‘EFFECTIVE AND FRUITFUL’

This message was delivered by our Pastor Hershael York on 1/24/21. Here are some personal reflections and resolutions…

It was:

  • clarifying. It was a powerful, poignant, pointed, and personal clarification of the balancing and supplementing roles of God’s sovereign and gracious grant of faith [see verses 1 and 3: ‘has granted us’] and my personal responsibility to make every effort [σπουδὴν πᾶσαν παρεισενέγκαντεs] to supplement that faith with my own arduous effort. By the way, God also grants me His divine power [verse 3] with which I make every effort to supplement the faith He has granted me! God commands me to supplement His grant of faith [literally, ‘contribute besides’] with my own arduous decisiveness and commitment to give myself whole-heartedly to Him for His service.
    • “For this very reason [i.e., since God has freely, sovereignly, and graciously granted me this ‘faith of equal standing with ours’], make every effort to supplement your faith with…” ~verses 5-7
  • convicting. [more of this personal commentary following…]
  • and converting in the sense of moving me to make a fresh commitment to godliness and holiness of life before God. As Jesus had said to Peter years before, and the very thing he is doing in this final epistle: ‘when you have been converted, turned again, changed – strengthen your brothers’ ~Luke 22.31-34

This was a watershed, decisiveness crisis message for me, coming at a most critical juncture in my own personal relationship with Christ and dealing with my indwelling sin and self-will.

These are the words that most both haunt and goad me – every single word:

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” ~verse 8

The ultimate driving gear of this movement in my soul is Peter’s call to being effective and fruitful. I don’t want to be ineffective or unfruitful! I want to be effective and fruitful, not in the sense of fulfilling my personal ambitions or agenda, or desires for personal achievement; but rather in the sense of wanting to be used by God in whatever place, role, and ministry He chooses to assign to me. It is also so significant that this comes from Peter who has been such a personal model and example to me in his own history of personal defaults and restorations. See John 21.

I struggle with wondering and doubting just how effectiveness and fruitful I have been over the course of my walk with the Lord and my ministry. I struggle [maybe too much] with perceived feelings of failure. I’m going on 70 years old, and I’m in the last years of however long I have left of my life and ministry. And I look back over the course of my lifetime – where I have been, what I have done, and more importantly, who I have been – and I often wonder just how effective and fruitful I have been.1

I fear that so much of what we have grown used to thinking of as “effectiveness” and “fruit” is being effective and fruitful in our own ambitions, agenda, and achievements. I fear and confess that, perhaps, too often I have measured effectiveness and fruit in terms of tasks accomplished and visible results achieved instead of measuring them by the standards that Peter sets forth here in his exhortation: “For if these qualities [verses 5-7] are yours and increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” THERE is where the effectiveness and the fruit are found and must be increasing and growing: ‘in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’ and in all those graces and promises that have been granted to us and that we have obtained by this God’s grant.

This message left me broken and weeping:

  1. broken and weeping first in wondering if and whether I may have forfeited and defaulted in more effectiveness and fruitfulness I may have borne for the glory of my Savior if I had been much more diligent and arduous in supplementing and ‘contributing besides’ to God’s grant of faith over the course of my ministry. Can it be that I have forfeited power with God and usefulness to Him for the benefit of others by not being more diligent with my heart and not committing myself with more fervor and ardor to the ministry Christ has entrusted me with?
  2. but, broken and weeping also with hope in Christ, that if I will make every effort with diligent haste, that Christ will be pleased to use me in whatever ways He chooses to be more effective and fruitful here in the latest years of my life and ministry. After all, has He not GRANTED to us His very great and precious promises? His promises are His GUARANTEE that He Himself will give us and work in us with His own Divine power everything we need to be effective and fruitful in life and godliness! AND He will make effective and fruitful everything He has called us to do with ardor to actively and intentionally supplement [‘contribute besides’] the faith He has given us.

1 By the way, I do want to add this caveat and qualifier to what I said above about my own frequent introspective self-evaluations: I do know that we are not the ones who are qualified to judge our own service to our Lord, nor are we the ones who will make the final evaluations. Jesus Himself is. So, with that in mind, I have learned to trust in these words from Paul in 1 Corinthians 4.1-5:

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

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O, FOR A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD

O, FOR A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD

1 O for a closer walk with God,
a calm and heav’nly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!

2 Where is the blessedness I knew
when first I sought the Lord?
Where is the soul refreshing view
of Jesus and His Word?

3 What peaceful hours I then enjoyed!
How sweet their mem’ry still!
But they have left an aching void
the world can never fill.

4 Return, O Holy Dove, return,
Sweet Messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn,
and drove Thee from my breast.

5 The dearest idol I have known,
whate’er that idol be,
help me to tear it from Thy throne
and worship only Thee.

6 So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.

~William Cowper

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SWEET WILL OF GOD

SWEET WILL OF GOD

1/ My stubborn will at last hath yielded;
I would be Thine, and Thine alone,
And this the prayer my lips are bringing,
“Lord, let in me Thy will be done.” 

Sweet will of God, still fold me closer,
Till I am wholly lost in Thee;
Sweet will of God, still fold me closer,
Till I am wholly lost in Thee.

2/ I’m tired of sin, footsore and weary,
The darksome path hath dreary grown,
But now a light has ris’n to cheer me;
I find in Thee my Star, my Sun.

3/ Thy precious will, O conqu’ring Savior,
Doth now embrace and compass me;
All discords hushed, my peace a river,
My soul a prisoned bird set free.

4/ Shut in with Thee, O Lord, forever,
My wayward feet no more to roam;
What pow’r from Thee my soul can sever?
The center of God’s will my home.

~Lilia Naylor Morris

~Dallas Christian Adult Choir

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“MY ONE-WORD RESOLUTION” or “MY ONE WORD” | Part 2

Course: Spiritual Exercises

Title: Lesson #5 – “My One-Word Resolution” or “My One Word” | Part 2

Part 2: My Seven-Year Story Making “My One-Word Resolutions” and Living by “My One Word” – and What They Have Been

In our last lesson segment, Part 1, I refreshed our minds about what Spiritual Exercises are just to get us back on track and in focus. Then 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 gave you just a teaser about what a “One-Word Resolution” is and how I was introduced to this practice and exercise 7 years ago. If you haven’t watched that segment, I’d encourage you to do that. [link is imbedded above…]

What I want to do now is continue that personal story and give you some personal testimony about how I have implemented this exercise. So, I’m calling this Part 2 of our lesson: “My Seven-year story making ‘My One-Word Resolutions’ and living by ‘My One Word’ – and what they have been.’

So … now back to my story…

So, now that I’ve given you a little personal background about my long-standing exercise of making resolutions, and especially New Year’s resolutions, let me pick up the story of how I came across the book My One Word, and how it changed the way I make my resolutions.

