I know that the “New Years Resolution” luster may already be dulling for many people, but I feel it necessary to take this opportunity to bring to light a few issues, ideas and truths to surface in light of the first week of the new year coming to an end. So many americans make these resolutions, “I want to lose weight, I want to go to the gym, I want to break this bad habit, I want to improve who I am…etc.” Whatever the resolution may be the truth is by December 31st at the end of the year our new resolution will be a distant memory. Now I have no problem with New Year’s resolutions, if you wanna lose twenty pounds, go for it! If you want to break a bad habit, I hope you succeed! The problem with the “New Year, New Me” mentality is the lack of follow through, the lack of real devotion, the failure to follow through. The failure to set real goals, to make real steps towards the goal is the issue at hand. People are great at having a great big dream but failing to achieve such a goal because they lack steps, tangible goal and most importantly authenticity in truly wanting to achieve their goal.
The Church, the modern Church does this all too often. We want to bring social justice issues to surface and spread awareness of a problem within our world, but behind our short rally is simply a yearning not for change but for popularity, a quick pat on the back form piers. Pastors love to preach on evangelizing and bringing new people to their congregation but in reality the giving was down the previous year and they need more people in the seats. Now, I am not universalizing this, I know people who have deep convictions in their spirit about social issues and participate in bringing awareness and even support. I know Pastors who could care less about a persons contribution but rather foster their faith deeply. The problem that the Church of today is facing is that we do not have enough authenticity, we have need of deeper leading within our spirits, within our hearts, within our daily life, we need more of Jesus.
How do we accomplish a goal in the Church? Well first we need to find something to strive to achieve. Maybe it is as a church leader to start a new bible study on campus, maybe it is to start several new small groups, maybe it is even to see peoples faith go deeper. For the individual person maybe a goal is to be in the word daily, to pray more frequently, to give more, to go on a missions trip, to lead someone in your life to faith… the list can go on and on and I hope the lists do go on. Think about something to strive towards, have something that has been pressing on your heart brought to light and see how God will move you to look more like him by giving you such a conviction. For myself, this year my aim is to strive for more godliness, to be a stronger man of faith, to lead in ways that reflect a love for Jesus, to listen to the Spirit and obey him, to have sinfulness rooted out of my life and look more like Jesus. Now you may say “Don’t we all have that goal?” Well ultimately yes, but will it just be another resolution that quickly fades in a few days, weeks, maybe a month and vanish? Will we continue to remain stagnant and be in the same place of faith next year that we are in right now? Or will we be pressed more by the word of God and will we look more like Jesus in a year than we do now.
The American Church is filled with impatient people, I am certainly one of them as the dinner I microwaved recently took too long therefore I ate cold potatoes… but in all seriousness we desire things now. We want an instant fix, and immediate change, and a timely response. If you want to test this theory just text someone right now and I promise you will check your phone within two minutes to see if they have responded yet. It is a mentality we have developed, we have pushed away anything being a process and said “I want it now!” We do this within our Christian walks, whether we know it or not, we desire something such as peace or self-control and expect our one time desire for godly characteristic to be enough propel change! Well two things go wrong with the instant fix mentality; one there was no room for God to work, there was no opportunity for growth. The task was given up before the process even began! Lets say you have desire for more patience; you go to Starbucks that day maybe or that week even, the line is too long, the cashier is too slow, your drink is made wrong…. then you lose it! You forget that patience was something you were working on and become even more frustrated you couldn’t force yourself to be patient, then you give up all together on patience and move on with life, missing out on an incredible quality. The second thing wrong with the instant fix mentality is we buy into the “I can better myself” rubbish of the world and pretend to throw a Christian spin on it. So many people in Church on Sundays hear nothing but how they can become better people, how they can change, how they can fix their problems. Unfortunately this is either because they have no desire for Jesus or they have a poorly appointed Pastor. (Unfortunately some Pastors just shouldn’t be Pastors anymore, but I am not going to tackle this issue here) Christianity does not boil down to moral conformity, it does not boil down to a self- justification, it is by no means a bar of excellence to be reached. When we truly realize our brokenness and come to terms with our deep imperfections and our unspoken failures we need nothing but the Gospel, we need absolutely nothing other than Christ.
Within the Gospel penetrating our hearts we then begin to interact and be changed within it, by no means of our own power, by no means of our own decisions either. Christ has brought us into his presence to be holy and blameless based upon nothing other than his own righteousness, and then the process begins. Justification and sanctification should never cross into the same category, otherwise you are dabbling in works righteousness, rather we are justified and seen by the father in the same way he looks upon Christ based on his merit alone, and then there starts a process to begin to look more like Jesus in our character, in our actions, in our thoughts and in every aspect of our life. Grace propels us to be transformed not to transform us to obtain Grace. The christian life is a process, one of many trials, of much pain, of much suffering, of much joy, of much rejoicing, of much grace and a whole lot of Jesus. Would the Church not be a people who refuse to wait upon the lord, who do not desire Grace to move them but try and figure it out on our own but would we be people who have been transformed by Grace and been brought into a long and great process of knowing Jesus deeply and being shaped more into his image as he leads and guides us.