choice

Resolutions or Resolve?

Moving beyond resolutions to resolve

Interest in physical fitness surges a few times throughout the year. The holiday season when we all tend to eat more than our body needs is a prime example. This carries over to New Year’s resolutions to get physically fit.

Summertime also brings renewed interest in physical fitness for those who go to the beach or lake to catch some sun. Some gyms are even open 24 hours a day for the die-hards, but many of us have difficulty being consistent.

Inconsistency is also an issue for many of us with spiritual fitness. We may know what is needed for spiritual growth and strength but struggle to move beyond the initial experience of making Jesus the Lord of our life.

Resolutions are more like wishes made when blowing out birthday-cake candles. Moving beyond resolutions requires resolve—a choice or decision that results in commitment.

Knowing isn’t doing

Just knowing what we’re supposed to do doesn’t make it happen. I may know a healthy diet and exercise are primary for being physically fit, but if I don’t make changes and act on those changes I won’t become physically fit.

It works the same way with spiritual growth and health. I may know to read the Bible, stay in fellowship, pray, worship, serve, and so on, but if I don’t do these things consistently I can’t expect too much in the way of spiritual fitness.

And yet, there’s more to it than doing things that lead to spiritual growth and fitness. There is an internal struggle we must contend with and overcome. It requires resolve to overcome this struggle more than a mere resolution.

We must contend with and overcome an internal struggle

lightstock.com_notebook-Bible

lightstock.com_notebook-Bible

Hard questions

Because we’re set in our ways, it’s hard to make significant changes in our life. We need to ask some hard but important questions.

What are specific ways I can move beyond my present spiritual state?

What can I do to overcome habitual tendencies I’ve held most of my life?

Once I know what needs to change, how do I make these changes?

Just as commitment and discipline are needed to maintain physical fitness, the same is true for spiritual fitness and growth.

But why does it always seem to be such a struggle?

Our struggle

Our internal spiritual struggle exists because of two warring natures — one is old and dead but the other is new and alive. The old nature is more familiar to us, it’s like a long-term ingrained habit. It’s not an old friend!

Habits like biting nails are often done subconsciously. We do it without realizing it. This is the problem we have with our old nature—our old way of life. It’s our go-to, our internal inclination.

How can we break away and break free from this old way of life?

Just quoting Scripture won’t make it go away. It won’t just fade away with time by doing all the right things. Nor is it about modifying our behavior.

It’s a matter of our will. Not to make a resolution to change but choosing to surrender it. Sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true.

The death of us

Previously, I wrote about a life hidden. This hidden life is a Christian’s new life arising from our new nature given to us by God when we enter into a personal relationship with Him.

But this hidden life is like the life contained in a seed or seed pod. The seed pod has to die for the new life contained in the seed to come to life.

Jesus spoke about this saying, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). In another post, I looked at this need to die to self.

The Bible speaks of putting this old way of life, or old self, to death. But is it understood by most Christian believers? Maybe at a basic level of knowing it but knowing how to do it is another thing altogether.

Here’s what the apostle Paul said about it in Colossians —

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices (Col 3:5–9 NIV)

A choice and a commitment

So, how do we put such things to death?

Notice the figurative language used — “since you have taken off your old self with its practices.”The image is that of taking soiled clothes off.

It’s an intentional choice and action. It doesn’t just happen.

What’s the key?

Think of it as a slow burial.

Theologically, we can know we are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) with a new nature (Ezek 11:1936:26), but our struggle is with letting go of the old self and its ways.

It requires a continued choice and commitment on our part.

A slow burial of what’s dead

unsplash.com_TMarshall

unsplash.com_TMarshall

We need to realize the old way of life and its nature is dead to us. It no longer holds life for us. That is, it doesn’t fulfill us but empties us and holds on to us with a death grip.

Putting the things mentioned above to death requires us to acknowledge they only breed death for us spiritually. They are a dead end in themselves and they need to be buried in the past. Buried with Jesus—the visual image of water baptism (Rom 6:3–7).

Jesus died to put such things to death on the cross and He removed their power through His resurrection (Col 2:13–15).

After realizing this, we need to choose to not go back to these old ways of life, these habits of our old self. We do this by choosing not to live that way, be that way, and do such things. This is the way we will bury the old self.

