If you look up the word “resolution” in the dictionary, it says “1. A state or quality of being resolute, 2. Firm determination. 3. A course of action determined or decided on. And 4. Resolving to do something.
Now, this is the time of year when many of us will make those famous New Year’s resolutions. And, when we make our New Year’s resolutions, we usually start out…firmly determined, we usually start out…resolutely on this new course of action. “This IS the year, I’ll lose those 20 lbs.” “This IS the year, I’ll stop smoking.” “This IS the year I’ll do better in school.”
This is the year I’ll be a better parent, a better grandparent, a better friend, a better classmate, etc." "This IS the year, I won’t fall asleep while Pastor Mark preaches!”
And we usually start out so well, we usually make it through January with our resolutions still intact, but
then February comes…the newness of the resolution fades, and the reality begins to sink in. “This is hard! What I’ve resolved to do is hard.” It doesn’t take long for us to discover, or rediscover, a simple truth: “The words that are the hardest to live by are the easiest to speak!"
More than Improvement
We often make resolutions and break them. Words ARE easy to speak AND hard to live by. And really most of our resolutions are misplaced anyway. They are only designed to make us “slightly better.” They are only designed to take what we already are and fine-tune it, remodel it…just a little bit. "I resolve to lose 20 lbs, so I can look a little slimmer." "I resolve to stop smoking, so I could be a little healthier." "I resolve to control my temper, so I can be a little nicer."
Now, don’t get me wrong…these resolutions are okay, but are these the resolutions GOD would have us make? Is His goal for us, that by this time next year, we would be just “slightly improved?” Is His goal for us, that by this time next year, we would be the same old us just fine-tuned with the rough edges smoothed out. No, that is not what God wants. He’s out to do something entirely different. Something far beyond minor renovations.
Scripture: 2 Cor 5:17:
God wants to make us completely new. Not just a slightly better version of what we are already. London businessman Lindsay Clegg told the story of a warehouse property he was selling. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. andals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and strewn trash around the interior. As he showed a prospective buyer the property, Clegg took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage.
But the buyer said, "Forget about the repairs. When I buy this place, I’m going to build something completely different. I don’t want the building; I want the site." Now, compared with the renovation God has in mind, our efforts to improve our own lives are as trivial as sweeping a warehouse slated for the wrecking ball. When we become God’s, the old life is over. He makes all things new. All God wants is the site and the permission to build.
If we are going to “act resolutely,” if we are going to be firmly determined, if we are going to set a course of action, then we should do it for something that will make great and lasting changes. Why waste time and energy on slight improvements, when we can invest in becoming brand new? God’s not interested in throwing a coat of paint on us. He’s not interested in doing a little remodeling. Paint fades and chips, remodels become outdated over time. God is looking to do a whole new thing. We need simply resolve to give Him permission to tear down and rebuild. God is looking to work wonders in us and through us. We need simply to resolve to put ourselves in His hands and let Him go to work.
What to do
Now, if you were to visit the Johnson City PM Church and grab hold of any one of my 4th Grade Sunday School students and ask them, “What are the 4 ways we learn to do what God wants us to do?” They should be able to tell you. And this morning, we will look at three of them…if you want to know the 4th…you’ll have to go to Johnson City! Resolving to do these 3 things will put us in a place where God can meet with, and speak with,us. Resolving to do these 3 things will put us in a place where God can begin to rebuild us…making us into something new and wonderful.
Please note here! These three things are not the ENDS. They are the MEANS to the end. We do not do these three things simply to do them. We do them with one end in mind: Letting God work to make us nto all He meant us to be.
Resolution 1: Go to Church Weekly
Going to church is a vital component to the Christian life…but not for the reasons many of us think.
Scripture: Hebrews 10:25… As I read this verse consider that the word "neglect" in this verse means, in Greek, “desert” or “leave abandoned.”
It’s staggering the excuses we can come up with to abandon/desert fellow Christians and God on Sunday mornings. To highlight this, a pastor wrote the following:
Football in the fall. Basketball in the winter. Baseball in the spring and summer. This pastor has been an avid sports fan all his life. But I’ve had it! I quit this sports business once and for all. You can’t get me near one of those places again. Want to know why?...Every time I went, they asked me for money. The people I sat next to didn’t seem friendly at all. The seats were too hard and not very comfortable. I went to many games, but the coach never came to my house. Then the referee made a decision that I thought was terrible. I, also, suspected that I was sitting with some hypocrites -- they came to see their friends and what others were wearing rather than to see the game. Some games went into overtime, and I was late getting home. The band played some numbers that I had never heard before. Plus, it seems that the games are always scheduled when I want to do other things. And when I was a child my parents took me to too many games. I don’t want to take my children to any games, because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best.
It’s funny how these excuses to not go to a ball game sound so stupid, but yet we use the same ones when talking about church and think they make perfect sense.
