossest sluggishness. My purpose is from this time to avoid idleness and to rise early.”

1764: (5 months later) He resolves to rise early, “not later than 6 if I can.”

1765: “I purpose to rise at 8 because, though, I shall not rise early it will be much earlier than I now rise for I often lie until 2.”

1769: “I am not yet in a state to form any resolutions. I purpose and hope to rise early in the morning, by 8, and by degrees, at 6.”

1775: “When I look back upon resolution of improvement and amendments which have, year after year, been made and broken, why do I yet try to resolve again? I try because reformation is necessary and despair is criminal.” He resolves again to rise at 8.

1781: (3 years before his death) “I will not despair, help me, help me, oh my God.” He resolves to rise at 8 or sooner to avoid idleness.

Sounds like me and you doesn’t it? But he doesn’t quit, he keeps seeking the face of God even though it’s a constant struggle. What will give you the ability to keep on fighting the fight on days when it seems like there's nothing left to do? The constant recognition that in spite of your success or failure, because of Jesus' success and resolve for you, God will never let you go.

It’s ironically comforting to me as this 40th year of my life gets under way that I am weak and He is strong–that while my love for Jesus may continue to fall short, Jesus’ love for me will never fall short. As my friend Daniel Price points out:

"Christianity isn't for the Little Engine that can. It's for the train wreck that can’t.”

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Erick

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