Revolution, Not Resolution

It’s coming you know.

Yep. New Year’s Day. A new beginning. A fresh start. Time to turn over a new leaf and begin anew. It’s time for a New Year’s Resolution.


I wonder how many folks follow through on their New Year’s Resolution. Wait… let me look it up… (Google is a wonderful thing) … Care to hazard a guess? 40%? 30%? 15%? What do you think?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the fail rate of New Year’s Resolutions is about 92%. Whether it’s a diet or exercise program, chances are that 9 out of 10 will not follow through. If you’re reading this, you may not be climbing the mountain of endless exercise or eating rice cakes, but you may be thinking of starting a Bible reading plan or beginning a new devotional. I’m afraid the same statistics apply to you as well. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Most of our New Year’s Resolutions are done in our own strength. We exert our willpower to overcome the obstacles. We try harder. We begin again. We love do-overs. A fresh start. A chance to wipe the slate clean. And most of the time we fail because we do so in our own strength.

What if I told you that you needed NO strength whatsoever?!? What if I told you that the spiritual transformation would come with no effort at all? What if I said that, as a Christ follower, the good work He began in you would be finished eventually — by Him… by God?!? (See Philippians 1:6)

The only work required is to receive. No re-doubling your efforts. No more vows to God to read the entire Bible in one year. No more beating yourself up because you don’t pray an hour every morning. Let me explain.

When you truly receive the love of God into your life and understand — really understand — what it means, you are freed from having to worry about yourself. You can now focus on God and others, which are the only commandments to follow now. (Matthew 22:37-40, Galatians 6:2) When you know that your fate is now secure and that no one or nothing can snatch you away from God (see John 10:28), a burden has been lifted and you can walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. It becomes (more) automatic. The more you understand your identity in Christ, the more automatic it becomes. The freedom will spread to every area of your life, and as it does, you’ll avail yourself more and more to God. You can abandon yourself to God completely without fear, because His love and unconditional acceptance eliminates the fear. (See 1 John 4:18)

Will you fail and fall? Of course. From time to time (edit: every day), it’ll happen. But as you understand God’s love, you’ll come running back to His arms, not fleeing in guilt and shame. You understand that nothing can separate you from the love of God. You understand that your obedience doesn’t make God love you more. You understand that everyone is disobedient. Everyone is unrighteous.

Correction: There is One who was (and is) obedient. There was One who was, and is, righteous; and because of Him – Jesus – all our spiritual resolutions are unnecessary. The focus isn’t on what you and I do; it’s on what Jesus has done.

The work’s been done. It is finished.

No more resolutions. It’s time for a revolution. Receive the Good News.

(By the way, Bible reading plans are wonderful. Beginning a new devotional on January 1st is a great idea [Here’s a good one]. Just cut yourself some slack. Quit measuring your progress and growth. Remember, it’s not about you.)

Renovations and Laundry

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m memorizing a passage of Scripture, Colossians 3:1-17. To date, I’ve memorized the first twelve verses. Memorizing Scripture has an effect on the way you think, both in day-to-day life, and having something to draw from later in life. I find myself thinking about the verses or being reminded of the verses as I go through my day.

Also, as I work my way through each verse, memorizing the phrasing and even the placement of commas, I begin thinking about the meaning of certain words.

For instance, in verses 9-10, the apostle Paul says:

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

One of the words that catches my attention is the word “renewed”. Once I am “in Christ”, after accepting what God has done for me through His Son, I have “taken off” the old Tim and have “put on” a new Tim, which is in the process of being renewed in knowledge. It’s almost like I’ve taken off my dirty laundry and put on clean, fresh clothes. In fact, Paul uses that exact metaphor later in verse 12.

The word “renew” shows up elsewhere in Paul’s letters. In Romans, Paul exhorts:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Again, the renewal of the mind. In Colossians, our new self is to be “renewed in knowledge”. In Romans, we are “transformed by the renewing of the mind.” But how does this renewal happen? What does God do? What part do I play? I believe that Colossians and Romans both give us the answers.

In Colossians 3:1, Paul says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ…”. In other words, “Since Christ has done this for you…”, this is how you ought to live. In Romans 12:1, Paul says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy…”. Again, what he is saying is, “Since, through Jesus, God has been so kind, gracious, and forgiving…”, this, then, is how you should live.

