I've chosen to take a break from my series on the five phrases every Christian should get rid of, before I start. I know some have expressed disappointment in my timing, and I extend my sincerest apologies. I would much rather you read a few of my well prepared thoughts than many of my misplaced ones, and lately they've been a good deal misplaced.
I thought rather than dive into what will prove to be a somewhat forward and likely controversial series, I would take a few moments as we near this new year, to share a few thoughts on the Christian life, and how we might better live it. I've you've already got your dukes up for the “phrases” series, fear not the posts are outlined, drafted, and/ or waiting to be proofed.
The preliminaries thus disposed of, I thought it might befit us to turn our thoughts to the New Year. As I approach the New Year I've been thinking of the tradition of making New Year's resolutions. It seems striking how often the practice of making a New Year's resolution is testimony itself to the perilousness of the resolution itself. If I truly desire to be better, why am I waiting till now to resolve this, and if this is to be a self fulfilled goal, aka loosing weight or being more organized, why do I resolve it at all, and rather “just do it”. For many of us, myself included, the resolution is really a conscience fix. I feel convicted by my lack in some area, and my current inactivity only confirms this lack, so I resolve to fix it. This gives my conscience its temporary relief, without my having to give up chocolate. This of course is not the same kind of resolution Jonathan Edwards made in his famous resolutions on life, but rather a sort of moral credit line, where I draw a balance of unfulfilled self expectation, for the small cost of the compounding interest of self remorse. Many of us struggle with self remorse, regret, and perhaps even superficial self hatred, simply because we have our credit cards run up to the limit.
There are of course many responses to this. The one that seems to be most culturally popular in our time is to declare yourself fulfilled. In essence, to draw the illustration a bit further, to let the card fall into collection, ignore it, and declare yourself rich. This method finds its language in the self esteem movement that swept my generations school years. It is expressed in phrases like: “find your value” “forgive yourself” and “be happy with who you are”. Now these expressions are not necessarily wrong, depending on their context, but they too often come loaded with the presumption that idea itself is enough. The problem is that if I base my image of myself on myself, I will always fail myself, leaving myself in deeper despair than I was before.
I find my resolve must come from some other source. What I need is some complete and utter exchange, a great reversal in which I am made to be what I hope to be. And so it is that my continued resolve comes from the same place as the amazing grace that saved me. The power that gives me the ability to grow, is the same power that awoke my soul. So it is that Christ is our beginning, Christ is our sustenance, and Christ will be our glory. The writer of Hebrews calls him the author and perfecter of our faith. He is the beginning and the end of time, but also the beginning and end of my time.
So how do we actively seize this power?
The language of salvation is never that of seizing and claiming, but always of staring and submitting. Listen to the words of the writer of Hebrews as he says in chapter 12 verse 2:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Fix your eyes on Christ, stare at him, and everything else becomes insignificant in comparison.
This enters into the practical as we ask why we want what we want. Do I want to be more fit? If I do this for my own reasons, to rid myself of my own disgrace, to win some approval from man, I have started the downward cycle of self. If I discard my self focused concerns and stare at Christ, my reasons will become his. I'll seek freedom for his glory, to prove his goodness, and by staring at the cross my resolve won't change, because my object is now outside of myself, and greater than any distraction.
For the New Year, may you loose yourself, despise yourself, forget yourself, and thereby find the inestimable Jesus Christ.