What I Want to Remember in 2016

Of the making of New Year’s resolutions there appears to be no end. What follows are not necessarily resolutions, but phrases I hope to remember in 2016.

I am not my own. Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 6:19-20 are shockingly counter-cultural: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” But he’s not finished. In 2 Cor. 5:15 he informs readers that Christ died so “that [hina] those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (emphasis mine). I love Michael Gorman’s explanation of this verse: “This shift from life-for-self to life-for-Christ is not an optional addition to believers’ experience; it is rather the essence of that experience, for it was the very reason (Greek hina) for Christ’s death.”[1]

I need to be reminded daily that my life is not my own, that I am not my own. I need to be reminded that true freedom is found in being a slave to Christ. That’s why I like to begin my new year by reading this section of Calvin’s Institutes:

We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to see what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. . . . Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal. O, how much has that man profited who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken away dominion and rule from his own reason that he may yield it to God. (Institutes 3. 7. 1).

Enjoy the journey. Author John Ortberg notes that people tend to break life down into two categories: Living and waiting to live.[2] Rather than enjoying the journey that God has us on each day—really taking in all of our moments, even the mundane—we tend to live in anticipation of when we’ll really be able to live. We daydream about what life will be like when we’re retired, when the kids move out, when we have more money, when we can take that vacation, and drink coffee in that hotel, sitting in that chair looking out those windows. Of course, none of these things is inherently sinful, but I think Ortberg is on to something. I think he’s highlighting a natural human tendency. The stoic philosopher Seneca made this point centuries ago: “The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today.” [3] Usually, when we finally get what we want, we find ourselves somewhat let down. Alas, the perpetual “divine dissatisfaction” remains.

In 2016, my prayer is that I’ll be fully present wherever I’m at. I want to drink in every moment.

Lean in and love well. Shakespeare was right: “He does not love who does not show his love!” (The Two Gentleman of Verona, Act 1, Scene 2). It’s easy to talk about love. It gives us the warm and fuzzies. Actually doing it is a whole different story. Oftentimes this is because when we think about loving people, we’re thinking of people in the abstract: A homeless person, people in third world countries, those being abused, etc. Rarely do we ever think of the people in our homes or in our churches: “The idea of loving our neighbor is beautiful to think about so long as it remains an idealized, abstract concept. But the concrete reality of loving our neighbor, that all-to-real, exasperating person whom we would not have chosen and might prefer to escape, strips the beauty away.”[4]

So to be specific: When I talk about leaning in and loving well, I’m primarily thinking of my own family. I want to do a better job of loving my wife and kids. I need to get it through my thick skull that “If I love only when I feel like it, then I’ve not really understood love,” as Paul Miller says. [5]

I know I can’t carry these things out in my own strength. Inevitably I will fail. So . . . once again I’ll daily need to look to the “sin-bearing, sorrow-carrying, punishment-averting, guilt-offering, place-taking, atoning death of the Servant-King.”[6] Kyrie Eleison.

 

[1] Michael J. Gorman, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), Kindle Edition, loc. 1457.

[2] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 60.

[3] Seneca, On the Shortness of Life (trans. C. D. N Costa; NY: Penguin, 1997), 13.

[4] Jon Bloom, Don’t Follow Your Heart: God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2015), 151.

[5] Paul Miller, A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 62.

[6] Jeremy Treat, The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 86.

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