Thursday, December 30, 2010

On Resolutions

Each year, as we prepare to turn our calendars over to the New Year ahead, articles surface seemingly from every domain vilifying the perennial practice of resolution-making. After all, the idea of making a resolution in the first place assumes first identifying something wrong with our selves, something that we are compelled to fix or to be better at. Resolutions are at the heart of the human experience, identifying what think we need to do or should not do. They start and end with (mostly man-made) imperatives.
Even business management gurus are known to deride the resolution in favor of setting objectives or accomplishments, which improves somewhat upon the legalist impulse found in resolution-making. In order to set goals, objectives, and accomplishments for the coming year, business folks typically begin by defining a strategy and what they value most.  From their business's core values they derive specific measurable outcomes which define their success. An example in business might begin with the core value customer service, and a goal of creating outstanding customer satisfaction, which in turn creates the objective of increasing face time with the customer by 20% each quarter.
In the domestic realm, I may determine that time with my family is a top priority; therefore, one of my objectives could then be to spend every Saturday with my immediate family this coming year, instead of every other Saturday, as I did this past year. Again, the emphasis here really is on the imperative and pragmatic, with a focus on quantifying specific improvements. Although these are areas of high value, this approach ends up being only a piecemeal approach that puts the weight on picking oneself up by the proverbial bootstraps.
The approach that I believe deserves more attention at this time is visualization. In some respects visualization has gotten a bad rap, for instance, in sports, where slogans like “Be the Ball” abound. In the evangelical world, visualization is even more convoluted with messages that exhort with “imagine your best life now” platitudes or “name it, claim it” theology.
The type of visualization that I think has some merit might seem a bit too esoteric if you’re more of the pragmatic type, but stick with me, because we’ll get there. Think: “What is the chief end of man? To Glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” right? Then a proper Biblical view of visualization would necessarily start and end with the glory of God.
2 Cor.3:18 ”And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate [(behold, reflect) (in the Word of God) as in a mirror]  the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Biblical visualization then is beholding, contemplating and reflecting the Lord’s Glory. When we spend “face time” with Him, we become more like Him. We are transformed into His image by The Word of God. The previous verses go further to show us that it is specifically the Gospel that transforms us into his image and glory:
2 Cor. 3:7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
So, as we reflect on the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the indicative), our righteousness waxes in ever-increasing glory. Our resolutions and accomplishments (the imperatives) flow out of the abundance of the grace and truth that we find as we look into the face of Christ.

The most basic way for us to “see” Jesus is by studying the Gospels. Unfortunately, this concept has been neglected, perhaps partly because of the bad press over the “Red Letter”-only style of evangelicalism that stratifies the scriptures and relegates other portions of the Bible based on “whether-Jesus-ever-said- anything-about-it.” Of course, Jesus IS the Word, therefore, such reasoning is fallacious at the most elementary level.

However, the principal point I want to make is that if we want to KNOW Jesus, I believe the very best place to start is in the Gospel accounts. When I was first saved, I remember asking folks where I should start in reading the Bible, because it seemed a bit overwhelming and intimidating at first. The answers I got fit generally into three categories:
1)      Start at the beginning in Genesis, because the Bible needs to be taken as a whole. This advice came from both my Catholic friends and my extremely conservative, mostly reformed friends.
2)      It doesn’t matter. The entire Bible is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. A few people took this approach – true, but not all that helpful for a total newbie.
3)      Read one of the Gospel accounts, preferably the Gospel of John. Most of my self-proclaimed “born again” friends were firm believers in this approach.

I must say that #3 proved by far to be the most beneficial, and the one that I recommend heartily.

John 20:30 says: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

After reading the Gospel of John, I immediately picked up the phone and called Alan, my friend who had originally invited me to Bible study and church. I told him something along the lines of, “Alan! I just finished the Gospel of John and I know it’s true – all of it. I believe every word, and I know now without a doubt, I’m Christian. I wasn’t totally sure if I believed all the Christian faith before now, but now I’m certain!!"

This type of enthusiasm that I get every time I read about what Jesus has done and about His promises is what I believe John is writing about in Revelation when he quotes Jesus speaking to the seven churches saying, “You have forgotten your first love.” I remember my first love and whenever I long for Him again, I gravitate toward those books in the Bible where Jesus is directly revealed. Not always the “Red Letter” books only. Often, it includes OT prophets and historical narratives. Yet, every once in a while a good soaking in John or Luke or Matthew revives my faith with the most profound indicatives.

One final place where I think we may glean a Biblical concept of visualization is in God’s promises.
So, to prepare for the start of the New Year, rather than coming up with resolutions of my own, I think I'll stick with the indicatives of what Christ has already done and to what He has promised to to those of us who are His children:
  1. His grace is sufficient for us. (2 Cor. 12:9). In fact, He has made provision for our salvation by His grace through faith.
  2. God has promised that His children will not be overtaken with temptation 1 Cor. 10:13. Instead, He assures us that a way of escape will be provided.
  3. God promises: “I will never leave you or forsake you. So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Heb. 13:5-6
  4. "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present your faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude v 24).
  5. God has promised us victory over death. He first resurrected Jesus by way of assuring our resurrection.
    "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3,4). and: "but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15:57).
  6. God has promised, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
  7. God has promised that all things work together for good to those who love and serve Him (Romans 8:28).
  8. God has promised that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
  9. God has said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5).
  10. God has promised His people eternal life (John 10:27,28).

No comments: