It’s a New Year and I’ve been here before.
In fact, I’ve been here so many times. It’s a new beginning. It’s the time I look back over the past year and then I once again assess, repent and promise. It is, as it were, a clean slate, a new chance and a great opportunity to become what my heart always thought I could be.
My heart is right. I really do mean well. I really do plan to do better this time. I know that I’ve messed it up before. I wince at the broken promises, the shattered dreams and the unfulfilled hopes…my sin in my hands.
But this year…this year will be different. This time it’s "the world behind me, the cross before me; No turning back, no tuning back."
The problem is that I’ve been to that "other" place before too. I’ve been there so many times.
"Oh God of the Second Chance,
Let me tell you about my New Year’s resolutions.
I’ve decided not to make any.
Well, that’s not true. I do have one resolution and it is this: I will never–not this year, not next year and not any year the rest of my life–make another New Year’s resolution.
Let me tell you why I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions.
First, I have this tendency (maybe "obsession") to confuse getting better with the real reason for following Christ. That’s what the rich young ruler did. You’ll find his story in Mark 10.
You’ll remember that the young man came to Jesus and asked about eternal life. Jesus told him that he should be good. The young man replied that he was already good. Then Jesus told him to sell everything he had and "come, follow me." It was the "follow me" that the young man didn’t get. He thought that being good was enough. It really wasn’t enough…not even close.
I do a lot of religious stuff (a lot more than you do) and the great danger is for me to think that if I’m even more religious, or good, or obedient, that it will be the same thing as walking with Jesus. So I’m not going to resolve to get better. It hardly ever makes me better anyway.
But there’s more.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I also get confused about the correlation between love and production. Everybody I know (well, most of the people I know) like me when I do things right, helpful or laudable. It’s so bad, that sometimes I find myself saying, doing and working at doing stuff so people will like me.
Do you remember Spiro Agnew?
(Some of you weren’t even born when he was the Vice President of the United States under Richard Nixon…and you have no idea how much that irritates me!)
Agnew was accused of taking bribes and he pleaded nolo contendere (that means, "maybe I did and, then again, maybe I didn’t") and was forced to resign his position as Vice President. William Rusher, who was then with National Review, was being interviewed on national television and said something I’ll never forget. He said, "I was proud to be Spiro Agnew’s friend before this happened and I’m still proud to be his friend."
That’s what God has done for me because of the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his kindness in imputing Christ’s righteousness to my account. The problem is that I sometimes forget. Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means. ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:12-13).
Back in the days when I made resolutions and worked hard at keeping them, I would fail and people wouldn’t be my friend anymore. My problem was that I thought that Jesus wasn’t my friend either. That’s why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.
There is one more reason I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I confuse getting better with trying harder and I simply can’t deal with the guilt. I have a friend who says that he’s better at obedience because he got tired of paying the price for his sin. I like that sentiment…but it doesn’t work for me. I know the price and (is this crazy or what?) I still sin.
I’ve found it better to lead with grace and forgiveness. It’s kind of a safety net for me when being good isn’t good enough. If I lead with resolutions and don’t stick with them, I don’t want to pay the price of the guilt. So I try to remember that the price has already been paid before I sin and then I forget about making resolutions. I just can’t deal with any more guilt. I’m already driven by it.
Does this mean that I think obedience, holiness and sanctification are bad things? Are you crazy? Of course not. It’s a big deal with God and it’s a big deal with me. I really want to be better (and believe it or not, I really am better), it’s just that the resolutions weren’t very helpful for me.
Now, I’m not your mother and I’m not telling you what to do. You may not be as neurotic as I am. So go ahead and make your resolutions.
And, just to show you that I’m not a total wet blanket on the New Year’s resolution thing, I’m going to make one right now. Okay?
I resolve that every time I’m scared, lonely, afraid, sinful, confused and needy, I’m going to run to Jesus.
"Oh God of the Second Chance,
Oh, and he said you could too…again…and again…and again!
In His Grip,
(C) 2007 Steve Brown | KeyLife