I resolve…

It was late in the year of 2014. I was thinking ahead and praying about 2015. And, like Pastor Mike Ashcraft says in the teaser about his book, I was one of those who made lists of resolutions. They were all good resolutions. They were all resolutions that I thought I should make to serve the Lord more faithfully and walk more closely with Him.

But, I would think, pray, and meditate during the closing weeks of the year. And you know how that, even though the last 6-8 weeks of the year are busy with holiday events, and get-togethers, and activities, we usually still have some break from the normal pressures and focus of our regular work schedule. So, there may be some extra time in there to give a little more attention to other things … like preparing and making resolutions for the new year. And I would. And the lists of resolutions would be numerous, detailed, comprehensive, and oftentimes maybe overly-ambitious.

And I meant well … I was very conscientious about it.

But then, when the new year comes, your normal activities and responsibilities resume, and you get back to your usual demanding workload, and your attention becomes absorbed and preoccupied again just to live your normal life in many of the usual ways.

And what happens to your resolutions? I would often lose track of what I had resolved to do and what I had resolved to change and do differently. Sometimes I would even lose my lists of resolutions! It’s like I wouldn’t have the attention and time to fulfill my regularly-scheduled ministry activities and also give attention to and focus on making the extensive changes like I had resolved I would do.

And so very often, I would just revert back to some of my old imperfect ways just by default. Or, maybe I would become distracted, then discouraged, then defeated – and finally just give it up in frustration. And then, to make matters much worse, I would get depressed over my perceived failure to keep my resolutions.

Then, I discovered My One Word

Then, I discovered this book My One Word and read it. It changed everything for me. I began making “My One Word” Resolution beginning in January 2015, and I have continued that practice to the present.

I prayed about one major resolution that I should make to change my ways before God, and when I focused on that “One Word,” I discovered that other changes I need to make would also be included in “My One Word” and they, too, began to fall in line with “My One Word,” and I was actually pursuing several paths of growing in grace while I was focusing on “My One Word.”

How it has worked for me…

I think that maybe the best way to illustrate how “My One Word” works, and how it may prove to be a beneficial spiritual exercise for you, is to give you a personal testimony about how I have worked it in my life and experience.

So, let me give you a year-by-year testimony of what “My One Word” resolutions have been and how the Lord impressed each one on my life – and especially as I have prayed about what changes the Holy Spirit needed to make in my life as those changes were inspired and energized by the Word of God.

2015 – “REST”

So, as I say, 2015 was coming up. I knew there were changes that were going to take place in my life and ministry. Changes were going to take place in the church I was pastoring. I didn’t know how they were going to go or what the outcome of all these changes would be. I would find out later – but I didn’t know in 2014 going into 2015.

So, I was praying and seeking the mind and will of God for how I should lead in these changes. And, I was anxious about it all. I was anxious because of the uncertainty. I was anxious because I knew it was going to be an eventful and impactful year … I just didn’t know how the events would go or what impact it would all have on all of us.

As I prayed about it all, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I must have faith in God, trust Him, faithfully obey what I knew that I must obey – and REST!

And, always, as you seek a “My One Word,” your word to live by will come from God’s Word. He will give you the “One Word” He wants you to adopt and practice, and He will give you that word from His Word, the Scriptures, the Bible.

So, the words of Jesus in Matthew 11.28 were impressed on my soul: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you REST.” There it was – “REST”!

There were many others, like Psalm 37.7 KJV, “REST in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him…” To “REST” in the LORD means to give up my own worry and anxieties and trust Him implicitly … have confidence in His good intentions and purposes for me.

So, I went into 2015 resolved that I would not worry, or be anxious, or try to take matters into my own hands, but rather “REST” in the LORD, trust Him, and wait patiently for Him to work out His sovereign will and gracious pleasure in my life and ministry.

2016 – “DELIGHT”

As 2015 turned into 2016, the circumstances of my life and ministry began to be more complicated and difficult. But God was always there, working His sovereign pleasure and will in everything that was happening and developing. And I could sense that some of those circumstances were not headed in ways that were going to be particularly to my personal liking or pleasurable to enjoy. In other words, things were shaping up that had all the prospects that it would be personally painful and bitter to my personal tastes.

But, God was becoming more and more personal to me at the same time. I was enjoying more of His Presence and the joy, peace, and comfort of His personal company. I was “resting” in Him more. I was learning to trust Him more and just enjoy being with Him regardless of how things turned out for me personally.

So, as I continued with the LORD in 2016, He taught me that it isn’t enough for me just to “REST” in the LORD – as in just resigning myself to accept whatever He had planned for me – but I must “DELIGHT” in Him! I must not be content with just a passive and stoic acceptance of His will, but I must enjoy Him! I must treasure Him above my every other possession and personal experience!

And so “My One Word” was “DELIGHT.”

Again, “My One Word” for 2016 came from The Word of God.

  • Psalm 37.4, “DELIGHT yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
  • Psalm 1.2, “…but his DELIGHT is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.”
  • Psalm 40.8, “I DELIGHT to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” [quoted again by our Lord in Hebrews 10.7]
  • Romans 7.22, “For I DELIGHT in the law of God, in my inner being…”

And so the LORD began to draw my heart to seek Him for the sake of the DELIGHT of His company and His pleasure.

And not only did I learn more to “DELIGHT” myself in knowing Him, but I also reveled more in His “DELIGHT” in me! Proverbs 8.30-31 speaks of Christ in the work of creation, “…then I was beside Him, like a master workman, and I was daily His DELIGHT, rejoicing before Him always, rejoicing in His inhabited world and DELIGHTING in the children of man.” And Proverbs 15.8 KJV, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His DELIGHT.”

There are so many other delightful Scriptures that call on us to DELIGHT ourselves in God just for the pure pleasure of knowing and enjoying Him! And many others that assure us of God’s own personal DELIGHT in us as His children and treasured possessions!

And so I resolved to more and more “DELIGHT” in God just for the pleasure of knowing Him and enjoying His company and His pleasure in me!

2017 – “FOLLOW”

As 2017 opened up, I could sense early on that there were going to be major changes in my ministry and in our lives as we had lived and known them up to that point. I didn’t know when these major, seismic changes and transitions would shift, but I knew they were coming. Nor did I have any idea where the direction or the course of our lives would take during the upcoming year.

So, going into 2017, “My One Word” was “FOLLOW,” and I resolved to the LORD that I would “follow” Him wherever His will would lead us. I got “My One Word” “follow” from John 12.25-26:

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”

So, there I had it. Jesus Himself was following the Father’s will even to the Cross. I resolved that I would “follow” Jesus wherever He chose to lead us, take us, and go with us. I also knew that wherever He leads us, and wherever we follow Him to, that’s where He wants us to be to be working through us. That’s all that any of us is ever called to do anyway, is “follow” Christ.

So, on May 28 of 2017, I resigned the pastorate where we had served for the previous 35 years because I believed that Jesus was calling us to ‘follow’ Him … we just didn’t know where. As it turned out, we pretty immediately ‘followed’ His leadership to come here where we are now. “Follow” was a good word for 2017 – and for every day of every other year also, of course!

