Once upon a time, a long long time ago, when I was a kid, I was a pretty decent athlete. Had I been born a boy, I feel pretty certain that I would have been a fearsome Linebacker… or a Running Back – I would have stiff-armed, run over, or hurdled anyone who got in my way…if they could catch me. Or maybe I would have been a Mixed Martial Artist. I know, that is brutal…but those guys LIVE for that. They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t love it. It may seem crazy and animal and viscious…but it is not just about toughness, it is about earning respect from seriously disciplined athletes for some serious man-skills. You may argue, “men don’t need those skills anymore. Men don’t engage in hand-to-hand mortal combat!” No, they don’t. But instead of guns and bombs and drones I wished they did. I wish that battles could be settled with “May the best man win.” I could write a novel about my theoretic respect for traditional roles. I am very happy to take care of my home and my children and I am very glad to have a protector. I have the HEART of a protector, but not the physical ability. I was born a girl and I am a girl still and I am so very glad that God created my inmost being and knit me together ! just as you are, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139: 13-14). I wasn’t born a big, tough, strong man…but God had a plan for me that I could have never imagined. I love being a mother and a wife. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. But when I was growing up, I would never have believed it.
We are talking about a LIFE time ago. When I think back on those days, I remember the Bible verses that I kept on the tip of my tongue for inspiration when I was working out or playing in a game or during a race. One of my FAVORITES that I knew by heart, that played on a loop recording… like a mantra… in my mind was, Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength”…or “I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.” I believed that. I still believe that. But I am afraid that too often now a-days, I forget that the verse says, “through Christ” NOT “through Christy”. When I was doing a sport as a kid it was easy to think about needing strength to perform my best…but what about all of the mundane things that I do now? Do I still need Him? Do I need strength from Him? Or can I do all of those little things by myself? And if I can do all of the little things (I don’t want to bother Him about such trivial matters) then I can do most things, right? I really after-all just need Him for the big things, right? If I am in trouble…or need a big favor…Just the things that I really truly can’t do on my own. That is the way that I think that most of us live. Everyday. We don’t consider that He wants for us to come to Him for guidance and strength in ALL things.
I was reminded of the WRONG-NESS of my usual way of thinking yesterday. I almost never get sick (Thank you, God!) but yesterday I spent the better part of the day under a blanket and not feeling like doing anything. In hind-site that was a huge blessing. I didn’t feel like watching tv; or reading; or writing; or working so I caught up on about 4 hours of sermons that I had missed over the holiday season…and they were FANTASTIC. I am going to put ” a plug in” again for my incredible preacher Chris Hodges. If you want to change your life, look up Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama…Catch Your Breath Media www.churchofthehighlands.com/media/message/catch-your-breath1. I recommend you start at the “Fresh Air Series” and then watch all of Pastor Hodge’s sermons from there. If you are serious about your LIFE… watch.
That is what I did yesterday. Got serious. Got motivated. Got MOVED. I laid there under my new Christmas blanket that my sweet Mother-in- Law gave me…and I nodded my head and I cried. I am always so thankful that God is so persistent. That He is constantly letting me know things that I am wondering about and needing answers for. He is always so good to let me know what I need to know – He is so good to tell me IF I will only stop and listen! The first two sermons I listened to yesterday were relevant for the Beginning of a NEW YEAR. Did I write my Resolutions? Yes! Did I resolve to do what I had written to the best of my ability? Yes, I did. Have I followed through? no. Ugh. How pathetic and frustrating. Wise people probably don’t even bother to write resolutions. How many years of writing and then failing must I do before I understand that writing is a waste of time? The belief that we can and will change by making an external list of wants and wishes is not wise. We WILL FAIL. We may resolve to eat healthier, work out more often, pay better attention to our budget, read more, spend more quality time with friends and family…etc.etc. And we may do better…for a while. But as long as we are the same person, we will eventually go back to what we do…what we have always done. As Paul laments in Romans 7: 18-20 “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do –this I keep on doing ….” and Romans 7:24-25 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?…”
Let’s stop there for a second… in mid verse. Who?
Let’s move to Revelation 21:4-5 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
And “When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Resolutions fail because we are not supposed to be the same old person. We are not supposed to be an “Improved” version. We are meant to become a NEW person! We aren’t going to become that new person because we eat salads instead of french fries or because we start going to Church more or because we join a bible study or go to the gym. Those things may be in and of themselves good for us, but they are not going to change anything about who we are inside. DOING something different does not make us become someone different. We may feel better physically and even emotionally if we can change bad habits…but what God wants for us is to become MORE than an improved version of the same old same old. He wants us to realize than there is nothing of the world that can make us different. The only way to become NEW is for an internal transformation to occur. It has nothing to do with anything external…nothing that we eat or wear or go and do. A transformation that makes us NEW has to occur in my “inmost being.” We are beings with three parts, and God is concerned with all of those parts…our body, our soul (making up our feeling and our emotions and our heart) and the part of us where God has a temple…where the Holy Spirit resides. We are eternal Spiritual Beings who are housed in a temporary physical body with temporary mental and emotional ups and downs. Too often we let our body control us, or our emotions control us. We will not have peace and true joy until we learn that the Holy Spirit wants to guide us in ALL THINGS. We MUST surrender our addictions, our weaknesses, our fears, or inability to forgive, our hurt, our pain, our love of things that would harm us (alcohol, drugs, ungodly sex, pornography, greed, worship of anything in place of God’s rightful first place position). When we make the decision to let the spirit part of us control the rest, then we will transform our lives from the inside out. We will become a NEW person with a new perspective and a new life . We will not be driven by fleshly desires or suffer emotional roller-coaster rides. We will NOT do those things that are not good and we will have the strength to carry out those things that are good…but not because of our own strength.
“Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Our body and our emotions and our inability to resist all that the world tempts us with WILL be death. Our bodies WILL die. Our emotions and feelings will constantly be at the mercy of what is happening to us. The only part of us that is forever constant and steady and that will survive is our Spirit. Will our Spirit KNOW God? Will we have fed our Spirit like we have fed our body or our desires? Will we have given our Spirit the attention that we have given our hurts and pains and problems?
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the game goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore do not run like a man running aimlesslessy; I do not fight like a man beating the air.” (1 Corinthians 9: 24-26)
God is so persistent. He realized that His covenant with His chosen people was failing because the Israelites simply could not follow God’s commandments and the hundreds of Laws given for them to keep. The Israelites could not do it by their own strength and through their own will power alone. Following all of the external rules could not change their Spirit…could not make them anything other than what they were – weak and sinful. They could improve themselves…but they could not make themselves NEW. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit make a man NEW. Hebrews 10: 16-18 says, “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more…”
We have all that we need to be made NEW. We do not have to get anything…not a gym membership, not forgiveness from someone who we have harbored ill feeling for, not more knowledge or experience or a bigger list of good deeds. All we have to do is give. Give it all. Surrender our life. It is His anyway. He knows better what to do with it than we ever will. Trust Him this year to make you NEW. Chris Hodges says that if 2013 will become the year that you let your Spirit lead then this will be the best year of your life. No need for resolutions and promise to ourselves that will be broken. Don’t try to change outside in…change INSIDE out. Peace.