Happy 2010!

Yeah, it's a repost - but one I get asked for every year about this time. So, here you go - Enjoy!

So, have you broken them yet? You know - those pesky little annual failure reminders we like to call resolutions. We're a few hours in yet, and many resolutions are already forming the foundation of failures and frustration for 20010. I, however, just completed one of my resolutions, and that was to form one sentence using at least four words beginning with the letter f.

Resolution. Such a strong word, isn't it? It can be such an inspirational word. Resolve. Resolute. The word makes us seem so strong doesn't it? I am resolved to do this. I am resolute about that. So strong... A large difference between resolution and resignation, isn't there?

Could it be possible that resignation is the way to go? Could it be possible that New Year's resolutions are just another illustration of insanity? Addicts know the definition of insanity well, don't we? Doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. It has been a way of life for us, and when we come to the end of a year and everyone begins touting their resolutions for the next year, we quietly resolve to ourselves that this is the year that we quit.
This time, I mean it.

Then stress enters the picture as it always does, and we begin to seek medication for the pain and discomfort we feel. Then we look like this:

video

The deal is this - we think that the answer to our problems is trying harder. We just need more will power, right? It really comes down to this - the battle for control. We try to gain more control over ourselves. Why can't you just stop, right? Just
try harder. You can do it, c'mon, buck up little camper... When that doesn't work, we then figure the problem must be the people around us. Our spouse, our boss, our friends, our church, our pastor, our neighbors, our lawn service, somebody, anybody other than us. It must be those losers we hang out with - if only they would get better and stop bothering me...

This is when some of us decide to "try God." This usually amounts to a frantic prayer that sounds something like this - "Dear God, please take this craving away. Please help me stop doing this or that. Thanks. Amen." Or even this, "Oh Heavenly Father, please take this extra weight off of me, Thanks. Amen."

Trying God really means tailoring God to meet our desires. Anything about Him that gets in our way, we just try and cut that out. It's like we are tailoring God to fit us, but this is not the Gospel. If we are in control, and making God fit us, aren't we still in control? Haven't we proven ineffective enough? We are God in this picture, and then we will say, "I tried God, but that didn't work." What we mean is that we continued our cycle of insanity and named it God for a bit.

The Gospel is not about exerting control, it's about exiting control. It's not about resolutions, it's about resignation. It's about surrender. It's about realizing that we are incapable of controlling ourselves and others around us. Jesus says in John 15:5, "Apart from me, you can do nothing." Nothing. He is the vine, and we are the branches. Branches do not create fruit. The branch is utterly dependent on the power and life force of the vine. The vine works through the branch to produce fruit.

This is tough for many of us, particularly Americans, as we are very fond of the concept of independence. The Gospel is about dependence.

If we will surrender control to Christ, and seek Him and His glory in all that we do things get much better. The reason those traditional addict prayers don't work is that God will not take magically take our cravings away from us. I have found that He waits for us to crave Him over our flesh, and that's when He sweeps in with His empowering grace to guide us.

Instead of making God fit us, the Gospel is about God stretching us and tailoring us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. How could we not want that? Why do we act in opposition to that? If we surrender, and allow God to make us more like Christ, what happens to our addictions, imperfections, and concern for our own image?

It's an ongoing process that takes place over the rest of our lives, if we are followers of Christ. It's called sanctification, and it requires surrender. It's the first of the twelve steps - admitting that our lives are unmanageable and that we are powerless. It's also the first of the Beatitudes. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Dallas Willard translates that, "Blessed are the spiritual zeroes."

Paul understood it well. Read what he wrote to the Romans,

"I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. isn’t this YOUR experience?” Yes, I’m full of myself - after all I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So, if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, IT becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t DO it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it. I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question. The answer, Thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different."

What can you really control? All I can really do is surrender.

This year, let's not focus on our resolutions, but our resignation.

What do you think? What's your experience?