Rick Warren says, “we were created for community, fashioned for fellowship, and formed for a family. NONE of us can fulfill God’s purposes alone.” (Emphasis added) We were created to have a relationship with God AND with our brothers and sisters in Christ
Scripture: Romans 12:5
Paul says, we’re connected to each other. Everyone in the body of Christ is important and necessary. When part of the body decides to desert and abandon the other parts, and disconnect, it affects all the
others…just as with the human body…what if your right leg decided it wanted to leave? How would that affect you?
You know, I had a good friend growing up. We went to church together as children and as teens. He was good kid and a good teen…the opposite of me! He even preached two years in a row, during my home church’s annual Youth Sunday. But then he went to college and he neglected meeting together in church. He deserted.
He made some friends while at college, who also neglected meeting together in church…and he slowly fell away.
Last time I saw him, several months ago, he was dating a dancer he met at a Strip Club. I talked to him about Jesus and church and things, and this is what he said, “I believe in God. I just don’t like church. There are too many hypocrites there.” I felt like saying, "Well, come on back! One more isn’t going to hurt anything!" But, I held my tongue.
You cannot say you believe in God, and then not want anything to do with His body. The church is the body of Christ. You cannot say you love Jesus without loving His body. Rick Warren asks, would you say to your wife or husband or someone else you love, “I love you, I just don’t like your body.” What kind of relationship would that be? You can’t be a child of God and then not want anything to do with your brothers and sisters in Christ…no matter how flawed they may be.
Scripture: Ephesians 2:19…
Realize thatwe are part of God’s household. We are part of God’s family. AND in God’s family, you can move from being spiritually isolated to being part of a community. In God’s family, you can chip in and “do the chores” that our Father gives us and become part of
bettering that community. In God’s family, you can be involved in a community that will encourage you, support you, and hold you accountable. In God’s family, you can help fulfill the purpose our Father has for the world.
When we resolve to make church attendance a priority, and don’t let a sport, a club, a hobby, etc. take its
place, we are doing more than going to a place to sing songs, pray, and listen to an attractive guy speak. When we resolve to make church a priority, we are aligning ourselves with God’s will for our lives, we
are saying, “Today, I will not sleep in. I will not do this thing or that thing, I will step into God’s
presence. I will be part of something greater than myself.”
When we resolve to make church a priority, we are saying, “I will not abandoned my brothers and sisters.
I will not desert them, now matter how flawed they are, b/c they need me and I need them.” When we resolve to make church a priority, we are resolving to identify ourselves with the body of Christ, to do the work God has planned for us, and to take a step toward changing our lives and the ives of everyone in the world…And you won’t get that lying in bed and watching TV!
Read the Bible Daily
The second thing is Read the Bible Daily. Resolve to read the Bible 10-15 minutes a day, everyday, and I can tell you from experience, God will use it to change your life…absolutely, 100%, guarenteed
Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16,17
Former President, Ronald Reagan said, “Within the covers of one single book, the Bible, are ALL the
answers to ALL the problems that face us today--if only we would read and believe.” Ulysses S. Grant said, “Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties. Write its precepts in your hearts, and practice them in your lives.” Now, I know some of you are thinking… “Read the Bible daily? Come on, why is that important? So a couple of presidents said some nice things about it. My life has gone just fine without reading that book!"
But when you read the Bible, you are not just reading a book. You are discovering what God wants. When you read the Bible, you are not looking at words on a page, you are walking in the mind of God. When you hold the Bible in your hand, you hold God’s heart. When you hold the Word of God, you hold God’s deepest desire for your life and the lives of all His children.
Spending 10-15 minutes a day reading the Bible is spending 10-15 minutes a day with God.
You will spend 10-15 a day reading God’s thoughts, discovering God’s will, peaking into God’s heart,
and grabbing hold of God’s deepest desire for your life…this can do nothing but benefit you. Paul says, “it leads us to a life that has God’s approval, and that it COMPLETELY preprares us.”
Scripture: John 1:1,14
Henry Blackaby says, “Scripture is not a concept: Scripture is a Person. When you stand before the Word of God,you are not merely encountering a concept, you are standing face-to-face with God." John 1 says, the Word is a Person. The Word, Jesus Christ, became flesh and blood and lived among us. Henry Blackaby says again, “The Bible is our opportunity to know Jesus better and for Him to speak to us.”
In the early 1980s, before the fall of communism, Tatiana Goricheva was a young philosophy student at
Leningrad University in Russia. She was struggling with the concept of marxism and eventually lost confidence in it. She turned instead to existentialism, but when that philosophy did not meet the deepest needs of her soul, she turned to yoga. As one of her yoga exercises, she was told to use the Christian prayer, “Our Father” as a mantra to get into a meditative state.
She began to read and repeat the words, “Our father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.” She went through the prayer 5 or 6 times. Then she says, “Suddenly, I was turned inside out. I understood, God exists, the living, personal, God, who loves me and all creatures, who has created the world, who became a human being out of love…The crucified and risen God.”
