BlackCalvinist January 2nd, 2010
I wrote this and posted it back in 07, but giving it a listen, I found myself being a bit convicted by it. I think it’s a good ‘share’ opportunity for everyone.
Thinking Biblically Commentary – January 4, 2006
K. Joel Gilliard
Every year on December 31, great festivals and celebrations around the world are held to ring out the old year and bring in the new year. In fact, starting backwards from December 26th, news broadcasters begin to reflect on past events of the year, who died, who got married and whatever the big news stories of the year that there were.
Many people use this time of year to do their own reflection on the events of the past year in their personal lives. Many make promises to improve themselves in the coming year and as we well know, these things have a tendency not to last.
Many have come to think of New Year’s resolutions as a cliché for ‘Heh. Let’s see how long that lasts.’ People make grandiose claims and promises only to break them before the end of the month (usually within the first 5-15 days of the month).
Now let’s think for a moment. Biblically, if you will.
Is it wrong to reflect over our lives and think on the major events of our lives? Of course not. Is it wrong to make plans for change ? Not at all. Scripture is replete with folks who do these very things – from David in the Psalms to Isaiah in his book.
The problem is our thinking at how to go about accomplishing these ‘resolutions’ that we make. There’s usually two faulty assumptions that go along with most new year’s resolutions-making.
First, many times, even Christians don’t approach things they resolve to do for the coming year with glory of God in mind. They don’t seek to make change to serve God better, but mostly to serve themselves better, expand their own territory, build up their own kingdom and prosper their own house.
The prophet Haggai spoke of people like this during the reign of King Darius when he delivered a word from the Lord on the subject:
“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.” (Haggai 1:4-11)
Several times here, the Lord admonishes His people to ‘consider their ways‘. That’s Hebrew shorthand for ‘think real close and reflect on how you’ve been acting and what’s been going on with your life’. We learn a lot in this passage. The context, dealing with the rebuilding of the temple under King Darius, is applicable to our present discussion.
So many times, we try to do things in our own strength with our own purpose and plan in mind. We spend our time and energy ‘seeking with all our might’ after food, clothing and shelter (the same thing Jesus said the Gentiles did in Matthew 6). And to make it sound holy, we stamp the name of God on it and say ‘God wants me to have this’ or ‘God wants me to do this’ or ‘If it wasn’t of God, I wouldn’t have the vision or the desire’ and misquote scripture to support this notion (sometimes we’re taught to misquote scripture in this fashion).
My friends, this is nothing more than hedonism masked with Christian spiritualism. In English – seeking after self-pleasure and self-gratification but masking it with a layer of Christian-speak in order to make it sound acceptable to others and ourselves.
Check your motivations real close. The desire to lose weight, for example, is not necessarily bad or good in and of itself. You’d like to lose weight for what reason ? So you’ll look cute in your bathing suit at the beach over the summer (or for the fellas, so you’ll look good and people will notice) ? How about because it makes you feel better about yourself ? How about so you’ll be healthier and live longer ? Or because it glorifies God when you take care of the body He has given you ?
Because we live in a fallen world and in fallen bodies, I’m not saying our motivations have to be perfect, but which of these three things is at the forefront of your thinking on the subject? God knows your heart, no matter what your lips might say. And the actions of your life will reflect it, no matter what you say the answer is. A tree is always known by its’ fruit.
Secondly, we approach the topic of resolutions for change with the world’s methods – sheer will-power and determination – instead of with the power and strength which Christ provides for change.
I make this a very important point because people oftentimes miss it. The major sin in the Garden of Eden was not merely disobedience, but independence. Man believing that he/she can do whatever he wants apart from God. Independence on one’s own strength and reliance upon one’s own strength apart from God can breed and foster an attitude of not needing God.
The average rich person will tell you they don’t need God at the center of their lives. They have everything they want at the time. The man who feels he can do anything and is fairly successful with his life will feel less of a need to be concerned with spiritual things.
So too, in the church, the person who feels that they will and can change their own destiny and God is just ‘along for the ride’ or ‘my eternal ticket to heaven after I’m done with my life’ will find that they really involve God in less and less of their daily life struggles and issues, other than on Sunday. Call it the ‘God is my co-pilot’ philosophy. This is how you find many professed Christians living in the world today: very religious in their speech, but their outward lives look no different than the world, their methods of dealing with life’s issues are no different than the world, they do the same sins as the world and use the world’s solutions for their problems. Or they may have God as an ‘add on’ – a cosmic bellhop to get them whatever they need as they reign sovereignly over their own lives and determine its’ course.
And it reeks of rebellion against God. Subtle rebellion, but rebellion nonetheless.
How should we think about these things ?
Reflection is good. It should never be a once a year thing, but a regular habit for the believer. At the reading of the law each week, Israel was always pointed back to things God had done in the past as proof of His continued faithfulness to them and hope for continued faithfulness in the future. Romans 8:28 should bring some of this to mind with the believer, as he looks back and sees that it was not he who ordered his own life, but God who prepared him for salvation, God who took out the wrong people from his life and put the right people in, God who ordered the events of his life so he would be where he is now. And we have His promise that He will never leave or forsake us – and this should bring us hope.
That reflection should drive us to seek His wisdom and counsel on how to live life skillfully. The Psalms, Proverbs, the book of Ecclesiastes and the book of James brings us thousands of years worth of very practical life-application mixed with sound teaching to put life into proper perspective for us. Immerse yourselves in these books and they will inform your mind on how to think and view life. This, in turn, will give you a right perspective from which to view changes in life and make change, grow your dependence on God for that change and help you live a life that is well pleasing and honoring to Him.
Let’s not be ‘resolution-driven’ people like the rest of the world. Instead, let us take time and fill our minds with the wisdom that God has given us in His word so that we can learn to live skillfully in this world. That’s real change that will last.