Happy New Year everyone!
I hope you had some sort of break (See the article on the Sabbath Principle.)
But all that’s over now. Back to the Real World **Sigh!**
…So, let’s take a big breath, and here we go again!
Will it be the same-ol’ same-ol’?
“NO! This time it’s gonna be different! It’s a new day!
I’m gonna do better this time around! I’ll be a BETTER person! I’m gonna IMPROVE!”
So we go into the new year with a new sense of hope, determination and make all these wonderful NY resolutions (NYRs). We’re fired up and ready to go! After all, we are people of good character, mature Christians and “going on in God.” The world is waiting for the Manifestation of Me.
What could possibly go wrong?
Week 1: How’s it going so far ….hmmm?
If you’re anything like I was, most of these amazing NYRs don’t make it past the first day, let alone the whole year. But it’s the thought that counts! Right?
(On the first two Sundays of 2017 at MCF, Tim Stebbing and David Butler made a few points about these NYRs. I’ll build a bit on what they said, though they may add some comments later if I missed any important points they made.)
“Bummer! I blew it again!!!” we say. “Am I hopeless or what!!” and we beat ourselves up.
Or it’s “The Devil made me do it!” Or “The cravin’s too strong, man!”
Is there any point to making NYRs, we wonder? How do we do this so we don’t fail (yet again!)
Well, let’s look at our usual strategies and motivational catch-cries. Here’s a few common ones:
- Turning over a New Leaf
- Don’t give up!
- A Self-Improvement Plan
- Resolutions (Tim pointed out that these are actually Vows)
- The Power of Positive Thinking
- “Can do” mentality
- “Just Do It!” (Ancient saying of the prophet NIKE)
I’m not knocking these, by the way. Many people have found them helpful – sometimes… and in certain favourable situations. But for mere mortals like me, these awesome-sounding motivators are rather limited in effectiveness.
We have this drive in us to rise above our past failures and weaknesses, but we just can’t do it!
We’re on this religious treadmill or vicious cycle that goes like this:
Why IS that?
If it’s any comfort, the great Apostle Paul struggled with this too:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
(See it in context in Romans 7:21-24.)
He also said earlier in the chapter: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18.)
So… is there any hope for us at all??
How can we really and consistently experience change?
Paul’s answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25.)
Sounds good doesn’t it? Doctrinally correct! Solves all our problems. Right?
Well, when I first seriously read that, I couldn’t help asking God “Lord, this sounds really wonderful, but what does it mean in practical terms? How does this translate into my daily struggles? Or does He wave His hand over my life in some mysterious way to make my sins and failures go away?”
(God was quite gracious with that prayer and my attitude btw)
It took a bit of a while to get it into my thick skull that the key to the verse was in that verse itself.
It was the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Getting to know Him.
Experiencing – I mean experiencing – His love and power in my life by the Holy Spirit, not striving to obey yet another set of rules.
I can honestly say that any major improvement in my life and character has been in conjunction with drawing closer to Him, experiencing His presence in prayer, in worship, in relating to other Bros and Sisters, and often in my daily activities.
I find that the more I put the effort into building that relationship (rather than a mechanical and fear-based obedience to the Laws of God) the better I’ve become, and the more amazing my life has been.
The old habits lose their attraction or often just fall by the wayside.
New and healthier ones become much easier to take on board.
Sounds mystical-religious-spooky? Not a bit of it. Millions through the ages have experienced it and still are. We experience it at MCF. We haven’t “arrived” yet, but any relationship is a lifetime thing anyway. This one goes on into Eternity!
Have you experienced this redeeming relationship?
It all starts, like any living thing, with a birth.
In our case, it’s a rebirth, because we must experience a kind of death first, being the fallen creatures that we are.
I’ll continue this next time.
Contact us if you want to know more -- or even better, put your question in a comment below.