2019 is more than a week old. That means you’ve had plenty of opportunity to fail at some of the resolutions you made not that long ago.
The impulse we feel for making resolutions is often a good impulse. It’s a desire for some kind of personal improvement. There are habits we want to break. Or character qualities we want to cultivate. New disciplines.
There are things we know we need to put off. And things we know we need to put on.
But we have to be on guard against the trap the “foolish Galatians” fell into. Do you remember when the Apostle Paul rebuked them seeking moral improvement apart from the work of God’s Spirit in their lives?
“Let me ask you only this,” Paul wrote. “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
Sometimes, our New Year’s resolutions are an attempt to perfect ourselves in the flesh. It’s a “try harder, do better, clean up my act and live a better life” approach that that seeks to grow in grace apart from grace, relying instead on our own strength of character. If we succeed, we become proud and self-righteous. If we fail, we experience shame and condemnation.
At its worst, our moral self-improvement program can be rooted in a wrong understanding of the gospel. Other than Christianity, every major world religion teaches that we are acceptable to God based on our goodness or our faithful adherence to ritual.
But Jesus says the only way to find favor in God’s sight is to humble ourselves, confess our sins, surrender control of our lives to Jesus and follow Him. It’s His perfect righteousness, and not our own good works, that enables us to become children of God.
I believe the three resolutions that ought to mark our lives this year and every year are these:
To daily, consciously reaffirm the Lordship of Christ over our lives
To daily, consciously repent of our sins
To daily, consciously re-believe the gospel
I believe if we want 2019 to be a year of real change and real moral improvement, these three resolutions are the key.
Reaffirming the Lordship of Christ over our lives is a choice we make over and over again each day. It’s the choice to say “you are God and I am not.”
The first question in the historic Heidelberg Catechism is “What is your only comfort in life and death?”
And the answer begins with this affirmation: “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul both in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”
You belong to Jesus. He is your King. Your Lord. Every decision we face in life should be answered with the same words Jesus spoke in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Not my will, but Your will be done.”
Surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus in every area of our lives is clearly easier said than done. Our flesh wars against the Spirit. We want what we want. That’s the natural inclination of our hearts.
That’s why we need to each day make a deliberate, conscious choice to realign our lives by agreeing that God’s ways are right, turning away from the impulses of our flesh and choosing to follow Jesus.
We have to daily confess and re-repent. Keep on turning our lives back to God and surrendering again.
The final gospel resolution we need to embrace is the resolution that we will daily re-believe the gospel.
In his letter to Titus, Paul refers to the gospel as the grace of God. Believing that God loves us and gave His life to save us is what trains us, Paul says, “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14)
Meditating on God’s love and grace is what trains us to say yes to righteousness and no to unrighteousness or ungodliness. It is the fuel that brings the moral improvement we need.
Meditating on God’s love and grace demonstrated in the cross of Christ is what trains us to live self controlled, upright and godly lives in a culture that does not encourage us to live self controlled, upright and godly lives.
Meditating on God’s love and grace is what motivates us to become zealous for good works.
2019 can be a year of great spiritual growth and improvement if we pursue godliness and growth by focusing on the gospel and not trying to follow some kind of seven step spiritual self help plan. Instead, surrender to Jesus again, confess and repent again, and believe the gospel again. Every day.
January has a lot happening.
Small groups start back up next week. If you’re not in a small group and would like to connect with folks outside of Sunday morning, contact Matt Gurney at email@example.com and get info on who meets where and when each week.
We’ve got our big covered dish dinner and Indelible Grace concert next Friday night? Have you signed up to bring a dish? Have you invited a friend to join you? Here are all the deets (that’s the way the kids say details today – pretty cute, right?).
And as we mentioned last Sunday in church, if you’re interested in investigating what membership at Redeemer is all about, plan to join us on Saturday morning, January 26 at 9:00 for our new members class. There is some pre-work before you come. Contact Matt Gurney (same email as above) for info.
And we still have two more men’s meetings coming up to continue the video series on pornography. We had about 50 guys out last week. If you missed the first video, no sweat. You can start the series any time. The next two sessions are on Monday nights – January 21 and 28 – at the church at 7:00 pm. We’ll be done by 8:15.
And looking ahead to February, the Monday night women’s Bible study starts back up on February 4. Here’s the scoop:
Check this out. Walls are happening!
As the progress continues on the construction of our new church home, we have much to look forward to and much to be thankful for.
Among those things to be thankful for is how many of you made a generous year end contribution to the work of our church. You sacrificed and gave so that we might be able to expand our gospel impact in Little Rock in the years ahead. 2018 ended with roughly $100,000 more given than in any previous year. On behalf of the elders, thank you for your generosity. Join us in praising God for His kindness toward us.
soil. Rocky soil. Weedy soil. Good soil. How should we understand
what Jesus was teaching when He told the parable of the soils in Matthew
That’s what we’ll dig into (ha – get it? Soils? Dig in? I crack myself up sometimes!) this Sunday morning.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!