The first step is to realize where we would be without God. Most people never get to this point. They openly refuse His help or deny His existence. They want to run their own lives. They don’t want to appear weak, leaning on a “crutch”. But what they don’t realize is that, in the paradox of God’s wisdom, through weakness, we gain strength. Through what seemed like a dismal defeat at The Cross, came the victory over death, sin, sickness, loneliness, and so much more. It starts with an attitude of gratitude.

Secondly, after seeing how gracious and kind God is, we must trust Him and surrender our lives to Him, to be used however He sees fit. In Romans 12, Paul says, “Therefore… offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…” In Colossians, he says, “… set your hearts on things above (v.1)… set your minds on things above (v.2)… put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature (v.5)… since you have taken off your old self with its practices and put on the new self… (vv.9,10)” It is a conscious decision. It is an act of worship, trusting that God knows how to run our lives better than we do, and surrendering our hearts and minds to Him.

Once we do, He begins to do a work anew in us. We become a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is both an instantaneous occurence and an ongoing work in progress. At our initial conversion at salvation, it is instantaneous. But as Colossians and Romans tells us, it is an ongoing, lifelong process of allowing God to have more and more of our lives. In fact, the Greek word used in both places implies that a renovation is taking place. As He fully takes over, He continually shows us where we need more of Him in our lives… where we haven’t allowed Him full access… and as we allow Him in, the renovation happens.

We allow Him access through our prayer time with Him, allowing the Holy Spirit to show us areas of our lives which need renewing. We allow Him access by reading His Word and allowing it to penetrate our hearts. As we allow Him to work, we become “renewed”. We begin to think differently. We begin to see others differently. Our hearts begin to feel the same things Jesus’ heart feels. We lose our old habits. We lose our “stinkin’ thinkin'” (as Joyce Meyer would say). As we follow Him and His lead, we are gradually transformed into the image of Christ.

As I memorize the passage in Colossians, that renewal is taking place. My laundry is being done. I’m being renovated!

Just come home

Every night this week, Sharon and I will be watching a 6-part video series entitled “The Easter Experience” by Kyle Idleman and City on a Hill Productions. So far, it’s shed some unique light on a familiar story.

For instance, did you ever equate Judas and Peter? Both were disciples. Both walked with Jesus for roughly three years. Both saw the miracles, the healings, and the crowds. They heard the parables and the teachings that turned the Jewish world on its ear. They both shared countless meals with Jesus, including the last supper.

And they both denied Jesus. Their sins were basically equivalent. They knew Jesus intimately. Jesus said they both were his friends. Yet, both betrayed their Lord. They both turned their back on Jesus. One ratted Him out. The other denied ever knowing Him. Which one was worse? What’s the difference between them?

Kyle Idleman teaches that the only real difference between Judas and Peter is how they handled their denial. One felt remorse. The other repentance. Judas, with remorse, ran from his God, turned inward, and landed in utter despair… so desperate that he hung himself.

Peter, on the other hand, initially must have felt the same way. He must’ve thought to himself, “What have I done?”, the same thought Judas certainly had. All four gospels recount his three denials, and Luke’s gospel says that the Lord actually looked at Peter after his third denial. What a crushing moment for Peter! The gospels say that Peter wept “bitterly.” That seems like an understatement to me.

But the moment that seemed to change everything for Peter was when he was back at his old job… fishing. After the Crucifixion, after all seemed lost for the rest of the disciples, after Jesus was seemingly dead and gone, Peter was in his boat casting his net and not having much luck catching anything. And some backseat fisherman yells out to him to cast the nets on the other side of the boat, and when he does, the nets can’t hold all the fish!

And the boat can’t hold Peter! Immediately, he realizes that it’s his resurrected Lord on the beach and he jumps out of the boat and swims — I imagine frantically — toward shore. There was no hesitation. There was no delay. There was only a desire to see his Lord.

There’s no punishment waiting. There’s no demotion or dressing-down or throwing Peter under the bus in front of the others. After coming back to Jesus, with regret and repentance in his heart, Peter is restored gently by Jesus.

Remorse versus Repentance. Turning inward versus turning to Jesus.

And as Kyle Idleman points out, Judas and Peter each had the same opportunity to do what God wants us all to do: to just… come home. Just. Come. Home.

Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. (2 Corinthians 7:10, The Message)