Of Legacies and New Year’s Resolutions
- Monday, November 22, 2004
I have mixed feelings about making New Year's resolutions. In the first place, I'm not certain that it's a Biblical concept. The Holy Spirit, not a New Year's resolution, is the Agent of meaningful transformation in our lives. If, instead, our focus is on what we can do in our own strength, making resolutions has the same feel to it as the widely established non-biblical doctrine that “The Lord helps them that help themselves.” The truth is, if you added the word “cannot,” as in “The Lord helps them that cannot help themselves,” you'd be on the road to sound biblical doctrine.
Another potential pitfall with New Year's resolutions is intentionally waiting for New Year's Day to fix something that is broken, especially if sin is involved. Sin needs our immediate attention. It's the same feeling you get when you hear an inexperienced parent give a disobedient child “until the count of three” to obey. The take-away message for the child, of course, is that a deferred 33-percent obedience rate is acceptable. In reality, “obey” and “later” (or “next year”) don't work well together in the same response.
On the other hand, if anyone should have reason to make a New Year's resolution, it should be Christians. We have been freed from the bondage of sin by the Holy Spirit, Who is able to effect genuine transformation in our lives. If you want a picture of this liberation, put yourself in the place of the demon-possessed man in Mark 5:1-20. If God can overcome the spiritual bondage described in that passage, He can overcome the sin patterns in our life as well.
Jonathan Edwards was a man who made resolutions, though not in the form of New Year's resolutions. In his long list of resolutions He included: "Resolved, to live with all my might while I do live; Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can; Resolved, never to do anything, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him; Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge; Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die."
Anyone who could live up to those resolutions would probably get all of their own for free. For most, a more focused and realistic goal would be a resolution to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in order to be delivered from one particular area of sin in your life.
This will not come as a surprise to non-Christian onlookers, but just being saved does not give Christians immediate deliverance from sin patterns, especially those that have been developing over many years. Addictions to alcohol, drugs, and pornography, for example, are extremely hard to break. Nevertheless, there are concrete steps that you can take to put yourself in the path of God's grace for deliverance from all types of sin, but you must be resolute in your determination to be freed.
In my Father's Day sermon this year, I identified seven principles that every father must teach his children. One of those principles had to do with dealing with temptation and life-dominating sin. Here is an outline of a practical series of steps that you can follow when you are tempted to turn towards sin in your life:
1) First we should thank God for the temptation; it is an opportunity for our personal growth. Begin with a prayer to God thanking Him for the trial. Remember, it is not a sin to be tempted -- temptation becomes sin when we turn towards that temptation in the direction of sin.
2) Next we must move away from the direction of the sin. If it is coming at you, change your course. Put as much distance as you can between you and the source of the temptation -- run if you have to.
3) As you are moving way from the source of temptation, quote scripture that you have memorized that applies directly to the area of temptation. For example, if your struggle is with sexual immorality, quote 1 Corinthians 6:18-20. Do this while you are moving away from the source of temptation.
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