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Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's Resolution?

I’ve gained a few pounds over the holidays. My face is a bit fuller and my clothes are a bit tighter. It’s time to take action.

So what is the popular thing to do? Make a New Year’s resolution. Whether you have ever made one or not, everyone knows someone who has. We resolve to stop procrastinating. We resolve to get out of debt. We resolve to eat right/lose weight/exercise. We resolve to read our bible and pray everyday. We resolve to do something designed to help us better ourselves by creating good habits or overcoming bad ones.

As I pondered my resolve to start exercising and eating right, I was convicted about how I had framed the situation in my mind. There were two problems. First, I had an unbiblical view of the problem. Second, I had an unbiblical motive for fixing it. As I explain what I mean, I encourage you to look at your own life to see if you have made the same errors I did.

My unbiblical view of my problem is tied to the human tendency to downgrade the seriousness of sin. Rather than seeing my overeating as disobedience and sin, I downgraded it to the status of a bad habit. We do this all the time. We take things that the bible calls sin and we sanctify them and pretty them up so that they look more like a simple nuisance.

One major problem with this is that we view our bad habit primarily as something that is holding us back rather than something that is an offense against the holiness of God. With that view comes a certain lack of urgency in addressing the problem. That is why so many people convince themselves that they can wait until January 1 to break the “habit.” But if we viewed the situation as sin, then there is a sense of urgency because to wait until January 1 is to compound the offense against God.

My sin, gluttony, has become what some might call an acceptable sin. “Everybody does it,” especially during the holidays. We joke about it. We look forward to it. We don’t confront it in ourselves and we certainly don’t confront it in others.

But what does the word have to say? In Deut 21:18-20, the rebellious son is referred as a glutton and a drunkard. Proverbs 23:20-21 tells us, Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

Ezekiel 16:49 describes the sin of Sodom: Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Gluttony is no bad habit. It is sin. Is there something in your life that you have downgraded to the status of a bad habit, but that God has declared to be sin? If so, we shouldn’t think of a New Year’s resolution as an adequate solution. Rather we should address the sin with repentance and obedience.

So my first mistake was having an unbiblical view of the problem. My second mistake was having an unbiblical motive for fixing it. What was my motive for resolving to exercise and eat right? To look better. In other words, my own pride was what moved me to do something about my weight. I wanted to better myself.

This, of course, is the natural motive when I have first convinced myself that my problem was a bad habit rather than a sin. If what I am doing is not regarded as an offense to God, then I am free to see my breaking this bad habit as doing something to better myself. It is completely self-centered. The gluttony was self-centered in that it was born out of a desire to please my own flesh, and the solution to that problem was self-centered because it was born out of a desire to please my own pride. When I have an unbiblical view of my problem and an unbiblical motive for fixing it, I am sinning in the first place and the second. Both the problem and the solution are sin.

So what is the appropriate motive for addressing the issue? A desire to glorify God. God saved us so that we would be holy and blameless before Him for His glory (Eph 1:3-14.) My motive for addressing sin in my life should be so that I will be sanctified in my behavior, becoming holy and blameless so as to glorify God. The concept of bettering myself is nowhere in the picture.

Many Christians will resolve to improve their devotional life this year. They should understand that to not spend time in the word and in prayer is sin since we are commanded to do both (Eph 6:17-18; Phil 2:14-16; Col 3:16; 1 Thess 5:17; Heb 5:11-14). The proper motive, rather than being a desire to feel good about ourselves, is the desire to be obedient and glorify God by enjoying communion with Him.

Any New Year’s resolution intended to address something that the Bible calls sin should be discarded and replaced with a biblical view of the problem and biblical motive for change. It is not an issue of bettering oneself. It is an issue of obedience. Whether your sin is literal gluttony or spiritual anorexia (no devotional life) or anything else, there should be a sense of urgency that will not allow us to wait until January 1 to act, and there should be a conviction that will not allow us to stop on January 2.

Let’s not downgrade our sin and let’s not make our own benefit the highest reason to address our sin. May the glory of God be our supreme motive for all that we do.

1 comment:

Jaime said...

Thanks, Greg, for this post. You've put into words what God has been doing in my life the last year and a half.