internal change

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

The Power of a Gentle Answer

Photo by  Alfonso Ninguno  on  Unsplash

A gentle answer turns away rage,

but a harsh word stirs up anger.

The tongues of wise people give good expression to knowledge,

but the mouths of fools pour out a flood of stupidity.

The eyes of the Lord are everywhere.

They watch evil people and good people.

A soothing tongue is a tree of life,

but a deceitful tongue breaks the spirit.

 (Proverbs 15:1-4 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 15:1-7 GW)


I don't know about you but I'm fed up with the rancorous political rhetoric and mudslinging that goes on at election time. And it seems to get worse each election!

And the news media, including social media, plays off of it all and ramps it up even more. It doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you're on—it comes from all sides. If it doesn't bother you too, you're probably caught up in it too much.

All of this rancor and uncivil debate confirms the second line of this verse—

...but a harsh word stirs up anger.

But what about the first line of the verse? How can a gentle answer turn away anger or rage? At first glance, it may seem absurd or naive. But it's true. I've seen how it's true firsthand.

I can get emotional and passionate about what I think is right or when I think I'm right in a heated discussion (aka– argument). My wife and good friends have turned away my anger and rage on more than one occasion. Thankfully!

It's been helpful to me personally but also an example for me to do the same. I'm also thankful I've become less easily angered over time, as the Lord continues to work His grace into my heart and life.

Perhaps this is why I'm bothered by combative talk, especially when one party really isn't hearing or considering what the other is saying.

As said many times before, it's not just what you say but how you say it. So, how can a person do this? How can we learn to give a gentle answer in the face of someone else's wrath?

The first thing is to observe how effective it is when someone else does this. For starters, we can all learn a lot from how Jesus deflected the animosity and opposition aimed at Him.

But how is really more about who—our character. This isn't an encouragement about self-improvement exercises or things to say. It's about an internal change in us—our heart, our nature.

It's about an internal change in us—our heart, our nature

Reading further in this chapter, three verses stand out to me in relation to this first verse—

The tongues of wise people give good expression to knowledge (Prov 15:4a GW)
The lips of wise people spread knowledge (Prov 15:7a GW)
A soothing tongue is a tree of life (Prov 15:4a GW)

The first two verses speak of the character of a person and how they speak and what they say. Wisdom isn't gained by osmosis or by birth—it doesn't just come by being around it. It's gained by taking wisdom in, considering it, understanding it, and then living by it.

The first part of verse 4, the third verse mentioned, is very similar to the first verse. It's a little different in its wording but conveys the same thing—a gentle answer... a soothing tongue. These words have power but are not intimidating.

When you speak gently to a scared animal, it tends to calm them down. Talking loudly and forcefully only reinforces the fear in an animal or a person.

When a baby is crying it doesn't help to yell, "Stop crying!" at the baby. But when you speak in a soothing way with encouraging and comforting words, it helps relieve tension and is reassuring. This is true for a baby, a child, and an adult.

So, when confronted with someone's anger or rage next time, try answering them in a gentle way and speak with a soothing tongue—whether in person or in some form of social media. Choose to lower the tension. Choose the wise way—the godly way.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

Reflection—

If we want to give a gentle answer in response to anger or wrath, we need to embrace the wisdom from above and let it bring a change deep in our soul—our heart and mind.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God daily for His wisdom—it's pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere—so you're able to give a gentle answer in the face of anger or rage.

©Word-Strong_2018


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs