At the start of every new year, I pray through this list of questions, answering for the coming year and reflecting on this past one. I’m a fan of reflection for two reasons:
1. Reflecting causes me to be more intentional moving forward. Every single year when I am asked to identify the ‘biggest time-waster in my life’, my response is the same: watching tv.
For FIVE YEARS I have known that TV is cannibalizing my life and yet – it still hasn’t changed. Why? Because knowing doesn’t equal change. Identifying the problem is not the same as seeking a solution. The fruit of the Spirit is not ‘self-awareness’ it is ‘self-control’.
I need to come to value words like ‘intentionality’ and ‘discipline’ but it’s hard because I get them confused with legalism.
Legalism is: doing what is right even when we don’t feel like it out of fear of consequence or out of an attempt to earn our righteousness. The opposite of legalism is NOT: doing what is ‘right’ only when you feel like it. The opposite of legalism is discipline.
Discipline is: doing what is ‘right’ even when we don’t feel like it out of a heart that believes and trusts God knows what is best.
There are two ways to walk as a slave to the flesh: (1) do what the flesh tells you. If you don’t feel like reading your Bible, don’t read it. (2) deny your flesh, but out of a motive that dishonors God. If you don’t feel like reading your Bible, read it anyway, because otherwise you’ll feel like a ‘bad Christian’.
But don’t be confused: both of those tendencies are dishonoring to God. With the Spirit inside of us, we have a third option: we can walk in discipline. We can do what God commands, even if our flesh tries to convince us otherwise because we are motivated by faith in His promises.
2. Reflecting causes me to worship the God of our Gospel. Turns out that while I was faithlessly looking the other way this year – God worked miracles in me.
‘What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?” was one of the questions and I wrote: “be loving and trusting instead of cynical and suspicious’. I don’t even remember writing that, but just last week I was telling a friend that my heart feels so radically and miraculously different in this area.
There is no other no other religion in which this makes sense except for the one of our sweet Jesus.
I didn’t work hard. I wasn’t intentional. I didn’t do ‘my part’. So, it doesn’t make sense that God still changed me.
This is the Gospel: God didn’t wait for us to do our part. He didn’t wait for us to show ourselves worthy. While we were bent on self-destruction, He stepped in and changed us.
And that’s not just how we get saved, that’s how we get sanctified.
That’s why I walk by discipline instead of legalism. Because I know that my sanctification isn’t something I have to earn. I can obey because Christ has bought me out of slavery. I walk in obedience because He bought His Spirit for me, living inside of me, enabling me to believe all the great and precious promises that change my life.
I going to press on this year. I’m going to seek to read and study His Word instead of watching more TV. I’m going to do legalistic sounding things, like memorizing Scripture, because I believe God when He promises that having His word treasured inside of me is going to ground me in Him instead of living being tossed to-and-fro by the world’s lies.
New years is crazy.
Gyms will be full on Tuesday. Church pews filled on Sunday. Bibles dusted off this week for the first time in years.
Go back to church, open up your bible. Don’t do it out of a desire to be a ‘better person’ or because it’s time to get your act together.
Do it because you believe Him: in His presence there is fullness of joy and His Words are life.