When you read the Bible, you do not read a book or simply read words on a page, you encounter God. I am here in Wisconsin as proof that God speaks through His Word. I was set to become a youth pastor. I had already resigned from the denomination. I was heading to Stamford, CT., for an interview. My path was set…then I sat down one afternoon to do my devotions at our annual Conference in May.
And during those devotions, God spoke to me as clearly as I am speaking to you, and He said, “You are NOT to be a youth pastor in Stamford, you are making a terrible mistake. Don’t give up on the denomination, stay…stay…” Reading the Bible is meeting with God, speaking with God, encountering God and His will for your life. If you’re not reading the Bible, you’re not meeting with, speaking with, or encountering God and His will for your life
Resolution 3: Pray Constantly
When we meet with God and our brothers and sisters weekly, and when we spend 10-15 minutes a day encountering God in His Word, that should lead us to this final resolution: wanting to encounter God
through prayer. We should be praying constantly.
Look at what Paul says in one of the shortest verses in the Bible, Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Paul says, “pray w/o ceasing.” Most of us, however, don’t do this. Most of us only pray when we are desperate, or when our backs are against the wall. We see this all the time, especially in the movies. The hero or heroine gets in a jam and shouts out “God help me.” He or she gets out of the predicament, forgets about God, and goes back to life as usual. JB Philips calls this “God in a box.” A box opened only in cases of emergency
Attending a church in Kentucky, a visiting family watched an especially verbal and boisterous child being hurried out, slung under his irate father’s arm.
No one in the congregation so much as raised an eyebrow -- until the child captured everyone’s attention by crying out in his southern accent, "Ya’ll pray for me now!"
As funny as that story may be, prayer was not meant to be an insurance policy, but a way of life…Paul says, “pray w/o ceasing” Martin Luther wrote, “If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith.” And in his book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” Rick Warren tell us that God has designed us to have a relationship with Him. We were made for a continual relationship with God, to be continually in His presence. Adam and
Eve had that but lost it through sin…but through prayer, we can have it once more.
We cannot grow in our relationship with God by simply going to church for an hour or two a week. We cannot grow in our relationship with God w/o constant prayer
Talk to people in prison and ask them what is the hardest thing about being in prison. For those who
are alone, without loved ones, they may say boredom, or the food, or the confinement, or something like that
But ask someone with a wife, or husband, or children, someone they dearly love on the outside. Ask a prisoner, who is separated from them, what the hardest thing is and they will give you another answer.
They will say, ”The hardest thing is being away from those people. The hardest thing is being able to see them just once a week, and then just for a few hours.”
These prisoners dream of freedom, not just to be free, but to be able to see, to speak to, to hold their loved
ones whenever they want, for however long they want.
In our relationship with God, we have put ourselves in self-imposed prisons with just Sunday visiting hours.
But God wants to spend every day with us, every minute with us. He is waiting to hear from us, to talk about our day with us, to renew us, to guide us, and to lead us
Scriptures: Matthew 23:37
We stay away from God so often. We come to Him so infrequently, yet there He stands with arms wide open waiting for us. Then, when we do come to Him in prayer, we come with a list of requests. God, however, just wants us to come to Him
Imagine we all had a friend named Bruce. Every time Bruce comes to one of us, he says “G’day mate!”
Did I mention Bruce was Australian? He says hello to us, and then says, “Can you give me some food? Some gas money, and my back is hurting, do you have any pain pills or a gift certificate to a Chiropracter.
Pretty soon, we’d probably say, “Hey, wait a second! Bruce is just our friend to get stuff from us. We
only hear from him when he wants or needs something.”
Let’s resolve NOT to make this true of our relationship with God. Let’s resolve to come constantly to God in prayer regardless of whether we have needs or not. Let’s resolve to come constantly to God in prayer, just to speak with Him, just to let Him speak to us, to point out areas in our lives that need to be dealt with. Let’s resolve to meet constantly with the One who has the power to change us into something amazing.
As with all resolutions, the choice is ours. We can settle for minor repairs which will make us look a little better. We can settle to try to “act resolutely” in our own strength. Perhaps, we can make it to February or March before we fall and say, “I’ll try again next year.” Or we could get serious, we could resolve to let God tear down our old selves and rebuild us into something completely new and wonderful.
We can let Him speak to us, work in us and through us, as we meet Him weekly in church, together with our brothers and sisters. We can meet with Him daily in His Word as we read the Bible. We can walk in His thoughts, encounter His vision and will and dreams for our lives…every day of our lives. And we can meet constantly with Him in prayer. We can live in a steady, growing relationship with Him...God is looking for a site, He’s looking for permission to build something amazing. Are you available?
Let this be the year, you resolve to give God permission to build something amazing in you.
And then when we all gather here again, this time next year, you can stand and say, “Wow, you can’t believe what God has done in me.” And everyone around you will say, “Yes, I can because God did it for me too!”