I’ve been thinking for some time about New Year’s resolutions. I often read through Edward’s list for inspiration at the end of the year. He has a way of injecting our impending death into our living so that our lives are smaller and bigger all at once.
One basic theme keeps making its way to my mind and heart. It’s not exciting, not new, not deep or intellectual. It’s that I would stop sinning against God and the people around me. All the things in life I’d like to accomplish would be greatly aided if I could make even small gains in victory over sin. My hopes and dreams are great and many and all of them require Christ’s righteousness and a killing of sin.
I want to be the kind of parent that is parenting with the salvation of a thousand generations in mind, not merely surviving the irritations of the evening. I want to be the kind of wife that helps and doesn’t hinder, that does good and not harm all the days of his life. I want to be the kind of friend that is completely committed to another’s well-being, especially their eternal well-being, without worrying about reciprocity. I want to be the kind of church member that honors her leaders, that sharpens and loves them, and that sees and cares for the whole body–the unseen and indispensable. I want to be the kind of online person who is so earnest and sincere in her words and sharing that trying to people-please or schlep for popularity is a non-factor, but the glory of God is all.
You can see how sin, maybe especially inward sin without obvious manifestations, is a giant roadblock to all of these hopes and dreams.
I will not parent with a thousand generations in mind if I’m stuck in the sin of selfishness and laziness and can’t rouse myself to be laid down as a sacrifice on the altar of daily living. I cannot be the kind of wife who helps and doesn’t hinder, doing good everyday if I’m stuck in the sin of a critical spirit. I cannot be the kind of friend who has another’s eternal well-being in mind if I’m stuck in the sin of keeping tallies. I cannot be the kind of church member who honors her leaders and cares for the whole body if I’m stuck in the sin of desiring honor or a voice for myself. And I cannot be the kind of online person who is sincere in her service and brings glory to God if I’m stuck in the sin of people-pleasing or platform-building.
Edwards 56th resolution says this:
“56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.”
It’s that last phrase that must not be lopped off: “...however unsuccessful I may be.” If success is what keeps me in the fight against sin, then I’ve gotten it wrong. Especially since the more I see my sin and the more I try to kill it, the more God reveals deeper layers to my sin. How is it that twenty-five years of walking with Jesus and I sense more sin in myself than ever before? Shouldn’t the opposite thing be happening? Discouragement is the road to circular sin apathy. If I’m discouraged by my lack of success in killing sin, I think it’s hopeless and I stop trying so hard, which reinforces the evidence that I just can’t quit sinning in any capacity. Fighting sin can’t be based on how I feel I’m doing at it.
Don’t get me wrong, there must be growth and change and discernible progress––that is not optional. But it’s like coming a mile believing the race is a 5K, then to keep going with the new realization that it’s a 10K, only to find this some kind of marathon and the distance is unknown, but so much more than I would have ever dreamed when I started.
God tells us through Joel, “…rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster” (Joel 2:13 ESV).
God wants us to tear up our hearts over our sin, not our clothes. He wants us to see the consequences for what happens to us and our people if we don’t turn. What happens if I continue in sin? Biological offspring that are denied the tastes of an eternal Father and friend? A marriage that forsakes the log in favor of the speck? Friendships that offer smooth words and zero wounds and are destined for this life only? Church members that put their own needs first and others’ last so that the most vulnerable are forgotten, never seen? And online platforms and puffing up that normalizes self-promotion in the name of Jesus, blurring the lines between a selfish ambition and a holy one?
There are real consequences to sin that aren’t boundaried by the heart in which the sin happens. No, the consequences spill out and multiply.
And it is with these serious and fearful thoughts in mind that I make my resolves and invite you to join me.
- Resolved, to tear my heart to shreds over my sin, whether big or small, seen or unseen.
- Resolved, to return to the Lord as quickly as I can, making repentance a flat sprint, not a jog or meander.
- Resolved, not to look at my sin one second more than is helpful for making me sober and fearful, and then to look headlong at Christ, who has paid for every bit of it.
- Resolved, to let thankfulness and joy be the result of repentance as I enjoy increased fellowship with my Father, rather than assuming a posture of guilt or on-going regret.
Lord, would you replace sinful inclinations and actions with thoughts of the glories of Christ and willing hands for good works and happiness in returning to you over and over, so that the appeal of sin becomes bitter and dreadful and Christ becomes more of what he is: my whole life.