2018 – “ABIDE”

As we went into 2018, we had been here at Buck Run for six months; so this new course and direction for our lives was still very new to us. I was suffering from a bad case of disorientation because the whole structure and order of my life and ministry had suddenly changed, and I hadn’t prepared for it. For the previous 45 years, I had been pastor of a church in some role or another – most of those years as a lead pastor. Now, for the first time in almost half a century and for all of my adult life, I was not a pastor of a church.

I’m not saying it was a bad place to be in, just different. I was not depressed or disheartened by the changes in my function and roles, but I was very disoriented, and somewhat confused and casting about for what I was supposed to do.

That’s when the Holy Spirit began to impress the word “ABIDE” upon my spirit – as in “Abide in Christ.” Or, Paul uses the same original word in 1 Corinthians 7.27, “So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain [or, ‘abide’] with God.” The word ‘abide’ simply means ‘to dwell, remain.’ 

God began to reassure me that I was not in a bad place at all! I had not lost my identity. My identity was still “in Christ.” I was still the same child of God. I was still the same servant of the Most High God. I was still a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ. I was still loved by God and by my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. All that had changed was my practical activities and ministry roles.

So, during that time, God began impressing me that He had brought all these changes into my life and ministry because He wanted me more for Himself. He wanted me to spend more undistracted time and attention on seeking Him and delighting in Him. He wanted me to focus on and cultivate more my relationship with Him. If I was going to ‘follow’ Him, He would lead me to more ‘abide’ in Him.

John 15 began to reverberate in my soul:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

And so, “My One Word” for 2018 was “ABIDE” as in “abide in Christ,” “abide in His love,” “abide in the fullness of His joy.” I began to explore, express, and enjoy more my intimacy and my relationship with Christ and what it means to “ABIDE” in Him.

2019 – “CONQUER”  

The more I focused on abiding in Christ, the more conscious I became of my indwelling sin. And especially all the sins of “self”: like self-will, self-love, self-ish, self-seeking, self-pleasing.

The struggles of temptation to have my own will and way and to have what I wanted to have for myself were vicious and fierce and unrelenting. The more I wanted to abide in Christ, the more my indwelling sin nature seemed to revive, rear its ugly head, and rage with desire for what it wanted. It was war. It was an internal civil war that renewed its intensity and ferocity. It was a constant battle and fight for mastery over my will. It was like I was constantly and daily living in the raging war that Paul describes in Romans 7.21-23:

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 

Peter describes this battle, this conflict, this war with this call to spiritual arms:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” [1 Peter 2.11].

And Paul describes his personal battle plan to CONQUER his indwelling sin in the language of destroying fortresses and strongholds and taking his every thought, feeling, and activity captive to serving Christ:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… [2 Corinthians 10.3-5]

I was far too often and too much being defeated, conquered, and being taken captive by my own indwelling sin. So, I resolved to “CONQUER” my indwelling sinful desires for my own glory, my own getting, my own gratification. I didn’t want to just struggle with my indwelling sin, which all believers do – I wanted to CONQUER my indwelling sin by the grace of God.

In Romans, chapter 6, leading up to the inner struggles and warfare against indwelling sin that he describes in chapter 7, Paul makes this victory proclamation in Romans 6.12-14:

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. [my emphases added]

When Paul says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body,” he is saying ‘CONQUER your sin, don’t let it CONQUER you.’ When he says, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace,” he is saying ‘CONQUER your sin through the life and power of God’s saving grace because God’s grace will not allow your sin to CONQUER or have dominion over you.’

Now, the way I came up with “My One Word” CONQUER is actually by creating an acrostic. You can say I cheated on “My One Word” if you want to, but I also adopted seven other key words: one for every letter of the one-word CONQUER.

So, Here’s how I resolved to CONQUER my indwelling sin:

  • Commit to loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength – make God Himself the supreme and chief love and desire of my life
  • Own personal responsibility for my response to this temptation
  • Navigate my desires away from the temptation and seek the Face and pleasure of God
  • Question the source and nature of every desire and temptation – where is it coming from? from the Father? or from the flesh?
  • Unite all the strength and desires of my love and will to seek God and His pleasure [Psalm 86.11]
  • Employ all the means of grace God has made available to me: the Holy Spirit, the Word, prayer, obedience, fellowship with the saints, accountability – and most of all, confession of my sins
  • Receive and Rejoice in the promised resolve, life, strength, and desire of the Holy Spirit to choose to love Christ … and Receive and Rejoice in His forgiveness when I do fail

2020 – “Conquer / LOVE”

Some years – or however long a season you choose to live by your “My One Word” – you may choose to adopt and live by the same “One Word.” Just carry it over and carry it on until you believe it has worked its intended grace and growth in your life.

I did that in 2020, last year. I retained the “My One Word” “CONQUER,” but I added a companion “My One Word” to give it a sharper, more intensified focus and application: “LOVE” … just the simple, bottom-line, first-commandment, root-of-all-things “LOVE.”

Actually, “LOVE” is the keyword to the “C” in “CONQUER.” The “C” in “CONQUER” is “I Commit to loving God with ALL MY HEART AND DESIRES … I Commit to purity and holiness and pleasing Christ…” That, of course, comes from the First and Greatest Commandment of all in Deuteronomy 6.4-5:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your might” [my emphases added].

And Jesus repeatedly confirmed the primacy and first priority of LOVE in His teaching and preaching.

When I adopted ‘CONQUER’ as “My One Word” in 2019, I knew that LOVE is at the root of all my sin, and so it will also be at the root of all my conquering my sin. You say: “How can love be at the root of all sin?” Well, it’s because all my sin traces its root and origin and birth back to what I choose to love. All of my sin and all my temptations to sin are born in the womb of my desires and what I want. And I want and desire what I love.

All of my temptations to sin are just solicitations and opportunities that are presented to me by the Tempter to indulge in some illicit and fleshly desire that my indwelling sin nature loves and wants.  

In my struggles and fight to CONQUER my indwelling sin, I repeatedly traced it back to what I was wanting, what I was loving. James does his spiritual forensics on our temptations and sin when he diagnoses it this way:

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” ~James 1.14-15, my emphases added

When Paul describes his own personal inner spiritual struggles and warfare with his indwelling sin in Romans, chapter 7, he repeatedly describes it in terms of “what I want” and “I have the desire.” It’s our dueling desires, the constantly raging war of opposing loves. He even says that the cardinal sin that woke him up to his wretchedness and extreme sinfulness before God and “slew” him was the sin of covetousness! What is covetousness? And what makes covetousness so bad?  Covetousness is our love, desires, and lusts which are perverted, and mis-guided toward and mis-placed upon the wrong objects of desire. We love what we’re not supposed to love. We don’t love what we are commanded to love.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~Romans 7.21-25, my emphases added

Do you see the war of competing loves, conflicting loves, adversarial loves fighting against each other in our inner souls and desires?

