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Monday, December 27, 2010

What Resolutions Mean to a Christian

Step one:
“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” Matthew 12:43-45

Resolutions at New Year's is a tradition, I am told, that extends in history to the Babylonians.  For a Christian, resolutions take on a different meaning, or maybe I just want to propose a different meaning.  I don't really mean some flippant pledge to do better, be nicer, or give to support the ASPCA. 

In Matthew 12:43-45 Jesus talks a little about our efforts to improve ourselves.  He is coming from a rather more destructive viewpoint that I am, but maybe I just don't recognize the seriousness of the situation.  He says that a man may free himself of an evil spirit.  I am taking that to mean that I can rid myself of a bad spirit.  Maybe the bad habit I see is a reflection of the action of the spirit.  I can break a bad habit.  I can quit eating food that is bad for my health.  I can refrain from engaging in troublesome or destructive behavior.  Jesus compares it to cleaning a house and sweeping out the filth and putting the place in order.  I can do that.  We all can. 

The Evil Spirit, however, is not destroyed.  It is still looking for a place to dwell, so it returns to the house and brings seven more spirits with it that will make the place a mess of gigantic proportions.  

That is the result we see in many of the resolutions we make every year.  We can clean up the edges and make it look better.  We can even clean the house, but, until we put in the new tenant and install the alarm system, the Evil Spirit still has access.

Step Two:
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4
We have to make the Evil Spirit powerless to return and reclaim the  house.  This is another step in the Christian life.  It requires us to become identified with Christ at the point of his death.  In God's view this happened at the time we were saved, but for us as humans this understanding comes slowly in pieces and layers. 

 We took communion where we ate the bread that represented his body and drank the wine that represented his blood.  We learned to read his words and became identified with him.  We proclaimed our obedience to him.  

Now we must understand that we enter into his life at the point of his death.  In Romans 6:4 we are told we are buried with him by baptism in his death.  Now we rise in a new kind and quality of life.  Life in the flesh means we can clean the house and evict the Evil Spirit.  Life in Christ means we have a new resident--Jesus  occupies the house.  When we see this aspect of salvation, we can understand that the house has a new resident.  He will help us when the Evil Spirit would come.  We may still see evil around us, but Jesus will strengthen us to avoid and resist it.  He will give us victory.  We have a new year facing us in which we can resolve to grow and learn in Jesus.  Praise God!