New Year’s Resignations

Well, it’s January 8 and you know what that means? Yes it means it’s Hump Day again, but more than that, statistically speaking it means most of us who made any sort of New Year’s resolutions have already failed at most of them. And some who haven’t failed are already finding sticking to their resolution to be a struggle and frustrating and you are questioning why you are even bothering.

Maybe you resolved to make healthier choices with food or drink. You resolved that what you eat and what you drink will not be your source of comfort and joy this year. You will show self control. You won’t become one of those self-righteous sticks in the mud who can’t enjoy a good meal or dessert or beer or glass of wine, but you will enjoy them as gifts from God, not as lifelines.

But then there’s the invitation to a friends house and you don’t want to be rude. And there are all those cookies and candy and you don’t want to be wasteful so they HAVE to be eaten so that you can get them out of the house and start your resolution in earnest. And now you’re feeling like your resolution is pretty much a failure.

Or maybe you resolved to have a little more unconditional love in your heart. Maybe toward your wife or maybe toward your children. A little more patience, a little more compassion, a little more empathy and listening and less talking and correcting and screaming and ignoring. The problem is that conditions aren’t always that optimal for unconditional love. Sometimes it’s too early in the morning for this conversation again. Sometimes it’s too late in the evening to listen to them. Sometimes they are acting like CHILDREN. Sometimes he is so frustrating. Sometimes she is so cold. And you fall and you fail and your resolution didn’t get you anything except, if you told your family what it was, a dirty look or critical comment.

You tried. You meant well. you fell flat. Now what?

For half of us, we will resolve more better. Dig in your heals. Do better. Try harder. Take that hill. Move that barge. You thought you were resolved, but you ain’t seen nothin yet. Grab those boot straps and get up!

For half of us we will resign. You tried, you failed, but who could possibly succeed surrounded by these sinners? You don’t know my wife. You don’t know my husband. You don’t know my children. You don’t know my circumstances.

Or, worse, you realize you failed and it is entirely your own doing. You resolved. You were earnest. You were sincere. You wanted to do good, but the more you wanted to do better the more there was something there pulling you back down, tripping you up, tempting you to give up or give in.

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand (No, not in your spouse or your children or your pantry, but right there in your own heart). For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 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.” Romans 7.21-23.

“I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Romans 7.19.

What is there for resolvers and resigned alike? What hope do you have if you couldn’t even make it through the first seven days of 2014? Wretched person that you are, who can deliver you from this body of death? (Romans 7.24)

There is Christ. There is always and only Christ. Christ for the resolvers so sure that their sins only exist in response to other people’s sins. Christ for the resigned who are certain that they have blown it for the umpteenth and final time.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 7.25-8.1

If you are going to resolve this year, resolve that you will know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Resolve that you will not take even one step away from total and absolute dependence on Christ for your deliverance. Resolve to remember that if grace were something you deserved it wouldn’t be grace. Resolve that the gospel not be something those annoying sinners in your life need but something you need this year, this day, everyday.

If you are going to resign this year, resign yourself to the fact that you are indeed the worst sinner in your life and God loves you and sent his Son to die for you and He does not condemn you anymore, so neither should you. Resign yourself to understand that if grace were something you could earn it wouldn’t be grace anymore. Resign yourself to absolute and utter dependence on Christ and His work this year, this day, everyday.

Resolve to know Christ and Christ alone. Resign to need Christ and Christ always. And enjoy the journey.

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Lessons from Joe Paterno’s legacy

Yesterday afternoon I heard the sad but inevitable news that Joe Paterno would be retiring at the end of this season. This morning I woke up to the even sadder news that he had been fired last night for the ongoing scandal that is rocking Penn State right now.

 

Joe Pa (as he is affectionately referred to by PSU fans) came to Penn State in 1949 as an assistant coach. My dad was six. In 1966, the year my parents were married, one year after my dad graduated from Penn State, Joe became the head coach of Penn State’s football team. He is the only head coach I have ever known at Penn State.

 

Joe Paterno’s accomplishments are amazing. His longevity is unimaginable. I remember sitting in my Grandpa’s living room with all the men and many of the women of the extended Bailey family when the benched Boz’s Sooners beat the Lions in the Orange Bowl in 1986 ending their undefeated season. I remember the exact same living room with the exact same crowd in a slightly more jovial mood one year later when PSU went undefeated and beat (and intercepted five times!) Vinnie Testaverde’s Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl in1987.

 

One USA Today writer said, “Paterno, so revered just a week ago, will never be viewed the same way. This, sadly, is as it should be.”

 

Is that true? Should 46 years of coaching and mentoring and teaching and training young men be tarnished and thrown away because he did not act on information he received beyond reporting it to those in authority over himself and over the school?

 

Is Ms. Brennan right? She is and she isn’t. If she means that because of his super-stardom status or because of the specific heinousness of the allegations Joe Paterno’s reputation is now destroyed, she is wrong. But if she means simply that no amount of good balances out any amount of bad, then she is right.

 

Your Reputation is Ruined
Just because I have never lied to you or to my wife or to my neighbors or to my daughters, it does not alleviate the responsiblilty I have to honesty with my son. If I lie to my son, I cannot point to an otherwise perfect track record of honesty with others and say, “There, that makes up for it.” It does not.

 

Romans 3:10-18 puts it more strongly:
 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Verse 23 summarizes, “All have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God.”

 

If 40 plus years of caring for the needs and futures of young men can be wiped out or at least tarnished by one moment of inaction on behalf of a young man, how much more our own sense of eternal well-being by our own lack of action on others’ behalf?

 

No matter how much good you think you have done or how much bad you think you have avoided your record and reputation are forever tarnished and ruined by even one wrong act or one right act left undone.

 

This is the screaming need of the gospel. That we need a different reputation, a record untarnished. If there is a scale of right and wrong I am in a world of trouble because every time I act against another person; and worse, every time I turn a blind eye to someone in need; I am heaping on the scale weights against me that could never be outweighed by any good I might do even over a lifetime. I can never undo what I’ve done. I can never go back and make right, what I did not do.

 

You Need Another Reputation
Verse 23 of Romans 3 is NOT actually the summary. It’s not even a complete thought. Verse 23 ends with a comma. It’s only half of the thought:

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Romans 3:21-25

 

I don’t just need a decent record or a well-balanced record. As Ms. Brennan rightly points out, even the best record is ruined by one wrong step. I need a perfect record. This is only available if one with a perfect record would exchange records with me. This is the message of the gospel. You have ruined your record. Jesus Christ has come to not only pay the penalty for your record, but to give you His record. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5.21.

 

Unfortunately, the world is telling us all that our hope is in the fact that there are worse people out there than you. We delight to bring Joe Paterno down. We delight to bring Herman Cain down. When things are ugly we cast lots and want to know who’s to blame. Your hope is not that there is someone worse than you. Your hope is that there is Someone better than you, who became a man of no reputation for you, who was despised and rejected for you.

 

Cling to Jesus. Pray for Joe.