Have A Grace-Filled New Year

As I write these thoughts, it’s “New Year’s Eve!”  In just a few hours (5 ½ hours as I begin writing these thoughts) 2010 will be history and 2011 will begin.

So, have you made any “New Year’s Resolutions?”  I have.

  1. This year I plan to stop wasting so much time exercising. Instead, I plan to watch a lot of TV, eat junk food, and put on about 25 extra pounds. Oh, I think I will start a few new habits- perhaps smoking and drinking heavily.
  2. I will not spend my day off in the living room in my pajamas, posting to Facebook. I will take my computer into the bedroom instead. 

Of course, these resolutions are “tongue-in-cheek.”  That said, these two might be much easier to keep than the standard fair – lose weight, quit smoking, watch less TV, pray more often, read the Bible daily, etc..

The problem with “resolutions” like these is that they quickly transform into a ‘rule-based’ or ‘legalistic’ way of living.  The ‘New Year’s Resolution’ becomes MY WAY of fixing MY LIFE.  It becomes MY attempt to make ME look better, feel better, think better, and act better.  It is self-effort aimed at self-reformation – and it ends in one of two ways:

  1.  I become self-righteous.  “Look at what I did to make my life better.  What a good boy/girl I am!  God sure is lucky to have a guy/girl like me on His side.  I am God’s gift to God!”
  2. OR I become consumed with my own failure – I become overwhelmed with self-condemnation.   “I keep trying and trying and trying…but it never seems to be enough.  I am a complete failure.  I am a worthless.”

 Self-righteousness or Self-Condemnation – maybe you disagree, but in my experience New Year’s Resolutions (or any other path toward self-reformation) ends up in one of these two places.  The Bible identifies this sort of thing lifestyle as ‘living by the flesh.’  Both attitudes function from the perspective that we must DO SOMETHING to make God accept us.  If we succeed, God likes, loves, and accepts us.  If we fail, God IS NOT PLEASED (so we’d better look out). 

Galatians 2:20-21 offers a different template for living.  It’s not based on course-correction, self-reformation, or personal effort.  Instead, it is a lifestyle rooted and founded in GRACE.  Here’s what Paul wrote:

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Through Jesus the Son, the Trinity put in motion a plan of redemption that has NOTHING to do with our effort or action.  At the cross, Jesus took all the sin and brokenness of humanity on him.   He took us into Himself and then took us with Him to the cross.  WE HAD TO DIE in order to be given life.  Paul’s confession was that HE (we) had been put to death with Jesus on the cross. 

Through Jesus we are also given life.  Not a fixed up version of our old broken-down humanity.  Instead, our SPIRIT is not animated by the life of Christ.  Just as we died IN CHRIST, so also are we given life as he lives IN US. 

So, how do we live now?  Not by rules, regulations, rituals, requirements, or resolutions to fix ourselves up.  Not by personal effort and giving it our very best.  If that would have been the solution (if righteousness could be obtained through the law) then Christ’s death would have been for nothing

 The only person who has ever been able to successfully live “the Christian life” is Christ Jesus, the Son.  My life will be a reflection of His life only as Jesus’ life is express through me.  As a friend (Mark Maulding) once put it like this:  “Jesus gave his life for me, to put his life in me, to live his life through me!” 

 “I live by faith!” that’s Paul’s confession.  That’s the watchword of Christianity.  It’s not self-improvement or self-reformation.  It’s about me surrendering my efforts to control, correct, fix, or reform – and instead RESTING in the abundance of HIS GRACE.

What does that sort of lifestyle look like?  Not resolution, but relationship.  Not law, but love.  Not trying harder, but trusting more.  Not rededication, personal renewal, or redoubling my efforts – but instead resting in the abundance of the Trinity’s love and acceptance of me as a adopted child. 

This year I am not making New Year’s Resolutions.  I don’t need them.  God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has already given me all I need.  Through God’s work through the Son as the cross, God has done everything needed for my salvation.  I have been forgiven, redeemed, and remade in Christ.  He is my righteousness.

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