Well, Christmas is now officially over. Some of you are trying to decide whether or not those decorations on the outside of the house really need to be taken down or if you will just rationalize keeping them there gives you a head start on next Christmas!
Most of us are not overly concerned about Dickens’ “ghosts of Christmases past”—instead some of us must deal with the “waist and hips of this past Christmas!” That’s right sports fans! The really cool rack on which you hang your shirts and place those laundry baskets actually has another use: the dictionary refers to it as “a treadmill.” Scientific study and observation indicates those who use a treadmill for its intended purpose will actually reduce those ever-growing waists and hips received during this past holiday season!
New Year’s resolutions invariably require a certain amount of self-discipline. In fact, the word “resolution” comes from the same Latin base as “resolute”—“resolute” means, “having or characterized by determination.” We easily understand this in our culture today. Those who are resolute in their convictions, those who are not easily moved about by circumstances, are characterized by our society as being firm, strong, or negatively, stubborn; it really depends on who is doing the analysis.
Yet there is something more here. The Latin root also communicates something much more precise. The root resolvere has the meaning “to loosen up” since it has at its root the word solvere where we get our English word “solvent.” In other words, to be truly resolute we must be able to grasp the difference between what we need to loosen and what must remain unmoved.
So how do we make these choices—what to keep and what to lose? It is not wise for us to trust either our feelings or our culture either. In some cultures it was considered appropriate to love one’s neighbor, yet in others, it is perfectly fine to eat him—how one feels determines whether one’s neighbors is either well-loved or well done!
There are accepted norms stretching across all cultures and societies. While there are individuals psychologists may refer to as “sociopaths” or “psychopaths”—those highly aggressive and violent who have no trace of guilt or empathy—no culture or society can survive under similar conditions.
All believe murder is wrong, if not evil. All cultures place a high value and importance on the marital relationship, though many do not understand the damage done to the institution and family by redefining it.
The Apostle Paul in the book of Romans contends when those “who do not have the law [a moral understanding], instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts.” Paul is here referring to what many unbelieving people refer to as morality.
If “those who do not have the Law” (those who are not in a relationship with God as Father through Christ) have a conscience, what excuse do we have, who claim a relationship with God and Christ, when we do not follow His commands? Too many Christians (and those who claim to be Christians) forget it is not those following the tenets of Buddhism, Islam, New Age or even those claiming to be atheists who give Christianity a bad name!
Those claiming to be Christians do this to themselves.
G. K. Chesterton observed, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Peter had a similar experience with Jesus. After witnessing the miracle of the fish catch when they obeyed the command of Jesus, “he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!’” If you look closely at this passage, you will see Peter’s realization occurred after he obeyed and witnessed the miracle of his obedience and Christ’s commands.
All too often, we rob ourselves of seeing Christ’s miracles in our lives; we lack certainty and resolve. We fail to believe and we fail to loosen ourselves and the hold of this world on us. David’s cry in Psalm 51 for the Lord to create a clean heart in him occurred after he felt the Spirit’s conviction of sin. It wasn’t the flu, it wasn’t an anxiety attack. David felt real, no-kidding conviction and recognized it for what it was. If we desire this same ability, we must discipline ourselves to pay attention to the Spirit when He convicts us and speaks to us about what we are thinking, doing and believing.
It may be an epiphany to realize that your laundry organizer is really a treadmill. It is even more important to be able to distinguish the conviction of sin God’s Spirit brings from any other excuse we find convenient.
So, who wants to loosen a New Year?