(Photo: Dan Delzell)
Ready or not, 2013 has arrived. A new year means new decisions in new situations. Will you and I make better decisions than last year? Or are you pretty satisfied with most of the decisions you made last year? Which ones would you do differently if you could?
Perhaps you are being torn in two directions right now with a decision you are facing. If so, try this. Imagine that you have a journal with a list of everything you did yesterday. And now imagine that you can erase anything you want from that list as though it never happened. Which items, if any, would you erase if you could evaluate them 24 hours after the fact?
Now look again at the decision which confronts you today. Is the direction you are leaning wholesome and God-pleasing? Or are your strongest urges right now coming from your sinful nature? Which choice would you be proud to look at in your journal tomorrow? And which decision would you even be happy to have others see in your imaginary journal?
The reason this can be a helpful exercise for us is because our motivations and urges are often suspect. We sometimes allow ourselves, even as Christians, to get pulled in the direction of our strongest compulsions....even when those desires are pressing upon us to do something or say something that is contrary to God's will for our life. This is the battle every Christian faces. Even the apostle Paul was no exception. (see Romans 7:14-25)
It is ironic that some people who don't even know the Good Shepherd (see John 10:11) are so quick to criticize His sheep and His Gospel. You know one reason they do that? Because they have never experienced the battle between their sinful desires....and the Holy Spirit living within. How could they? They have refused the Holy Spirit's message about Jesus and salvation, and therefore the Holy Spirit is not living inside them. All they know are their sinful desires, but nothing about the internal battle which every Christian faces on a daily basis. (see Galatians 5:16,17)
What these naysayers are actually doing is speaking against their perception of Christianity. But for those who cross the line from darkness to light....and accept the Lord and His forgiveness....well, they quickly develop an appreciation for this battle which rages within every believer. No one who is growing in the Lord is quick to criticize other Christians....mainly because he or she understands how weak every human being is in the flesh.
So what decisions do you need to make this week....this month....this year? As Christians, we obviously want to make decisions which please our Lord. (see Eph. 5:8-11) After all, He has freely forgiven all of our sins. (see Eph. 1:6,7) Therefore, it is good for us to evaluate where we have been....and where we want to go. That way, we can hopefully learn from our bad choices....and not keep doing something we would end up removing from our journal if we could erase it the next day.
There is an old saying: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." That's simple enough, at least in theory. The hard part is turning to God for help when we are feeling overwhelmed by temptation. Maybe if we were to stop for a moment and consider the imaginary journal, we could catch ourselves from just launching into whatever desire or urge seems to be the most dominant at the moment. And if you are one of those people who keep an actual journal for such things, that is even better yet!
This really can be a happy new year for believers when are willing to look at our past decisions honestly, and make the necessary corrections by God's grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit....rather than to just be ruled by impulse and ill-advised compromises. More than anyone else, Christians can appreciate this famous quote from Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living." I guess if we were already perfect, there would be no need to ever examine anything in our life of discipleship.
The Lord knows better than anyone that we all have plenty of room yet to grow. That's just the part of the drill if you are one of God's children through faith in Christ. So embrace the journey as you embrace His grace!