The apostle John starts off 1 John, chapter 2 with “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” So, what instructions does he give us when he teaches us how we may not sin? He commands us to regulate our lives and conquer our sins by choosing Whom we love:

Do not love the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” ~1 John 2.15-17, my emphases added

By the way, it was from this Scripture that I framed the “Q” in “CONQUER” as “Question the source and the nature of every desire and temptation – whether it is from The Father or from the world…”

So, that’s why, in 2020, I carried over the “My One Word” “CONQUER,” but then added the more focused “My One Word” “LOVE.” I adopted Deuteronomy 6.4-5 to memorize as my key Scripture to keep me focused on “My One Word”: to CONQUER my indwelling sin by LOVING the LORD my God with ALL my heart, soul, mind, and desires.  

2021 – “Conquer / FIGHT”

So, that brings me to where we are today – the beginning of 2021. Again, I’m retaining my 2019 “One Word” for 2021, except that again, I’m extending it with another intensifier “My One Word” … the word “FIGHT.”

I’m still battling and waging the ‘CONQUER’ war against my indwelling sins of ‘self’ – I’m waging that war by emphasizing and focusing on ‘LOVE’ as the primary weapon of my warfare. When I adopt and commit to practicing the “My One Word” ‘FIGHT’ for 2021, I am acknowledging that I am responsible to engage this war with all the weaponry and armor that God has given me by His saving grace and put at my disposal to FIGHT with.

In fact, this resolution “FIGHT” is actually already built into the “My One Word” I adopted for 2019: CONQUER. Remember that I told you that CONQUER is actually an acrostic with every letter being another resolution. So, the “O” in CONQUER is for “OWN” – “I Own personal responsibility for my response to this temptation…”

When I adopt the “My One Word” ‘FIGHT,’ I am acknowledging that if I CONQUER my indwelling sin with all of its illicit loves and desires, it will not happen on its own. My indwelling sin will not be conquered automatically just because I’m saved. I cannot be naïve, inattentive, lackadaisical, or passive about this inner war. Romans 7.22-23 is always raging in my members:

22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

I must FIGHT!

My indwelling sin will not be conquered without putting up its own fierce, vicious, and passionate FIGHT against me – even from within me; and I must FIGHT it back just as fiercely, just as viciously, and just as passionately in the life and power of the Holy Spirit.

I want to take the time here to tell you just how serious this FIGHT is. When Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6.12 that we do not “wrestle” [or fight] against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of darkness that are committed to eliminating us, the word that he uses for “wrestle” [πάλη] is used only this one time in the New Testament. It was a Greek contest [or ‘exercise,’ if you will] in which the fighters fought with one another until the victor, the conqueror, not only threw his opponent down, but pinned him and rendered him immobile with his own hand on his neck. In other words, the conquered opponent was rendered so weak, that his conqueror actually had his hand on his jugular vein and esophagus – he had the power of life and death in his hands over his opponent.

THAT IS THE FIGHT WE ARE IN! 

Paul charges Timothy in 1 Timothy 6.11-12:

“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 FIGHT the good FIGHT of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

For Paul himself, that FIGHT was a FIGHT that lasted right up until the end of his life and ministry – it was one of the last testimonies that he gave before his own martyrdom:

“I have FOUGHT the good FIGHT, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” ~ 2 Timothy 4.7.

However, let me be perfectly clear about one truth: I am in no way suggesting or teaching that our FIGHT against our indwelling sin can be waged and won by any power or strength that is inherent in us.

In all of these discussions and teachings about CONQUERING our indwelling sins and FIGHTING against it in our struggles for holiness and godliness, I have tried to always emphasize that we don’t FIGHT sin and temptation to sin with our own will power or resolve or by making resolutions. In fact, if there’s one lesson I have learned from a life-long war against my indwelling sin, it is that IT IS MY OWN WILL THAT I’M FIGHTING AGAINST! The only power and strength that we have to FIGHT and CONQUER our indwelling sin is by the strength and power that is given to us by the grace of God.

You will never will-power yourself to holiness. What we are talking about is becoming more and more like Jesus Christ in every way: in our values, in our attitudes, in our character, and in our conduct. And you can’t do that with any and all the energies and strengths that you possess in yourself. God will have to work in you and through you to CONQUER your sin. You can FIGHT victoriously against your sin only in the strength that God gives you by His grace through the Holy Spirit.

In that all-equipping passage in Ephesians 6 where Paul trains us in spiritual warfare, he begins his training by reminding us that the only strength and weaponry we have for our FIGHT against sin is “in the Lord”:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. ~Ephesians 6.10-13

And so, I am resolving to assume my personal responsibility to FIGHT, even while I’m trusting in and relying upon the strength and power of God to make my FIGHT victorious and CONQUER my indwelling sin. The way I commit to FIGHT is by LOVING God with all my heart and obeying every word He gives me in the Scriptures in the power of the Holy Spirit.

By the way, I have also adopted Caleb in Joshua 14 as my model, exemplar, and my encouragement to engage this on-going FIGHT. In Joshua 14, they are taking possession of the Promised Land that God is giving them as their inheritance. That in itself is a prequel of the life we are now living in Jesus Christ as you will discover in Hebrews 3-4. God promised them the land. God is giving it to them by driving out their enemies from before them. But they must FIGHT to take possession of what God promised and is giving them. God Himself is FIGHTING with them and for them as they FIGHT at his command.

So, Caleb comes to his long-time comrade and compatriot during all their years of wandering in the wilderness, and he reminds Joshua how Moses promised them that they could have the territories that they believed God would give them if only they would trust Him and obey Him to go and take it. That was 45 years ago, but now they are in.

So Caleb asks Joshua to give him an additional ‘mountain’ or hill country territory that still had giant warrior inhabitants still living in it, the Anakim. He knew it would be a FIGHT, but he was prepared to take on that FIGHT because he knew that God would FIGHT for him and with him.

And, get this – Caleb was an 85-year-old man by this time. He was no spring chicken any longer. He was no merely ambitious young whippersnapper. He was an old, seasoned, experienced saint who wasn’t just out itching for a FIGHT, but was still willing to continue to FIGHT for what God had given him to have:

10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. 12 So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said. ~Joshua 14.10-12

So, that’s where I am this year. Still warring against my flesh and my indwelling sin, but still committed to CONQUER it by living by the supreme law of LOVE and being willing to engage the FIGHT as God gives me the strength, armor, and weaponry to FIGHT with.

I have been mightily helped and encouraged over the years in my struggles against sin and my aspirations for holiness by the ministry and writings of Jerry Bridges. He has written extensively on this subject especially in his books The Pursuit of Holiness, The Practice of Godliness, Holiness Day by Day [among others also…], but he wrote this little paragraph in one of his books that struck me years ago and has stuck with me as a constant motivation and inspiration to FIGHT against my indwelling sin:

“We Christians greatly enjoy talking about the provision of God, how Christ defeated sin on the Cross and gave us His Holy Spirit to empower us to victory over sin. But we do not as readily talk about our own responsibility to walk in holiness...We pray for victory when we should be acting in obedience.” ~Jerry Bridges [Pursuit of Holiness]

My act of obedience is to responsibly engage the FIGHT against the sin that dwells in me and CONQUER it in the strength and power of the grace of God.

