Here we are in the first full week of February, Friends, and the fourth week of our quest to Become a Better Me! Did you know:
- 40 to 45% of American adult make one or more resolutions each year?
- Among the top New Year’s resolutions are resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and stopping to smoke? Also popular are resolutions dealing with better money management and debt reduction.
- That 25% of resolutions don’t make it past the first week, 29% past two weeks, 36% past the first month, and 54% past six?
- While a lot of people who make New Year’s resolutions do break them, research shows that making resolutions is useful? People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions!
The benefits of our “resolution?” First, the pursuit to become a biblically “better” person is truly the pursuit to become more like JESUS, our ultimate aim! Second, we embark on this mission with more than our sheer will to gut it up and hang in there—we enter it with the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit on our side! Finally, the outcome of a biblical pursuit paired with the transformative power of the Holy Spirit is FRUIT! We can trust that when God begins a good work in us, he will be faithful to complete it (Phil 1:6)—no more broken resolutions for us! This year, we bear fruit in good season!
We are halfway through our acronym, now, and so far have discussed our need to:
Begin by breaking the power of inertia
Embrace the work of Grace
Trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty
This week? This week, friends, we Turn.
In seeking to become BETTER—to become more like Jesus—we must make two important turns in our lives. Simply put, we must turn away from sin—this is the first important change in direction that must be navigated. But this is not enough. We must then make the second and most crucial turn: we must turn toward Jesus.
We could spend an untold amount of time on this topic, so for the purposes of our limited time, we’re going to focus on turning from three specific areas: sinful hearts, sinful relationships, and sinful habits.
In my work with people, I’ve observed the rotten, putrid fruit that is borne when people repeatedly turn toward anger and unforgiveness in their hurt, rather than turning toward Jesus. Hearts become hardened, relationships turn sour, and bonds between people are often broken as a result.
When we’ve been hurt or offended, particularly if the wound has been deep, we have a tendency to cling to our anger as a form of self-protection. As long as we still harbor the offense against our offender, we are insulated by thick layers of resentment and withdrawal. But what keeps the offender out also serves to keep the offense IN. And much like disease within the body, anger within the heart spreads its life-stealing tentacles into every possible nook and cranny it can find when not properly removed.
The anecdote to anger is simple, but not easy. The only cure is forgiveness. To turn from our wounds toward the Cross of Christ. It is only in doing so that we may be set free from the ruinous effects of the sin that was committed against us.
So, what IS forgiveness? Our pastor reminded us, this weekend, what forgiveness is not:
- Forgiveness is not forgetting, but the practice of deliberate non-remembrance.
- Forgiveness is not a one-time act, but a process.
- Forgiveness is not the absence of consequences, but a breaking of the law of action and reaction.
But what IS forgiveness, itself? We do not, after all, have the power in and of ourselves to absolve another’s sins. Only God, through the redemptive power of Christ, has the power to renounce the penalty of sin on a person’s life. So what, then, is our role in this process?
The best analogy of forgiveness I’ve heard is borrowed from the world of banking. Forgiveness, as I’ve heard it described, is recognizing that the person who has offended you owes you a large debt—perhaps even larger than their ability to repay. You have every right to demand restitution of this debt—and yet you choose not to. You choose, instead, to turn this account over to God, relinquishing all rights of retribution, forever.
This is, of course, an over-simplification. Entire books have been written on the subject of forgiveness—sermon upon sermon taught. (For our pastor’s most recent sermon on the topic, click here—title is “Life Together in a World of Retaliation”) But for our purposes here today, the analogy is fitting—we turn from our fist-shaking harboring this of debt, toward a God who cares about our wounds infinitely more than we can ever imagine, who is much better equipped to deal with those who have dealt unkindly with us. A turning from, a turning to.
This is what it takes to become better.
This is what it takes to become like Jesus.