But remember, it’s a slow burial. It requires a resolve that goes beyond mere resolutions. It requires a daily choice to trust in the Lord’s perfect work of redemption on the cross, as it personally applies in our life.

The old way of life and its nature need to be dead to us

I’ve got more thoughts on how to take the next step beyond putting the old self and ways to death. If you’re interested, let me know.

Until then, a few questions…

What seems to hold on to you from your old way of life?

How is it a dead-end for you now?

What are some practical ways you can bury it for good?


This was published earlier in Publishous on Medium as a revision from a previous post

What Are You Thankful For?

Photo by  Libby Penner  on  Unsplash

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Are you thankful?

Each Thanksgiving it’s good to take stock of all we have to be thankful for in the midst of all the hoopla of the weekend—food, family, friends, football, and Black Friday.

Sadly, a holiday set aside for national gratitude and reflection has been usurped. It's typically referred to as Turkey-Day and become an excuse for excessive eating, spending, football watching, and beer drinking. 

It's easy to become cynical and pessimistic about the state of our nation and the world around us. Inevitably, this breeds the same in our heart and mind, permeates our thinking, and leaks out through our words.

The only solution is a resolve to choose to be thankful—grateful for what is good in our life.

A little history

This was the intent of the first national observance by President George Washington and the proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. The observance of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November was set in 1941 by an act of Congress and there’s much more to the history of Thanksgiving in America.

Perhaps it's my 60's-era perception of it, but it seems like the whole weekend has become way too focused on materialistic pursuits.

Black Friday used to start at 5:00 am but now it starts at midnight, maybe even earlier. The weekend bargains are capped-off with Cyber Monday. Sadly, I must admit, I'm not immune to it. But it still bothers me to be so preoccupied and seduced by it all.

I choose to be grateful

Sad, mad, or glad? It's a choice. So, I'll choose to be glad through gratefulness.

Some of my favorite verses in the Bible on thankfulness are found in Colossians 3:15-17. I’m intrigued how within each admonition of these three verses (in most versions) is the exhortation to be thankful. And a practical element of these verses speaks to how we are made.

In the margin of my Bible I wrote three words— heart, mind, and body.

Thankfulness in Heart, Mind, and Body

  • Heart— The encouragement of verse 15 is to let the Lord's peace rule—like a football referee—in our heart and be thankful.

  • Mind— The next verse admonishes us to let God's Word dwell—live in and permeate—our thoughts in a full and deep way. And don't forget—with thankfulness!

  • Body— And finally, whatever you do—words, deeds, actions—do it so God is honored in your life example. Again, do it with thankfulness.

This isn't a self-help formula. It says "let…"—allow this attitude to govern and prevail in your heart, mind, and actions. It's a choice. You can choose to be thankful every day not just one day out of the year!

What input do you choose for what rules your heart, mind, and actions? The kingdom of the world around you or God's kingdom? Cynicism or thankfulness?

I know what I choose, especially when I find myself drifting into the prison of pessimism—I choose the prism of praise. It's healthier and much more fun.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:15-17 NIV84)

Our Responsibility of Choosing

Some choices are easy while others seem impossible. On any given day, we make hundreds of choices, often without realizing it.

We choose when to get up—even though it may be out of obligation or commitment. What we eat, drink, wear, and where we go or don't go are all choices.

But it's easy to choose without choosing—to settle into a routine—even to let others make choices for us. Whether we choose or choose not to choose—we alone are responsible for our choices.

Wisdom Calls Out

Personification brings an abstract and conceptual thought more real and relatable. Wisdom is often personified as a woman in Proverbs as a means of illustration, which I mentioned in an earlier post and in my study guide for Proverbs.

Personification makes things more personal, like BB King's guitar named Lucille and Willie Nelson's guitar Trigger. Ships and cars are often referred to as if feminine and sometimes characters or caricatures serve to personalize an attitude like Dickens' Scrooge and Dr. Seuss' Grinch

Is It All Good?

The popular phrase, "It's all good," is used way too much. It's an expression that covers a multitude of situations. It's meaningless without context and often depends on a person's point of view on life in general.

King Solomon used a phrase throughout the book of Ecclesiastes that conveys the opposite—"It's useless...!" (Eccl 1:1 NCV). A more current way to say it is, "It's a waste of time!"