OK – that is just a personal practical narrative of how this spiritual exercise of making holy resolutions has worked in my life and experience.

I hope you will join us for the next segment which will be some more teaching and examples from the Word of God to encourage us in this exercise: “Biblical authority and Precedent for and Examples of a ‘My One Word’ Resolution.”

I hope you’ll join us then also…

Here is the YouTube link to this lesson’s video:

https://youtu.be/WrvSAI_QKiA  |  Length 54:28

Here is a PDF of these Lesson Notes:

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“May prayer be made FOR Him continually…” ~Psalm 72.15

“May prayer be made for Him continually, and blessings invoked for Him all the day!” ~Psalm 72.15b

This Psalm bears the superscription “Of Solomon.” Whether ‘of Solomon’ means that David or some other Divinely-inspired author wrote this Psalm ‘of,’ about, or concerning Solomon with Solomon as the subject; or ‘of Solomon’ means that Solomon is the author himself – it is a prayer and appeal for God’s pleasure and blessings upon Solomon’s rule and reign over God’s kingdom. It is throughout a passionate appeal to God to bring to full fruition the covenant promises He had made to David and to his royal kingly descendants forever:

‘May they fear You while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations! May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth! In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more!’ ~verses 5-7 ff

All of these desired and prayed-for blessings are just re-echoes from the covenant promises God gave to David in 2 Samuel, chapters 7 and 23.

“And now, O LORD God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and DO AS YOU HAVE SPOKEN!” ~2 Samuel 7.25

Without a doubt, as David recognized, these promises go far beyond any of David’s merely human descendants [2 Samuel 7.18-29]. These covenant promises were made concerning Christ [compare Psalm 72.8 with Luke 2.32-33], and they were made TO Christ Himself [Galatians 3.15-16]!

That being so, I have always been intrigued by verse 15b, “May prayer be made FOR Him continually, and blessings invoked FOR Him continually.”

We are used to singing in the second stanza of the beloved Isaac Watts hymn ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun…’, ‘FOR Him shall endless prayer be made, and praises throng to crown His head…’ Except that, in most of our later adaptations, it was changed to sing ‘TO Him shall endless prayer be made…’

Yes, it is true that we shall make our endless prayers TO Him; but the Psalmist said that ‘May prayer be made FOR Him continually…’ I have asked myself, ‘How do pray FOR Christ?’ He is not needy. He is not poor or deficient in any way to need us to pray FOR Him to receive or have anything. These covenant promises and blessings have been given to Him, and He shall every one of them in full!

But we do pray FOR Him! We pray FOR Him when we pray for Him to receive every covenant promise He Himself prayed to the Father to give Him when He prayed FOR Himself – like, in John 17, for example. He prayed to the Father FOR the covenant blessings the Father had promised and given Him ‘before the world existed.’

So, when we pray FOR Christ, we are praying FOR:

  • His Kingdom
  • His Name
  • His worship
  • His praise
  • His Word
  • His Gospel
  • His people
  • His Glory

Read the Psalm! Note the requests that the psalmist petitions God FOR the king. These are just some of the covenant blessings that the Psalmist prayed that God would ‘Give the king [verse 1]’ when he prayed FOR Him.

These are same petitions we pray to be fully given to Jesus Christ when we pray FOR Him continually! Let’s all join together and pray in unison and concert FOR Christ to receive them all fully!

“Blessed be His Glorious Name forever; may the whole earth be fill with His Glory! Amen and Amen!” ~verse 19

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“I WILL BE YOUR GOD!”

“YOU SHALL BE MY PEOPLE, AND I WILL BE YOUR GOD!” ~Jeremiah 30:22

I read this Pastor Richard Sibbes excerpt recently in the February 1 reading of Voices From The Past, volume 2, edited by Richard Rushing [Banner of Truth]. I just have to share it!

I wrote a personal note at the top of the page: “THIS God is God in all the supreme, sovereign, sweet, and sufficient meanings of what it is to be ‘GOD’ – and He gives Himself to me and commits: ‘I WILL BE YOUR GOD!’ I need a God. I want a God. I have a god … whomever or what it may be. But, THIS GOD says, ‘I WILL BE YOUR GOD, and YOU shall be My people!’ ‘And…can it be?’”

Here’s Sibbes: “God framed man to have communion and fellowship with Himself. This fellowship is where happiness consists. God’s love for man established the covenant of grace in the seed of the woman, Christ the Messiah, to restore mankind from the most miserable plight and misery into which Adam cast the world by his sin.

It is a most sweet sign of God’s great love that He would stoop so low as to make a covenant with us, to be our God and to be all in all to us! Consider such a covenant –

  • the Creator with the creature;
  • the immortal God and mortal man;
  • the glorious God, and dust and ashes;
  • the holy God and sinful man;
  • the great King of heaven and earth, and rebels and traitors.

For Him to condescend so low as to make a covenant with us, to enter into terms of agreement with us, is a wondrous sign of His gracious mercy and love.

This covenant is only by Jesus Christ, and to those who believe in Him. We enter into a relationship greater than the world can offer, and are freed from the cursed estate we are in by nature.

God delivers us from all ill, spiritually and eternally. God is able to save us against all our enemies whatsoever: our weakness, the devil, and all of our own corruptions or oppositions whatsoever.

Consider the wisdom of Heaven that says so much in ‘I WILL BE YOUR GOD!’

  • His wisdom is yours and watches you to find out ways to do you good.
  • His power is yours to keep you from danger, and to defend and rescue you from all enemies.
  • His providence is yours to turn all things to your good.
  • His mercy is yours to forgive your sins.
  • His love is yours to bestow all necessary comforts.

There is no phrase in Scripture that has so much in so little as ‘I WILL BE YOUR GOD!’ If we could but unfold and lay open this excellent promise. All other promises in the covenant of grace are members of this.

It is a wonderful and comprehensive promise: ‘I WILL BE YOUR GOD!’

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Judges … then Ruth – you never know what God is doing behind the scenes and under the cover of your darkness…

JUDGES … THEN RUTH!

Just a powerful conviction and encouragement.

In my Daily Time With God, I have been reading through Joshua and Judges. Especially Judges: what a debauched, perverted, raunchy, and dissolute time in Israel’s history. And to think this went on for over 300 years. And all because ‘they forgot the LORD.’

The writer of Judges makes this point, oh, so well. I have to believe that was the primary intentional take-away from his concluding narrative in chapters 17-21 [even after everything that had gone before…]. Just to let us know that “that was the way it was in Israel, ‘Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’” Yes, they did ALL that!

And, not only did they do ALL that, but it was RIGHT in their own eyes.

