I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions. Oh, I’ve made them in the past, but I can’t ever think of a time where they’ve stuck. Every year, I think about all the ways I need to improve – from losing weight to being more organized – and believe that I’m going to get a new start. But the days go by quickly. January turns into February, and the next thing you know I’m back to my old ways. My attempts to conform to a new code have failed again.
The apostle Paul recognized the futility of placing trust in our ability to live by a new set of rules. As he told the Romans:
I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it . . . It happens so regularly that it is predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight, Parts of me covertly rebel, and when I least expect it, they take charge.
It seems pretty bleak. And yet, there is good news in realizing that our attempts to live by law are doomed to failure. As Eugene Peterson titles Romans 8 in The Message, the solution is life on God’s terms.” It’s through the coming of Christ into the world, and the grace that comes with that reality that we are given the opportunity for change and transformation. “Life on God’s terms” recognizes our helplessness, and places trust in something beyond ourselves. As the 12 steps of AA remind us, our path to healing and recovery first requires that we admit that we our powerless and that we believe in a “power larger than ourselves that can restore us to sanity.”
We are starting a new year in our church. We will be planning for programs. We will be organizing our life together. And as we work at moving in a new direction, it is easy to take on a few “resolutions.”
Before we do so, may we all recognize that we are powerless to transform our church on our own. It is only when we get out of the way and let God take control that we will experience new life and recovery.