The only New Year’s resolution I’ve kept was in 1984. It was the year I “resolved” to no longer make New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I can’t make them. I can’t keep them. But I admire those who can, albeit from a distance, because that apple rolled far from this tree.
There are passages of scriptures in which we can all relate, and unfortunately Romans 7:15-20 is toward the top of my list. “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (NIV) Believe it or not, this passage is even more confusing in the King James version.
Common resolutions this time of the year include starting and maintaining a healthy diet, more exercise, more Bible reading, more prayer, more quiet time, and less television. (and other more or less behaviors) I will to do those things, but find practicing them more difficult. I want to, but don’t perform it.
The Weymouth’s translation describes our “walking in the flesh” as our “lower nature”. Before I came to Christ, I did by “nature” things in opposition to God. But when I experienced the new birth (a requirement for salvation), I become a new creation in Christ and received a new nature. This is true of all who follow Christ. Although we still struggle with our “lower nature” it is not to rule over us. Paul goes on to say, “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21-25) The flesh wars against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh.
Ephesians 6: 12-13 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (KJV) I’m afraid too many of us “wrestle not”, and lose by default.
A man once asked a visiting evangelist to pray that the devil would leave him alone. “Should I pray that you die?”, responded the evangelist. “The devil will never leave you alone.” Satan wants us to conform to the world through lies, temptations, and intimidation. God wants us transformed into the image of Christ, renewing our minds through the study and meditation of His word. The battlefield is in the mind. (For more on this subject, I highly recommend Francis Frangipanne’s “The Three Battlegrounds”)
We tend to focus on external battles, failing to recognize the one that rages within. The one keeping us from fulfilling our destiny and walking in the fulness of what God has for us. The one that keeps us in a perpetual state of deception, believing we are more “spiritual” than we truly are, blinding us to our dependency on God. A place we judge others by their actions, ourselves by our intentions.
Like the Pharisees, we have a tendency to look outward, more concerned about what goes into the belly than what comes out of the heart. In response, Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matt 23;25-26)
How many of us have the courage to pray as King David when he asked, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24) If you do, you may find this to be a difficult and painful journey.
Change is messy.
As God illuminates our heart, revealing things we’ve tucked away in darkness, we find the path of humility. Your joy may turn to sorrow, and your laughter to tears. But it’s in these moments we become more like Jesus. In these moments His voice is more audible than perhaps at any other time. And in these moments the Holy Spirit leads us, and we begin to see what Jesus would truly do.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Psalms 51:17)
“Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted]. (Matthew 5:4) – AMP