The main thought last week was that a Christian’s main new year’s resolution should be to follow Christ’s example for you and to follow His Great Commandment to witness and evangelize. It’s important to understand exactly what you’re resolving to do. A lot of confusion exists around this topic, so I’m going to try resolving some of the confusion here.
Christ’s Great Commandment to us is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:30; also Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12). Love here in Greek is agapao, meaning a commitment, a devotion directed by the will. It is commanded of Christians by God. God is to come first in our lives above all else. If you do that everything else in your life will be better than you could make it by yourself.
His Great Commission to us is to go “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever that I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” ( Matthew 28:19,20). ( Notice that name for the Trinity is singular, not plural. That’s been dealt with in a previous blog.) I’ve mentioned before that “all the world” begins just outside of your front door. It means that we should present ourselves to others as Christ presented Himself to the world. And, that’s a tall order. You may think that you’re not able to do that. Of course you can’t by yourself. If you could there would be no need of a Savior. The last sentence in the Great Commission is Jesus’ promise that He will be with us even to the end of the world. And we can do all things through Him who strengthens us.
You, I, and everyone else are imperfect beings. We make mistakes. We do things that are irrational at times, and we react out of emotion rather than logic and common sense. In short, we don’t measure up to God’s standard for us. Neither did Paul, arguably the greatest of all the apostles. He wrote that the good he would do he did not, and the bad that he would not do he did. So, don’t feel bad. If Paul couldn’t live up to Christ’s standard for us, I know I can’t, and neither can anyone else. That’s why Jesus had to pay the penalty for our sin by dying on the cross in our place.
Jesus’ death on the cross justifies those who believe in Him as their Savior. We are justified by His act for us. We become new creatures, having the enmity of our sin between us and God resolved, thereby making peace between us and God (Ephesians 2:15). Our sin is no longer imputed to us because He paid the penalty for us (Romans 3:4-31; 6:2; 7:7). That does not mean that we can not worry about our sinning. Paul reminds us, ” Know not that your bodies are members of the body of Christ? Shall I then take the body of Christ and make it the body of a harlot? God forbid” ( 1 Corinthians 6:12-17). You need to do the best you can at following His commandments, and He will take up the slack. God did that for Moses and David, and he will do so for you.
Paul explains, “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you. Therefore brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh you will die” (Romans 8:11-22). I need to make one point clear: you cannot lose your salvation if you regress to living in the world temporarily. Paul is saying that those who have made a true commitment to Christ as their Savior will do their best to follow Him and His commandments. And, the Holy Spirit will enable (quicken) you to carry out the plans God has for you to do.
OK then, what is it that a new year’s resolution to better follow Christ mean? Paul said that the Holy Spirit will quicken us, or make us able, to follow God’s plan for our lives. He does this by giving us the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. A true Christian has crucified the worldly self with its passions and desires. “If we live in the Spirit”, Paul admonishes, then “let us also walk in the Spirit” Galatians 5:16-25). I other words, the fruit of the Holy Spirit needs to be plainly evident in our lives.
How you manifest the fruit of the Spirit to others is unique to you. Every person is different. God uses police officers, garbage collectors, doctors, teachers, carpenters, truck drivers, butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers. You have your unique God-given way of relating to the world. The point is that whatever you do in life needs to be done to glorify God: Let His light shine out from within you to others “that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). And, therein is your new year’s resolution. Try as hard as you can to make the fruit of the Holy Spirit shine out from within you, a transcendental incandescence that makes others want what you have. And what you have is Christ.
It doesn’t even matter if you’re homeless. As Mr. Rogers said, it’s not what you have in this world, it’s what you do with what you have that counts. I’ve quoted several times an old, poor man in the deep South who witnessed to wealthy white people as much as he did to anyone else. And I’m quoting him again. He said he was “Jus’ a nobody tryin’ to tell everybody ’bout Somebody who can save anybody”. That is all of us. Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing”, but we can do all things that God has planned for us to do with Christ’s helping you. God chose the Jewish people because they were the least of all people (Deuteronomy 7:7). David was the smallest and least significant of all his siblings. God consistently uses the least to do the most because that makes the best witness for Him. (If you happen to be well off and enjoy some amount of influence, that’s not an excuse. God will use you even more.).
Now that you know what your new year’s resolution should be, and why it should be thus I challenge you to dive into utilizing the fruit of the Spirit in your life with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength. If you do, you’ll be amazed at what God will do in your life. He never fails to be 100 percent committed to those who are 100 percent committed to Him. And remember, He created and sustains the universe and everything in it. That thought is enough to take your breath away. The all-powerful Creator lives in you and you in Him. Today is the day to allow Him to shine out from within you right now. Your future in Christ can be absolutely astounding, so start making it so.