New Year’s resolutions are like cheap electronics. They’re great at first but you just know it’s a matter of time before they’re broken and soon forgotten.
Not surprisingly, the most popular resolution we break is to lose weight and get into shape. If it were only easier, right? If we could only find that perfect book or perfect diet that could actually force us to make all the necessary lifestyle changes. If only we could conjure up the willpower to maintain healthy habits all year long. But as we know, it’s just not that easy. We are creatures of competing desires.
Inside each of us, a civil war rages. On one side is our desire to be healthy and to be less repulsed by the image in the mirror. On the other side is our desire for the comfort of our couch that begs us to relax and find the bottom of a bag of chips. Ultimately, the success or failure of a New Year’s resolution hinges upon the outcome of this daily internal battle of desires.
This truism concerning our physical desires offers us a vivid analogy to the hidden spiritual battle that occurs inside the heart of a believer every day. As Christians, we too are engaged in a great civil war. On one side is our flesh with all of its inborn desires including the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. On the other side is the invading army of the Spirit of God wooing us into conformity with the will of God and the image of Christ.
Unlike those optional New Year’s resolutions, this epic battle between the flesh and the Spirit has eternal implications. Nothing less than our very souls are at stake. But tragically, many professing Christians simply do not see it this way. I’m one of those Christians that often fails to grasp the gravity of the concealed conflict within me. I’ve discovered that my biggest struggle isn’t simply overcoming temptation but rather overcoming the thought that it doesn’t matter if I overcome temptation.
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. – Philippians 2:12-13
Where is my fear and trembling in this whole process? Why does my spiritual growth often feel more like a couch potato session than a strenuous workout?
Truth be told, if it weren’t for the grace of God continually luring me to holiness, I wouldn’t even have the eyes to see how desperately sinful I am when I presume upon the forgiveness of God in the battle against the flesh.
The only real and effectual way to be working out our own salvation is through a daily battle against indwelling sin. This means waking up every morning armed with the knowledge that we’re going to war. This means getting up off the ground even after Satan’s arsenal of temptations has brought us to our knees once again. Most importantly, this means possessing a gutsy faith in the love of God that He will complete the good work that He has begun in you and me. We trust Him by never giving up the fight.
The death of Christ disarmed the enemy’s stranglehold on our souls and the power of sin was rendered lifeless at the foot of the cross. Each new day, the true believer relives the gospel through the sin-destroying power of the Spirit trusting that our relentless lusts will one day lie dead at our feet.
“Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”