And I say again, this went on for over 300 years. And it is going from bad to worse…

You finish reading Judges, and you just want to vomit. It’s depressing. You wonder: “Are they irredeemable? Can a people ever come back from this despicable abyss of degeneracy? Is it bottomless? Can this be turned around, redeemed? Can there ever again be any kind of a future worth expecting and living for?”

But, more than that, you have to ask: “Is God doing anything here? Is there NO hope? Can there ever be any expectation that a better, brighter day could ever come after this?’ This must have been the prevailing frame of mind for anyone who still retained even the feeblest, trembling “waiting for the Consolation of Israel” [Luke 2.25].

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take!

The clouds you so much dread

are big with mercy and shall break

with blessings on your head!” ~William Cowper

Keep reading.

The next book is Ruth.

The writer intentionally again begins this continuing narrative with “In the days when the judges ruled…” to let us know that the Story he is about to unfold in the Book of Ruth transpired “in the days when the judges ruled…” Yes, that’s right – in those same days!

And you know what that Story is, don’t you? Oh, yes! You know! Ruth, the Moabitess comes back to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi. God brought them back! Yes! God is still working! God is still doing His Thing!

Ruth meets Boaz, they are married, and they have a baby.

“And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” ~Ruth 4.17.

And thus begin the immediate family tree and lineage that would give birth to David – and David brings us to Christ! Just a few generations later, Jesus, the Son of David, is born into our world in that same “little town of Bethlehem.”

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people! For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the LORD!” [Luke 2.10-11]

And He comes as the Light and Savior of the world! God did it all! Oh, yes! He did! And He still is!

The world and all its cultures of darkness cannot overcome the Light of the World’s coming to save us from all our sin and give us the Light of Life! [John 1.4-5]

You never know what God is doing under the cover of the darkness – whether it is the darkness of the world in which you are living or the darkness of your own life’s history and story. “Let Light shine out of darkness!”

Here’s praying God shines this Light into your soul … right now!

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Just a few questions I ask myself at the close of the day…

JUST A FEW QUESTIONS TO ASK MYSELF AT THE CLOSE OF THE DAY:

– Have I recognized the Presence of God and the faithfulness of His ever-renewing mercies to me throughout the activities of this day?

– Have I recognized the extraordinary provisions that God has granted me, and interventions that God has worked for me [that God has done it] in what has transpired over the course of this day?

– Have I recognized and thanked Him for giving me all things that pertain to life and godliness today?

– Have I represented Jesus Christ faithfully and well in every interaction I’ve had with others over the course of this day?

– Have I intentionally lived and walked under the governance and guidance of the Holy Spirit today?

– Have I availed myself and made good use of all the means of grace God has made available to me today?

– Have I been a good steward of my time, attention, and energies in everything I have done today?

– Have I been diligent to make every effort to supplement the faith God has granted me with improvement and growth in His grace?

– Have I deliberately sinned in any way today: in thought, in word, in deed?

– Have I grieved or displeased God in any way today?

– If I have, did I immediately confess it and forsake it when the Holy Spirit troubled my spirit and convicted my conscience of it?

– Have I encouraged with a good word or helped with needed assistance any one today who God may have brought into my life?

– If I have experienced difficulties, or adversities, or interruptions and disruptions over the course of this day, have I remembered that God is in control of all things and asked Him what He wants me to learn from it?

– Have I been obedient and faithful with every responsibility God has entrusted to me today?

– Have I entrusted to God everything that is out of my control today?

– – To summarize and capsulize: Have I rejoiced in the LORD my God today? Not just rejoiced in the things I preferred and liked, but rejoiced in GOD? Have I delighted to know Him? Have I enjoyed my blessings and privileges of just having Him to be my God, and His having me to be His child? Have I served Him with joy and gladness?

– Am I prepared to give account to God right now, and to Jesus Christ in the Last Day for how I have lived the life He has graciously granted to me today?

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Cleansing ourselves from every defilement of body AND spirit…

“Since we have these promises, beloved,

let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit,

bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” ~2 Corinthians 7.1

We are to make every effort and implement every means God has given us to cleanse ourselves from every defilement – both in body and in spirit.

Jesus even went so far to say “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” ~Matthew 5.29-30.

Now, THAT is making every effort and implementing every means! And, He is serious about, and so should we!

It is one thing to abstain from practicing and indulging in outward sins. We just must restrain ourselves from physically doing them. However, it is quite another thing to NOT practice and indulge ourselves in fantacizing about them and acting them out in our mind and spirit.

Jesus said that to indulge in the mental activities is to commit them in fact.

Not to cleanse ourselves in mind and spirit is to practice, train, condition, and entice ourselves, making it much easier to fall for the physical act of whatever sin we are mentally indulging. You are drawing out your plays on the whiteboard of your mind and desires, just waiting for the Tempter to present you with the opportunity to call for the play [see James 1.14-15].

It is much easier to commit the actual act of murder if you have been coddling and nurturing hatred in your heart toward someone else, and amassing all the evidences of your injuries, self-defense, and justification [see Matthew 5.21-26]. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” ~1 John 3.15.

It is much easier to commit the act of fornication and adultery if you have been allowing yourself to want it, fantacizing about it in your mind and spirit, or imbibing pornography [see Matthew 5.27-30].

It is much easier to commit the sins of lying, slander, and character assassination if you have been rehearsing the case and playing it over and over again in your seething malice against another [see Ephesians 4.25-27, 31 & Colossians 3.5-11].

It is much easier to explode in evil and injurious anger toward another when you have been stoking and fanning that bitterness and anger until the opportunity arises for you to vent it in force for its maximum intended effect [see Matthew 5.21-26 & James 1.19-21].

It is much easier to cheat and steal when you have been plotting and scheming your covetous, idolatrous plans of whatever kind in your mind and spirit, watching and stalking for when and how you can do it and get by with it [see Ephesians 4.28].

And on and on throughout the sordid cesspool of our inward corruption that must be cleansed by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus and the pure life of the Holy Spirit. [see 1 Corinthians 6.11]

We all know to guard, not just our outward acts, but our minds and spirits.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” ~Proverbs 4.23.

We must do this! And we must do this first!

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“MY ONE-WORD RESOLUTION” or “MY ONE WORD” | Part 1

Course: Spiritual Exercises

Title: Lesson #5 – “My One-Word Resolution” or “My One Word” | Part 1

“MY ONE-WORD RESOLUTION” or “MY ONE WORD”

Part 1: The Spiritual Exercise of Making Holy Resolutions & Introduction to “My One-Word Resolution”

“Spiritual Exercises”

This is Lesson 5 of a series we are calling “Spiritual Exercises.” So, let’s take just a moment here to remind ourselves again of what a ‘spiritual exercise’ is. We’ve been in this study for several weeks now, and we’ve had some interruptions, so it will do us good just to remind ourselves again what a “spiritual exercise” is to help keep us on point and in focus.

