Course: Spiritual Exercises
Part 3: Scriptural Authority and Precedent for and Examples of a “My One Word” Resolution
This is part 3 of our current lesson about the ‘spiritual exercise’ of making holy resolutions – and I’m borrowing the title of “My One-Word Resolution” or “My One Word” from another author.
In part 1, I laid the groundwork for the Scriptural exercise of making holy resolutions and the daily lifestyle role that making holy resolutions should have in our lives and discipleship after Christ. I also just introduced how I discovered the practice of making “One Word” resolutions and how it has influenced my life.
In part 2, I capsulized and summarized for you my seven-year story making ‘My One-Word Resolutions’ and living by ‘My One Word’ – and what those one-words have been over the past seven years.
If you haven’t watched those segments, I’d encourage you to do that… [the links to the YouTube videos are at the end of these lesson notes…]
I am on my way to offering some personal, practical exercises that you can take to choose, adopt, commit to, and implement your own personal “One-Word Resolution” for yourself. I promise: I’m going to get to that… but that is still going to be in the next segment, which will also be the concluding segment of this lesson.
“Is this whole thing Scriptural? …or just a trendy gimmick?”
But, before I do that, you may be wondering or asking: “Is this ‘My One Word’ a Biblical thing? Or is this just a novel, trendy, self-help, feel-good gimmick?” Well, thank you for asking because you really ought to be serious and conscientious about your spiritual exercises.
We’re not interested in practicing legalistic rituals and routines, nor do we want to be taken in by empty, useless, and superficial religious fads.
So, is there any Scriptural authority, precedent, mandate for focusing on a “one thing” and concentrating your attention on that “one thing” to grow into maturity and the likeness of Jesus Christ? Remember: that’s the goal we are seeking and reaching for. Growing up into the fullness of Christ-likeness is the ‘until we all reach’-goal that Paul sets forth for the church and the members of the church in his classic passage in Ephesians 4 … listen to this goal:
Ephesians 4.13-15 HCSB: 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.
“…make every effort to supplement your faith…”
Also, the apostle Peter exhorts and challenges us to keep on making holy resolutions and keep on growing by adding one grace after another, upon another, in progressive succession, supplementing each other … all in sync with one another:
2 Peter 1.5-8 HCSB: 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But, nobody can eat the whole elephant in one bite or in one sitting. You eat the whole elephant … one bite at a time. Likewise, we don’t grow up into the mature stature and likeness of Christ in one explosive growth spurt. It would be nice and easy and much more convenient if we could grow in grace that way. But, we grow up into Christ … one grace at a time.
In labor … ‘until Christ is formed in you’
If you want to keep on progressively growing up into the full measure of the stature of Christ, you need to have an immediate focal point. I’ve always been challenged by Paul’s heartfelt plea to the churches in Galatia. They were being lured away from making Jesus Christ the focal point of their faith and discipleship. They were drifting away into self-help, self-effort legalism to grow in their sanctification. I guess you could say they were making resolutions, but they were relying on their flesh to deliver them. He compares himself to a mother in labor, in travail to deliver her child. Paul says that the ‘child’ he is laboring to deliver in them is none other than Christ Himself – Christ-likeness. Listen to him in labor:
“My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.” ~Galatians 4.19
Do you feel this same travail and labor pains in your own soul? Are you agonizing to ‘deliver’ more of Christ-likeness in your own life? It will help you to have a focal point. In truth, you must have a ‘focal point.’
And, of course, when I say ‘focal point,’ my mind is going back to the days of Lamaze preparation for childbirth. Back in 1978 when our first child, Joy, was due to be born, Debbie and I participated in Lamaze preparation. Lamaze preparation was relatively new back in those days, best as I can remember, at least it was for us where we were. But, the purpose of Lamaze preparation was to avoid putting the mother to sleep for her delivery. So, through exercises involving concentration, relaxation, and controlled breathing, the mother could participate and assist in her own delivery. Of course, it was uncomfortable and painful as all childbirth is. But, to get the mother’s attention and focus off of her pain and discomfort, every delivering mother had a ‘focal point,’ some personal object that she would bring with her and have with her to focus on during contractions to help her maintain her focus on relaxation, controlled breathing, and helping with the delivery.
