Glen Scrivener on the grace of Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:36-46):
“Glen, who do you think you are in this story?”
I didn’t like to say but, well, surely I’m Jesus in the story. Or I’m meant to be anyway.
The leader corrected me. “Do you know who you are? You’re Peter.”
And the penny dropped. I’m not Jesus! I’m Peter. I’m weak, useless, faithless Peter. I ought to pray with Jesus, but I don’t. I fail. And as I fail, Jesus prays for me.
By the Spirit, I belong to Jesus. By the Spirit I want to follow Christ. But my flesh is from Adam. My flesh is weak. And I’m constantly falling asleep on the watch.
But Jesus prays for me.
About to be betrayed, abandoned and denied by those closest to him, Jesus prays, and resolves to go to the cross for them and for us. Amazing grace.
What the Christian heart needs then is simple: It needs Christ. Bring me to him. He is my great physician, my wonderful healer. He is the fire that warms my heart and sets it ablaze. Bring me to him and not to a list of things to do. Tell me of Christ and not law. Tell me of Christ and not a step by step guide on how to live as a Christian. For if my heart is aflame with the love of Christ and my very being filled with the Spirit of Christ then I will walk in step with His Spirit.
Cat Caird’s reflections on new year’s resolutions, looking at what our hearts really need.
As we turn the corner on a new year, many of us will find it profitable to reflect on our own lives. New Year’s Resolutions are often made flippantly and have little value. But they can also reflect a sincere desire to grow spiritually. To this end, let me present some of Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions as a stimulant to those of us who are interested in reflecting on our lives at the start of our new year.
Rick Phillips at Reformation 21 reflects on Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions. A good follow-up to my recent entry.
The new year comes with renewed attempts to get our act together, to pull our socks up, to do better. Our resolutions can be vague (“eat less chocolate”) or specific (“get up at 6.30am to pray”), expensive (“join a gym”) or money-saving (“spend less on clothes”). They can be realistic (“eat an apple each day”) or seemingly unachievable (“stop looking at porn”). They can all be good desires to grow in godliness, but they can also be dangerous attempts at self-justification – trying to save ourselves through our efforts.
By nature we try to gain acceptance from God, others and ourselves through performance. We ask ourselves whether we’ve achieved enough, worked hard enough, or improved enough. If we manage to keep our resolutions, we feel better about ourselves; if we fail, we feel guilty and despondent. Success makes us think that God loves us and is close to us; failure, that he’s angry and aloof.
New year’s resolutions can reinforce the idea that we can save ourselves. For those of us who are generally self-disciplined, we can become confident in our own ability to change, to become acceptable to God. For those of us who are weak-willed, our inevitable failure leads to hopelessness. Either way, we end up focused on ourselves.
Our problems lie deeper than mere behaviour. The eyes of our hearts constantly turn inwards, looking to ourselves for salvation and satisfaction rather than to Jesus. We may try to gain acceptance from God through performance, but we never will. Spiritually, we are dead and in need of resurrection. Resolving to do better by ourselves is like a corpse resolving to learn to tap-dance.
This is why God’s resolutions are such good news. He promises us that “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). He has raised us with Christ, giving us new, resurrection life in him (Eph 2:4-5), and has promised us an eternal inheritance, giving us his Spirit as a guarantee (Eph 1:13-14). He has resolved to bring us home, and he does not break his word.
How does this change how we think about new year’s resolutions?
First, we must accept that we cannot save ourselves from the death we deserve, but God has graciously done it all. Nothing we can do will change this certainty.
With this foundation, Paul says to “offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness” (Romans 6:13). We don’t do this to earn a relationship with God; we do this because we have a relationship with God that is unshakeable, and our new hearts long to serve their new master.
So this year, let us resolve to constantly look to Jesus, knowing all our salvation and joy comes from him; and consequently resolve to do our utmost to follow him daily, knowing that he has resolved never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). His resolutions are never broken.