What is a “spiritual exercise”? A ‘spiritual exercise’ is any one of those activities or exercises that we do to exercise our obedience to God and discipleship after Jesus Christ. A ‘spiritual exercise’ is an activity that we practice and perform to follow Jesus Christ, obey Jesus Christ, serve Jesus Christ, and become more like Jesus Christ – which is always our ultimate purpose and aim.

A ‘spiritual exercise’ is any one of those activities that we practice that express and live out the lifestyle of truly being a Christian, a born-again child of God, and a transformed believer in Christ.

‘Spiritual exercises’ are those same activities and exercises that are sometimes also called ‘spiritual disciplines,’ ‘holy habits,’ or ‘habits of grace.’

And so, let’s be clear here: we’re not just talking about rote rituals or legalistic rules you make for yourself or for someone else – we are talking about the activities that express and exercise the real-alive, born-again, living, loving, and longing relationship of eternal life that we have with Jesus Christ. It is the expression and exercise of the spiritual life and fellowship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ, that the apostle John wrote about in his opening of 1 John, chapter 1.1-4:

What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have observed
and have touched with our hands,
concerning the Word of life—
that life was revealed,
and we have seen it
and we testify and declare to you
the eternal life that was with the Father
and was revealed to us—
what we have seen and heard
we also declare to you,
so that you may have fellowship along with us;
and indeed our fellowship is with the Father
and with His Son Jesus Christ.
We are writing these things
so that our joy may be complete.

THAT is what spiritual exercises are: “…so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

Some “spiritual exercises” we have previously discussed…

And so, since the beginning of this course:

  • we have studied lessons on reading the Scriptures daily, regularly, and comprehensively
  • we have studied lessons on adopting and following Bible-reading plans and schedules
  • we have studied lessons on how to read the Word of God for the doctrinal and practical truths and lessons God means for us to learn, take away from our reading, and apply to the ways we live our lives
  • we have studied lessons on prayer and proposed prayer prompters that we must pray for every day taken from Jesus’ Disciples’ Model Prayer [usually called the Lord’s Prayer].

Another “spiritual exercise” – “MY ONE WORD”

What I want to do now is turn our attention and interest to another spiritual exercise that I pray and hope will encourage you to begin practicing it. I have personally practiced this spiritual exercise consistently for the past seven years and have found it to be one of the most beneficial and enriching spiritual exercises I have practiced over the course of my Christian life and my walk with the Lord.

I am calling this spiritual exercise, “MY ONE-WORD RESOLUTION,” or to shorten it up by one word, “MY ONE WORD.” I’ll be using both names as we go through this spiritual exercise. So, just by the first title that I have given you, you have deduced that it has something to do with resolutions, making resolutions. And you are right about that.

But, it is more than just a usual “New Year’s Resolution”

However, please don’t think that this just applies to what we usually call “New Year’s Resolutions,” although the turn and beginning of a new year is a good time to think about it and begin exercising it. The turning of a new year gives us a built-in opportunity and makes it more conducive to consider this spiritual exercise of making holy resolutions.

There is just something about the turning of a new year, the beginning of a new season of time that makes us stop and take stock and evaluate the year that has past and how we did in it.

  • Did we grow … or not?
  • Did we make spiritual progress … or backslide?
  • Did we follow on to know the LORD … or did we lapse into indifference?

There is something about a new beginning of time that sparks our interest in making new beginnings and gives us hope that we can.

But not just at ‘New Year’s’ – it’s a lifestyle

But, the beginning of a new year certainly should not be the only time of our lives when we think about making holy resolutions to be better than we have been – and better than we are in the present moment.

Making holy resolutions is a spiritual exercise and a holy lifestyle. In fact, making holy resolutions is just another word for another word that may be more common to us: the word ‘repentance.’

Making holy resolutions is practicing the spiritual exercise of repentance: reflecting on the ways we are, and the ways we are living and having the holy desire and resolution to change the ways we are for a life that is more like Christ and more pleasing to God … more expressive of the life of Christ living in us!

And so, before I even begin the story of how I discovered this practice of making “One-Word Resolutions,” let’s address this practice of making holy resolutions and why it is an essential spiritual exercise.

Believe it or not, I actually had a brother come up to me after I preached this spiritual exercise and was leading my church to adopt it and practice it, and he just kind of smirked at me and said, “I don’t do resolutions.” Like he was kind of above the need to make resolutions. To be honest with you, I was so stunned and taken aback by that statement that I didn’t even know how to respond. However, I thought about it later, and given the history of this brother, he actually may have thought he was quite OK the way he was, and that he didn’t need to improve on anything he was or was doing. He may have actually thought that he didn’t know anything he was doing that he could do better. I knew him well, and I knew better, but he may have had that impression of himself.

We’re not talking about merely getting caught up in the impulse of a season…

Now, if he was saying that he didn’t get caught up in the emotion and impulse of making New Year’s Resolutions, then that may have been understandable. I’m sure there is a LOT of impulsive, insincere, superficial New Year’s Resolution-making that goes on in the wave and emotion of the moment … resolutions that are not serious and the resolution-makers never really intend and are not convicted and intentional about making a life-changing commitment to follow through and keep them.

But, what he said is, “I don’t do resolutions.”

So, let me ask you: “Do you do resolutions … do you make resolutions?” Or another way to present the challenge is: “Do you repent?” Do you ever examine yourself, consider your ways, evaluate and take stock of your life, and say, “I need to repent of this, change my ways, and resolve and commit to obeying God in the ways that He commands and that please Him”? Do you ever change your ways – by turning away from something that is sin, and evil, and displeasing to God, and turn to commit to a righteous way of living?

So, we may condense and distill what a holy resolution is by simply saying: A holy resolution is your spiritual conviction and holy commitment to change your ways to become more like Christ.

When I think of making holy resolutions, my mind invariably goes to Psalm 119.59-60 HCSB:

I thought about my ways and turned my steps back to Your decrees [or ‘testimonies’]. 60 I hurried, not hesitating to keep Your commands.

What David is describing here is the spiritual exercise of thinking on, evaluating, every facet of his life from God’s viewpoint and pleasure, and when he sees things that are wrong and amiss, he immediately resolves to correct it according to what he reads in God’s Word.

Pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote this excellent and pointed brief commentary on this verse in his splendid work The Treasury of David:

“I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.” While studying the Word, he was led to study his own life, and this caused a mighty revolution. He came to the Word, and then he came to himself, and this made him arise and go to his Father.

Consideration is the commencement of conversion: first we think and then we turn. When the mind repents of ill ways the feet are soon led into good ways; but there will be no repenting until there is deep, earnest thought.

Many men are averse to thought of any kind, and as to thought upon their ways, they cannot endure it, for their ways will not bear thinking of. David’s ways had not been all that he could have wished them to be, and so his thoughts were sobered over with the pale cast of regret; but he did not end with idle lamentations, he set about a practical amendment; he turned and returned, he sought the testimonies of the LORD, and hastened to enjoy once more the conscious favor of his heavenly Friend.

