New Year’s Resolutions Remind Us

2018 ResolutionsLast year at about this time, I wrote a post explaining my reasons for not making New Year’s resolutions. In it, I made the point that repentance should be a daily practice for Christians rather than annual resolutions that we can’t keep anyway.  I still believe that’s the more Biblical attitude.

I find the concept of New Year’s resolutions sort of interesting, though. Despite the fact that most resolutions concern themselves with superfluous matters with little eternal significance, the whole idea indicates a deep-down sense that we don’t quite live the way we should. We almost acknowledge that we have sin in our lives.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ~~Romans 3:23 (ESV)

We may even quote that verse in a self-justifying manner that implies we’re no more sinful than anybody else. Sure, we have a few character flaws, but doesn’t everybody? And our little New Year’s resolutions, even if we break them by January 20th (which we probably will), surely demonstrate a willingness to own up to our shortcomings.

Of course, by mid-January, life has resumed its dull rhythms, and we’ve all but forgotten those resolutions. We’ve also forgotten that we have flaws (really sins, though we’d prefer not to use such terminology) that require correction.

But perhaps the problem goes even deeper. If we’ve actually sinned, it follows that we’ve violated God’s standards. That premise leads to the idea of His authority to judge us. And if He does show us the mercy of forgiveness, He has a claim on us. Either way, He has us in His debt, and we don’t like it. New Year’s resolutions are much more comfortable than coming to Him as sinners in need of repentance.

Making New Year’s resolutions can be fun, so please enjoy your Christian liberty to make them as part of celebrating the holiday. But don’t use them as a substitute for dealing seriously with sin. The Lord will show mercy as we repent and trust Him to change us. Let’s resolve to live in repentance throughout the coming year.

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I Can’t See God’s Grace Without Seeing Who I Am

NegativeNobody particularly enjoys reading about human sinfulness or God’s wrath. We much prefer blog posts that celebrate His goodness, love and mercy. I’m stating the obvious, of course, but I do so because I suspect some readers may believe I take some misanthropic pleasure in writing about God’s judgment.

Frankly, I can appreciate that sentiment. I also would rather read (and write) about God’s grace. I like thinking about how much He loves me. I don’t want to be  confronted with my wretchedness, or to realize my utter dependence on Christ’s righteousness because I have no righteousness of my own. Humility often feels distinctly distasteful to me.

Scripture, however, has absolutely no interest in making people feel good about themselves. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles to compose scathing indictments against humanity.

10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ~~Romans 3:10–18 (ESV)

Clearly, the apostle Paul’s compilation of Old Testament Scriptures doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture of the human race. Yet he doubles-down on the theme of human depravity all the way through Romans 7 so that his readers will comprehend our desperate need for a savior.

Romans 7, as a matter of fact, spotlights Paul’s personal struggles against sin, escalating to a point of hopelessness just before he presents the only hope of deliverance.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:21-25 (ESV)

Our wretched condition, repulsive as it is, allows us to see how precious God’s love, mercy and grace really are.

Sadly,  postmodern Western society has not only bought into the lie that people are basically good, but it perpetuates that lie in a plethora of ways. To make matters worse, evangelicals now adapt their theology to accommodate that lie!

Consequently, I emphasize human depravity in my articles with the goal of accentuating how glorious the grace of God truly is. Until we come to terms with our inescapable wretchedness, we regard His goodness lightly. Sometimes we even convince ourselves that He owes us His love (a ridiculous proposition).

I long to write posts praising the Lord for His unfathomable grace and mercy. As a woman who has seen her own vile rebellion forgiven, I well know that I best understand the wonder of His grace when I face the ugliness of who I am apart from Him.

 

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Veiled In Song, Good Teaching See God’s Incarnate Deity

Few Christmas hymns are as beloved as Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Featured in A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life, this hymn reaches millions of people each year, enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.

The almost universal love for this hymn delights me because it teaches a boatload of Biblical doctrine easily and in a pleasurable manner. In particular, it proclaims with incredible clarity that God came to earth as Jesus, the newborn King.

The various repercussions of His Incarnation dance throughout the song, teaching us so many glorious truths about the Lord. How many doctrines can you find?

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Saturday Sampler: December 10 — December 16

Snowmen Sampler

SharaC, who blogs at Into the Foolishness of God already looks forward to the new year in her article, Cheers To The Simple Things. She has a fresh alternative to those pesky New Years Resolutions that none of us keep anyway.

How much do you know about pearls? The End Time author Elizabeth Prata shows us their value in New Testament times, as well as why they held such high value, in her magnificent essay, Pearls in the New Testament. Not only does Elizabeth inform us, but she fills us with wonder at God’s intricacies.

I’ve got to agree with Tim Challies as he identities the 5 Most Ridiculous Books to Ever Become Christian Bestsellers. Whether you watch the short video or read the transcript, you’ll see clear examples of discernment as Challies examines these popular, but woefully unbiblical, pieces of evangelical literature.