If you want to ‘deliver’ a fuller measure of Christ-likeness in your discipleship, your “One Word” becomes your immediate ‘focal point’ in your delivery process.
And the best place to begin your ‘delivery’ and your growing up into the fullness of Christ is at that point where you are most deficient, most delinquent, most disobedient.
However, we will also discover that God’s graces are all so inextricably related to one another in Christ, that when we resolve and commit to growing up in ‘one’ grace, we will also grow in many other graces also. They all support, supplement, and complement one another. Jesus doesn’t come to us and live in us in pieces; when you receive Christ, you get the whole Christ…the fullness of Christ.
But even Jesus didn’t grow up during the days of His flesh all at one time. Here’s how Jesus Himself grew up as a child…
Luke 2.40 HCSB: The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on Him.
Luke 2.52 HCSB: And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.
That’s how we, too, want to keep on growing up into His fullness, stature, and maturity.
Scriptural precedents for “My One Word”
But, you will find plenty of Scriptural precedent for focusing on “My One Word” and concentrating on implementing that one word.
For example: What is the “one word” that God has given us to serve as the ‘focal point’ of all our obedience to Him? If I asked you to sum up the whole duty of a human being – could you sum up that whole duty in one word? Yes, you could. That ‘one word’ would be ‘love.’ We have referred to this before, but when God summed up all of His commandments, and mandates, and human responsibilities in one word, that word is ‘love.’
Deuteronomy 6.4-5: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Yes, there are many other words that follow and flow out of love – that are born and delivered out of the womb of love – but every other responsibility and duty begins with and is summed up in love. This is God’s first and greatest commandment.
The same thing is true of our duties and responsibilities toward all our other fellow human beings, image-bearers of God. How do you sum up and fulfill every responsibility you have toward every other human being? It is love!
Listen to Paul sum up all of our mutual responsibilities to one another in Romans 13.8-10:
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. HCSB
So, how’s that for a “My One Word”! And please keep on noting that when you adopt and live by any “My One Word,” you’re going to be sprouting out and branching out – laboring, travailing, delivering, giving spiritual birth to – many other words and graces in the doing of it.
A couple New Testament personal examples
But I want to highlight a couple New Testament examples and testimonies of fellow saints who practiced “One Word” resolutions, and did so with Jesus’ blessing and approval.
Paul testified that he had narrowed down his life’s goals and aspirations to “this one thing I do” in Philippians 3.12-16. Now, I realize that his “one thing” was a goal that he was reaching for, a goal that was all the way at the end of his life. But, I just want you to listen to his laser-like ‘focal point’ on that ‘one thing’:
12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. 16 In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. HCSB
We would all do well to reach forward to that next grace of spiritual growth that God has promised and given us in Jesus Christ to fulfill and attain with this same focus and passion: “But one thing I do…!”
I am sure, though, that my favorite example by far is that of Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet so she could hear, and treasure, and keep His words. Jesus just gushed with His pleasure and blessing on her attention, focus, undistracted concentration, and commitment. I want you to pay careful attention to her ‘focal point’ and make this your ‘focal point’ as well!
38 While they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.”
41 The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” HCSB
Now, I want you to keep this story as fresh in your mind as you can because I want to draw from it as we go now into laying out some specific practical steps you can take to implement the spiritual exercise of choosing and living out your “One Word Resolution.”
That will be in our next, concluding segment of this lesson. I am calling it: Some Practical Steps for Choosing and Adopting Your ‘My One Word.’” I will do just what the lesson title says: I will draw on what we’ve covered in these past three segments and give you some practical steps to follow as you seek what God wants you to pursue as your “One Word” Resolution.
I hope you will join us then also…
Here is the link to the YouTube video for this lesson segment:
https://youtu.be/x7hDj6y4lLE | Length 18:09
Here is the PDF version of these Lesson Notes: