We are several weeks into a new calendar year and I can say with confidence that most of us have let our well-meaning New Year’s resolutions fall by the way side. The big three, in my opinion, are eating right and exercising to lose weight; giving up some negative habit such as drinking or smoking and handling our finances better. These cover about ninety percent of all resolutions.
All of these things are worth improving or changing in our lives. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, most folks don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan and I would like to add fail to count the cost to achieve goals. We forget that in order to make room for something new, something else must go, a sacrifice must be made. If we have a passion to tame the price tag is self-denial. In order to be successful, we do something difficult and let old behaviors die, while developing new; exchanging one thing for another.
Change will pay significant dividends for a lifetime if one has the stick-to-it-tive-ness to, well, stick to it! Reads easy. Lives much harder.
Unfortunately, another big three can and do hinder me from doing what I want to reach my desired goals. These are what I call the three D’s: deception, denial and despair. I am befuddled as to why, usually after such a short time, I find myself abandoning my enthusiasm, resolve and goals and revert back to old habits! The only thing I can come up with is it is I am deceived in some way by my own thinking and/or have fallen prey to the deceptions and temptations of the culture I live in. Once I fall prey to “Oh what the heck” thinking I have moved from D1, deceiving myself, to D2 – denial. And I am not talking about the good kind – self-denial – but the kind that trips me up. The Ostrich head in the sand kind of denial. Thinking such as denying I must act today. I’ll start working out tomorrow. I’ll quit – you fill in the blank – tomorrow. I’ll save for the future, tomorrow. Blah, blah, blah. Just exactly what tomorrow am I thinking of? Because today was tomorrow just yesterday! I am kidding no one except myself. And there it is plain as day.
Which finally drops me off at the doorstep of D3 -and I don’t mean the vitamin-I am referring here to despair. The place where I have thrown in the towel and say this is too hard or too much work and return to my old behavior and thinking that keep me trapped and chained to something; something I hoped and need to be free of! And once again, I am powerless to change. I continue telling myself lies such as: Where I am is not that bad. Or what I am doing is not so bad compared to… Or worst of all I settle for far less than I am capable of!! Despair is where I lose hope! It’s a dark place. Another D word. Paul of the New Testament calls himself a wretched creature when he is doing what he doesn’t want to do and not what he wants to do. Which describes our 3D situation to a tee. Wretched.
The good news is – that is what the word Gospel means, good news – there is help available! Someone who can and will bring us out of the darkness of the three D’s deception, denial and despair and into the light of the 3Ls. Life, liberty and love. Someone with whom we can do all things and conquer our biggest giants and fears. Someone who will help us if we but do as he suggests.
Jesus says that if anyone wants to have life to the full here on earth and in heaven a decision is required – which is better than a resolution BTW – you must confess Jesus Christ as Lord with your mouth and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead. That’s it. That’s all that is required. If you’re a skeptic or unbeliever you can opt out here if you like. But do feel free to read on. Or better yet contact me if you want more information. However, if you do claim his name and way of life you don’t get off the hook quite so easy because discipleship comes at a cost so please keep reading. Once belief is established, here are his big three through which we receive the keys to the kingdom. Found in the ninth chapter of Luke:
1)We must deny ourselves – there we go, that good old, beneficial self-denial again!
2)Take up our cross every day.
3) and follow him
And dropping down the chapter in Luke he said goes on to say in order to gain my life I must lose it. Talk about counter cultural expectations!
Denying myself means I have to die to myself. My beliefs. My wants. My needs. In order to gain his beliefs, his wants and his needs. My self-will must die. My plans, my desires, my thoughts, my goals. All replaced with his much better outline for my life.
That is where the taking up my cross part comes in. He means there is going to be suffering and sacrifice involved as I die to the me, I built up. The old me went down in flames, kicking and screaming and it was ugly. And that is where Jesus loses most folks. This is the faith equivalent of January tenth where we throw in the towel on our resolutions and settle for much, much less. In our soul it is where we settle for some sort of Christianity lite. Or worse.
Six years ago, on December thirtieth I made the decision I was going to do more than just believe in Jesus. I accepted his invitation to go after him. I decided to deny myself, take up my cross and follow him just like he said. I was going to do what he said instead of what I wanted. He told me (and tells you) I had to lose my life in order to gain it and that is exactly what has happened. I lost the deception and the denial and he removed the despair. And I gained my true life found only in and through Jesus Christ.
Oh, by the way, Jesus didn’t ask me to do anything he hadn’t already done, he died on the cross and rose from the dead a new creation. The risen Christ invited me to meet him there, and when I met him, his Holy Spirit working in me moved my stagnant soul beyond January the tenth. I gained my life.
And that has made all the difference.
Therefore, I am:
Joy filled always,