Pope Francis, eager to protect God’s reputation (doncha know), wants to change the English translation of The Lord’s Prayer from “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.” Denny Burk writes Is the Pope right about the Lord’s Prayer? to raise the possibility that the pope’s modification may actually undercut confidence in the sovereignty of God.

In a study of Romans 12:1-2, Judy Allen gives us A Lesson from Paul on Transformation on the Unlocking the Bible blog. Her brief, but comprehensive, study takes the mysticism out of God’s transforming work in Christians.

Erin Benziger’s series on “acceptable” sins in Do Not Be Surprised has certainly convicted me! Now she concludes it with The Cure for ‘Acceptable’ Sins by directing us back to the reasons for God’s grace and His wonderful ability to transform us. If you’ve read any articles in this outstanding series, please avail yourself of this capstone piece.

Growing 4 Life by Leslie A. always delivers gems such as Enjoying the Ride. Leslie narrates her recent misadventure of a family outing (what could go wrong looking at Christmas lights?), and finds a splendid application to remind us of God’s sovereignty.

Although I’m still in the process of vetting Fred Deruvo, I’ve pretty much agreed with his articles on his Study – Grow – Know blog. In Knowing God’s Will: Focusing on God or Satan?, Deruvo discusses the practice of deliverance ministry from a Biblical perspective. His insights are so needed in today’s evangelical circles.

Evangelicals, and particularly Reformed evangelicals, are grieving the loss of R.C. Sproul this past Thursday. At the same time, we rejoice that Dr. Sproul is in the Lord’s presence. Naturally, many people are publishing tributes to him on the Internet. I can’t begin to read them all, but I hope you’ll read John MacArthur’s post, R.C. Sproul, on the Grace To You blog.

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Saturday Sampler: November 19 — November 25

bible-sampler

Thanksgiving has passed, but the holiday season is just ramping up! You might want to read Michelle Lesley’s 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays for some practical evangelism ideas. I am planning on implementing #10 myself.

For an intriguing approach to Bible reading, consider Why You Should Live in the Psalms by Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another. I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll try his suggestions, but it definitely captures my interest. See what you think.

Obviously, bloggers this week focus quite a bit on Thanksgiving. Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life writes about the topic from an interesting angle in her blog post, Freezing Out Fear. It’s shorter than most of her posts, but it’s no less powerful.

The holidays can certainly bring out the best and the worst in us, can’t they? In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Melissa Krueger illustrates how A Beautiful Table and a Bitter Heart can dishonor the Lord.

Continuing her very convicting series on “acceptable” sins, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised gives us Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Selfishness. She makes points about this particularly damaging sin that I’d never considered, and her perspective might challenge you a little as well. The entire series is definitely worth your time!

We celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation nearly a month ago, but let’s not suppose that we can move on to other things and forget all about it. Equip, a blog out of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, features Stephen J. Wellum’s article entitled Are the Five Solas Biblical? We all need this refresher.

Pastor Gabe Hughes examines the recent #Churchtoo campaign on Twitter that intends to indict Christian churches for allowing (if not encouraging) sexual harassment and assault. His article, #Churchtoo: Confronting Sexual Abuse in the Church…And How Not To Do It, looks at the sin of sexual abuse from a Biblical perspective rather than as a reason to discredit Christianity.

Writing for Common Slaves, Joe Reed offers an extended quotation in Doctor’s Orders: Lloyd-Jones on obsession with polemics. If you can’t get enough of “discernment ministry,” you might do well to read this one.

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Insights Resulting From A Haircut

Window View Lace CurtainsDo you ever have one of those days where you just didn’t structure your time efficiently? I knew my friend was coming to give us haircuts this morning, and I knew she’d come later than expected. But rather than using the time going through emails or (ahem!) reading my Bible, I experimented with my digital art program.

After she left, I did read my Bible and I went through most of my emails. That, of course, left little time for blogging. Especially about the topics that have been rumbling around in my head lately.

Knowing that I’ll be taking most of next week off from blogging (my sister is coming from California to visit) increases the pressure I feel to blog today. That’s probably not healthy. I should be disciplined in blogging, yes — but not legalistic! This blog exists to honor the Lord, not to keep me under tyranny.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. ~~Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

Even through blogging is my ministry, the Lord never intended that I become enslaved to it. It’s a tool for serving Him, not a means of maintaining His favor. Shame on me for allowing such a wonderful way of serving Him to morph into a thing of bondage!

Yes, I should have organized my time better. But God’s grace is sufficient, even for that. And perhaps that’s the whole point of this blog post. Perhaps some of you feel driven, especially as he holidays approach, to be Ms. Perfect, doing everything you expect yourselves to do in order to keep the Lord happy. Maybe all of us needed this reminder that He’s already clothed us in His righteousness.

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