Action without thought is folly, and thought without action is sloth: to think carefully and then to act promptly is a happy combination. He had entreated for renewed fellowship, and now he proved the genuineness of his desire by renewed obedience.

If we are in the dark, and mourn an absent God, our wisest method will be not so much to think upon our sorrows as upon our ways: though we cannot turn the course of Providence, we can turn the way of our walking, and this will soon mend matters.

If we can get our feet right as to holy walking, we shall soon get our hearts right as to happy living. God will turn to His saints when they turn to Him; yea, He has already favored them with the light of His face when they begin to think and turn.”

So, that is what I’m calling us to do when I talk about the spiritual exercise of making holy resolutions: I’m talking about the Scriptural practice of repentance from our sins and turning back to walk in ways of holy obedience to God and His Word. I’m talking about the lifestyle of examining our ways before God by the standard and rule of His Word, and then conforming our lives to Christ in swift obedience and holy resolution.

Again, Psalm 119.59-60:

I thought about my ways and turned my steps back to Your decrees. 60 I hurried, not hesitating to keep Your commands.

By the way, before we leave Psalm 119 and return to the spiritual exercise of “One-Word Resolution” or “My One Word,” if you want to know how to make holy resolutions in keeping with the Word of God, then read Psalm 119. Mark all the times David makes holy resolutions with the words “I will…” or any of the numerous resolutions he makes just in Psalm 119 by declaring his intentions and then doing them. Psalm 119 is filled with scores of holy resolution prompters.

Let me just give you a brief sampler. If you want to know what a holy resolution looks like and sounds like, listen to this […and I’m just going to start at the beginning and go a few verses to show you how you, too, can make holy resolutions just by allowing David here to inspire you].

From Psalm 119:

verse 5: Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

verse 7: I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules!

verse 8: I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.

verse 10: With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

verse 11: I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

verse 14: In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.

verse 15: I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.

verse 16: I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

There are 176 verses in Psalm 119, and every single one can be viewed as a holy resolution in one form or another. No statement in these 176 verses about The Word of God can be viewed as FYI only. Every expression is not just an indicative … every expression is also an imperative.

All of these resolutions are not only good holy resolutions, but they are also holy resolutions that should be the normal spiritual exercises of every believer

Now, let me return to my personal story of how I discovered this spiritual exercise of “My One Word” and began to practice it as a resolution-making lifestyle…

How I discovered and began practicing “My One Word” spiritual exercise

I first got started with this spiritual exercise of making “My One-Word Resolutions” when I came across a book by the title of My One Word: Change Your Life With Just One Word. It was written in 2012 by Mike Ashcraft. Mike is a Baptist pastor in Wilmington NC.

Here is the address for the website where the book is featured: http://myoneword.org/

Here’s how they tease the book on their website:

LOSE THE LONG LIST OF RESOLUTIONS. If you’re like most people, each January goes something like this: You choose a problematic behavior that has plagued you for years and vow to reverse it. In fact, you can probably think of two or three undesirable habits—make that four or five.

Thus begins the litany of imperfections to be perfected commonly known as “New Year’s Resolutions.” All of which are typically off your radar by February.

“My One Word” is an experiment designed to move you beyond this cycle. The challenge is simple: lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick ONE WORD.

This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future. So, we invite you to join us and pick one word for the next twelve months.

So, that’s what intrigued me when I first saw the book. This was around October 2014. 2015 was coming up. And, as usual, I was preparing for New Year’s Resolutions like I have done for as long as I can remember.

I have always been making resolutions…

I have always been one to be making resolutions. And not just around New Year’s. For pretty much all of my life, I have been one to be making resolutions all the time.

I have never been content with myself the way I was at any point. I have always been a perfectionist – and when I say that, I’m not commending myself – I’m telling you, that is not a good characteristic … not a good character trait. It’s one thing to want to be better than you are and strive for growth in grace and improvement in your character and conduct. That is a good thing. That’s what we should be doing all the time.

Perfection-ism is a sin

But perfection-ism is a sin. Perfection-ism is expecting perfection from yourself because … well, because you think you are perfect and can be perfect. And, of course, none of us is. But, in our pride, and arrogance, and self-righteousness, we strive to be perfect – or at least appear to be perfect. Except that when you are a perfectionist, all of our striving is in the energy of our own fleshly human will and nature which is fallen, flawed, and doomed to failure because “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” [Romans 8.8]. Paul had earlier confessed and lamented in Romans 7.18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” But, a perfectionist is always striving to prove Paul wrong on that indictment: “there IS something good that dwells in my flesh, and I’m going to show you!”

And so much of what goes into being a perfectionist is wanting to appear to be perfect for your own self-esteem and for the praise of other people. When all of this pride and seeking the praises of others works itself in our resolutions and efforts to be better, that is what makes perfectionism such an abominable sin to God. It is a self-help effort to produce the righteousness of Christ – the righteousness that only God gives through faith in Jesus Christ and the life of the new birth. This is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification.

But, I’m getting way ahead of my story here…

Not self-perfection-ism, but going on to perfection in Christ

I said all that to illustrate my statement that I have always been one to be making resolutions. But instead of making our resolutions from the motivation of a self-effort perfectionism, we must be making our resolutions – as a lifestyle – from the incentive and motivation of wanting to be perfect in the sense of growing up and being grown-up in the grace of God, perfect in the sense of being mature in Christ, and perfect in the sense of wanting to be complete in our character and conduct – complete as in becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.

This is the sense that the Hebrews writer is pressing on us when he says in Hebrews 6.1, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity…”, or as we are used to reading and hearing it in the Authorized KJV, “let us go on to perfection.” Or when James writes about our persevering through our adversities and trials of faith, he challenges us in James 1.4, “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

To be perfect, whole, complete in Christ

So, that’s what we are striving for; that’s why we make resolutions – so we can be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing we are supposed to be and do. The aim of all our resolutions-making is not just to appear to be better people, or become “a better you,” or even to actually be better people for our own self-satisfaction, or to boost our self-esteem or to win the praises of others. But rather we make resolutions to be more and more like Jesus Christ in our character and conduct – more complete, more mature, more perfectly conformed to His image and likeness.

And, to put it another way: we make our resolutions for change and growth and improvement, not to seek to please other people or to please ourselves – but to please God!

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OK – this will serve as our introduction to the spiritual exercise of making holy resolutions and what a “My One Word” resolution is. I hope you will follow up with our next lesson – because I want to maybe explain and illustrate with my own personal testimony how to practice this spiritual exercise.

I’m calling that part of the lesson: My Seven-Year Story Making “My One-Word Resolutions” and Living by “My One Word” – and What They Have Been. I’d like to tell you some of my own story. I hope you will join us then also.

Here is the link to the YouTube video: https://youtu.be/wrlO2nrS1Vse

Here is the link to the PDF of these same lesson notes:

Posted in Discipleship, Holy Resolutions, I've been thinking, My One Word, My One Word Resolution, Spiritual Exercises, Sunday School lessons | Leave a comment