Friday, December 28, 2012

Eve on Resolutions

Why do you think most New Year's resolutions fail?  I think there is probably a whole host of reasons.  Sometimes we don't make our goals measurable; some of what we resolve is just not reasonable, and sometimes what we really need to do is repent instead of resolve. (Helene will be talking all about that painful little topic on Monday).   But for me, discouragement is the biggest reason I fail at New Year's resolutions. Like many perfectionists, I want to get it right the first time.  When I fall off the wagon, I am more likely to cry and give up than to pick myself up and run to jump back on again.  I am even less likely to pray and ask for the strength to meet my goal.  In our walk as Christians, whether we are dealing with true sin that we need to overcome or some personal goal we'd like to reach, we need to remember a few things.  One is not to give up, and the other is not to try to do it on our own.  

Eve is a good example of a woman who reflected these qualities.  Too often, we only remember Eve's sin and the curse she brought down on us all.  Can you imagine how she felt about that?  Not only did she sin, but she committed the first sin.  By following Satan's suggestion instead of God's command, she introduced sin into a perfect world, and the spiral of decay that goes on to today was put into motion (Romans 5). What a heavy burden to bear!  

We don't get many glimpses of Eve after she and Adam were driven from the Garden of Eden, but what we do see is very telling. "Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord" (Genesis 4:1).  From this simple sentence, we learn two things.  First, she did not wallow in guilt and give up obeying God.  God's instruction to be fruitful and multiply had not been rescinded, and she obeyed.  If Eve can continue to try to obey her God after such a sin as hers, then I can certainly try again to be kinder to my husband after saying something ugly.  I don't have to stay in the wretchedness of sin.

Second, she relied upon God to help her obey Him.  The command was to be fruitful and multiply.  Adam and Eve did their part, but they had to rely on God to provide the increase - children.  In my own life, I have a lot of questions about depending on God. For instance, how can I rely on God to help me obey when I have to be the one to make the choice not to sin?  When I look at Eve, the answer becomes clearer.  Yes, I will be given a choice to obey or to sin.  Only I can make that choice; God does not make it for me.  Each time I choose in faith to obey, God provides the increase, and it becomes easier to obey the next time.  Adam and Eve were not able to make babies on their own; I am not able to be a righteous person on my own. Adam and Eve chose to obey, and God worked the change within Eve to produce children.  I choose to obey, and the Holy Spirit works within me to make me righteous.       

Paul talks about this change in his letter to the Philippians:  

[N]ot having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:9-14).
My righteousness does not come from myself, it is through faith in Christ.  I can't be righteous on my own, but that doesn't mean I sit back and just expect Jesus to make me righteous while I do nothing.  No, like Paul, I must press on toward the goal because Jesus Christ has made me His.  I press on by making the day to day choice to obey in faith, to walk in the light.  

I do not mean to imply that the Holy Spirit does not work in me when I am disobedient.  Indeed, Jesus told us that one of the jobs of the Spirit is to convict the world (including me) of sin (John 16).  When I read the Bible or remember a particular scripture that points out my sin, that is the work of the Spirit through the Word. However, if I harden my heart and refuse to listen to His voice, continuing in sin, I am in danger of falling away from God (Hebrews 3:12-15).  

Instead, I make the choice daily to walk in the light, even though I know I will not be perfect (1 John 1:5-10). I will mess up this year's resolutions.  What I will not do is give up.  I will not wallow in my sins, and I will not expect to be able to overcome them on my own.  I will make the choice today that I want to do better than yesterday, and let the Spirit work in me and with me to make those changes.  Happy New Year!

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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