Reflection and resolution. The things that are commonly done on New Year's Eve/Day. Did you make your resolutions? What were they? To eat better, healthier? I have seen the "no junk food" diet going around. People have resolved to not eat junk food for the year in order to get healthier. More power to them. My son went to the gym the other night. He does that regularly. It wasn't a resolution for him to go to the gym but it must have been for a lot of people. He said it was packed with people. He could hardly get his workout done because the various machines were busy. The cartoon B.C. had Peter changed his place to a gym. He said at the beginning of February it would revert back to Peter's bar and cheesecake emporium. Sounds about right.
So what did you resolve to do? More to the question, what did you resolve to do for your spiritual life? Did you resolve to read the Bible from cover to cover? To pray 10 minutes each day? To attend worship every week? To go to Bible study? Many people make resolutions about their spiritual life just as they do for the physical or emotional life. And then they find themselves just as frustrated because it is difficult to keep those resolutions.
Why is it so hard? One word - sin. Our sinful nature makes it difficult for us to change our lives. It takes two components to make those spiritual changes in our lives. 1) The Holy Spirit and 2) hard work. One is found in the gospel and the other is found in the law. The Holy Spirit works through the Gospel to change our hearts and lives. The Law acts through our works to guide us in our lives.
The Law that we are talking about here is not the 1st (curb) or the 2nd (mirror) uses of the Law. Those two uses of the Law never makes any changes in our lives. It is the 3rd use of the Law, the guide, that shows us how to live our Christian lives. But those changes do not start in the Law.
Changes (those that make it possible for the resolutions in our lives to happen) start in the Gospel. The Holy Spirit must change our sinful hearts and make them new in Christ Jesus. As the Holy Spirit changes our sinful lives can we begin to make those changes necessary to begin to read the Bible more, to attend worship more, to pray more, etc. If our lives aren't changed, then we will not make those changes to our lives. Sleep will be more important than reading the Word. Sitting home and having a cup of coffee on "the only day I have to take it easy" will be more important than getting cleaned up and attending worship. Talking to a friend will be more important than talking to God.
So those spiritual resolutions actually don't begin in you. They begin in the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. How does the Holy Spirit work? Through the Means of Grace - Word and Sacraments. He works in you each and every day. And you need the Means of Grace more than just on Christmas and Easter. You also need the Means of Grace more than just once every month or once every six weeks. Now, that sounds like the Law, doesn't it? It is. For some, it is the 3rd use talking, guiding in life to help make those changes. For others it is the 2nd use, showing where they have sinned by not making use of the Means of Grace in their lives. For still others, it is 1st use, curbing those sinful impulses to that which is wrong.
What a challenging time it is for each of us! Resolutions. For me, I had resolved to blog more. I didn't do it yesterday and I almost didn't do it today. There were other things I need to so - write a sermon, prepare a Bible study, get worship plans together. All those are important. They are all necessary. But so is blogging. So what happens here? I stop, pray to the Lord for guidance on what to do, ask for help to accomplish all that is needed, ask for wisdom to make the right choices in what needs to be done when, ask for truth in knowing when I am wasting time and when I am not, and then, go about my time as I feel is best.
Resolutions. They challenge us to change our lives. Most of the time we don't want to change. I would prefer to play games and be lazy on this rainy Saturday morning. I don't know about you, but I sure need the Holy Spirit to guide me and help me to do what is needed for my spiritual life and for my personal life.
All I can say is, "Thanks Holy Spirit, for Your guidance and strength. Feed me again from that wonderful Means of Grace."