Admit it: you’ve given up making New Year’s Resolutions, or at least have flirted with it. It makes no difference. As soon as you start, you know you’re doomed. Lose weight. Read the Bible. Tithe. Love your family/spouse/kids/parents better, write the Great American Novel… You know that by the second weekend of February, it’s all over. You started with a bang, and fizzled out.
Could it be that your best intentions have an archenemy? Could it be that for every voice within you that calls you to do good, another voice whispers… “We’ll see about that!”?
Your New Year’s Resolutions have a nemesis: your flesh, a.k.a., your Inner Mess.
15 I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15, NLT).
“I want to [insert your resolutions here] but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the opposite.”
You do not understand your life until you understand the force inside you that longs for the opposite of everything good. Your flesh crouches like a beady-eyed troll at the intersection of moral guilt and personal corruption. He spoils every party, trashes every relationship, and sabotages every advance in your life. You are messed up. But don’t take that personally — it’s universal. When Adam sinned, we all fell, teaches Romans 5.
That means your best intentions have an adversary.
The trick is learning how to not be a flesh-dominated person.
As a lifelong confirmed legalist, I hereby testify that these strategies DON’T WORK:
- Self punishment
- Self sacrifice
- Guilt and Shame
- Making excuses
- Covering up
- Trying harder, pedaling faster, determination, resolve, will-power.
These strategies share the same fatal flaw: they represent attempts to solve the problem of the flesh by means of the energy of the flesh. The flesh can’t solve your flesh’s problems!
You need the power of God.
And that is exactly what Jesus brought with him when he saved you. He brought supernatural, divine resources. He brought the Holy Spirit. Christ himself lives in you. He brought the promises of God. You have all the power you need to escape the gnarly clutches of the flesh. It is divine power, God’s own power, infused into you.
There are two secrets activating this power on a daily basis:
1. Faith. Trust Jesus Christ to live through you by his Spirit. Ask him to and he will. You received Jesus through faith, and you receive his ongoing provision through ongoing faith. You need a muscular faith. You need a mature faith.
2. Growth. Spiritual maturity, spiritual growth, discipleship… call it what you will. You need to grow up. We Christians expend so much energy solving problems and fixing dysfunctions. Most of our effort is wasted, because we’ve never addressed the problem behind the problem. The problem behind virtually every problem in your spiritual life is simple: LACK OF GROWTH. IMMATURITY IN THE LORD. If you’ve ever enjoyed the company of a well-trained dog, you’ll get this analogy: some Christians are an absolute pleasure to God. Others are annoying little puppies: beloved, but a pain the neck.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (Hebrews 5:12, NKJV).
Your resolve is only as good as your faith. Your resolve is only as certain as your growth curve. Your resolve is only as doable as your willingness to tap into divine resources allows.
Determination can only take you so far.
The gracious provision of God can take you all the way. Christianity is always about us looking away from SELF and looking more and more to CHRIST.
Happy New Year!
For more about escaping a flesh dominated life, check out my book: How to Keep Your Inner Mess from Trashing Your Outer World. It’s an ideal topic to begin the New Year, with the best part of you in the driver’s seat.