The front gate is slightly ajar, hanging loosely on one hinge. Weeds all but cover a rusted rake. The steps to the front porch are strewn with greasy parts from a dismantled power mower. The sign on the door reads Bullock’s Professional Lawn and Garden Service.” You need a gardener but you shake your head as you walk by. You’re not about to hire these guys!
Unfortunately, that is the spiritual reality for many unbelievers as they observe Christians. We claim to follow the living God, but often our hearts are overgrown with sin, cynicism and complacency. Unsaved people may look at some of us and say, “Why would I ever want to be like them?”
Fortunately, we do not call people to believe in us or be like us—we want them to believe in Jesus and be like Him. Still, we want people to see His truth demonstrated in our lives.
It is easy, natural to slacken our fervor and spiritual dedication. That is why we need opportunities to renew our lives, to strengthen our commitments, to make a fresh start. We can do this any time, but certain junctures seem almost to call for it. That is why I am thankful for the New Year.
I appreciate the opportunity to make resolutions and to renew commitments—whether they are commitments to read through the Bible in a year, to work a little harder at Scripture memory, or (dare I say it?) to be more consistent with a healthy diet and exercise.
Truthfully, the more I try to live a life holy unto the Lord, the more I realize I simply don’t have the strength to do it. Only God’s strength can renew and change me. That is true for all of the Jews for Jesus staff, and for all Christians.
So why not “let go and let God”? Why make any resolutions, any preparations, if we are powerless apart from God? Because God hates complacency—He doesn’t want us satisfied with ourselves as we are—He’s told us that in His word.
What is the opposite of complacency? That striving to be more, do more for Him. When we look for ways to strengthen and renew our commitment, all the while counting on His enabling power, we counter the complacency that can so easily creep into our lives.
Last month our entire Jews for Jesus staff met in Northern California for our two-week Millennial Convocation. We gathered from all over the world for spiritual renewal, training and consecration, to launch us into Operation Behold Your God. We all need spiritual renewal on a regular basis—that fresh, enabling touch from the Holy Spirit. We need ongoing training to grow and to serve God more effectively. We need consecration—a setting apart of self in recognition that God requires a single-minded dedication to the task at hand.
Shortly before this convocation someone asked me, “What are you going to do to ensure that spiritual renewal and consecration will happen during this time?” I thought about it a minute and realized there wasn’t much I could do but pray, show up, and believe that God would show up, too. I’m not saying we didn’t plan. Many people planned like crazy. But our plans are never what make things happen. They just demonstrate our willingness to “show up” as prepared as we know how to be. I was glad for the planning and glad for things God did that we never could have planned.
Maybe you have stopped planning New Year’s resolutions because, like the rest of us, you have broken so many in the past. Let’s not give up! Even if we sometimes fail in our resolve, failure still beats complacency.
God doesn’t seem to get annoyed with us for failing to live up to our resolutions. Whenever we fall He is ready to pick us up again. As long as we know our resolutions don’t have the power to actually resolve anything, they can be useful. They keep us from being satisfied with the status quo. They help us look to God for the grace to submit to His Spirit.
God wants us to be satisfied with Him, but not with ourselves. Whom we decide to be satisfied with will make all the difference in our lives. When people see us, will they be met with the spiritual unkemptness of complacency? Or will they see God’s work in progress? God’s work will always attract those who are looking for Him.
As Jews for Jesus moves ahead with Operation Behold Your God, we have to make a habit of radical reliance on Him. We need to take every opportunity to renew our hearts and minds to the task. How about you?
May God give us grace to reach out to Him for help, and then to reach into ourselves and make room for Him to change us.