Vacation Days 12 & 13 – Resolutions and the gospel

Well I finally missed a day. I’ve started a couple posts and haven’t finished them till the next day, but yesterday I just flat out didn’t get anything written. It was in large part due to the fact that I didn’t really have anything to write about, and I didn’t want to press it. But, the fact that I didn’t have anything to journal about yesterday actually gave me inspiration for something to write about today!

Today I took another lazy day. I spent a good portion of it playing games with my kids. I still worked out, and still did my quiet time, and I’m hoping to get some time with Kari here in just a little bit, but overall, my day was pretty lazy.

It was during this laziness though that I gained some insight from yesterday. I realized that as important as it is to keep resolutions when you make them, that on the flip side, you have to also know when to take a break. I’m on vacation, and although I’ve made some resolutions to hold myself to strict schedules/routines in certain areas, I don’t want to be so tied to them that I can’t break away. Yesterday, I really didn’t have any great insights or “goings on.” I didn’t really feel like writing, and I sat and stared blankly at a screen for about 20 minutes before finally deciding that I wasn’t going to force it. Again, I’m on vacation, and I’m not gonna stress myself out by not following my self-imposed schedule.

Now, I should say quickly that there are very few times where what I’m saying here would be beneficial to anyone. People as a whole seldom, if ever, need to be told not to follow their routines. But, for a moment, I want to consider the very few and far between times that we need to not follow our schedules. I often tell my wife that I make schedules precisely so that I can “not follow” them, but in truth, when I don’t follow my schedule, it really stresses me out. Most of the time, when that happens, I need to just deal with it, and I need to realize that if I would’ve followed the routine, I wouldn’t be stressed out. Occasionally though, circumstances really are beyond my control, or else it really doesn’t matter, and the right thing to do is to take a break. I’m not actually sure if yesterday fell into that category, well, it probably fell into the “doesn’t matter” category, but there certainly wasn’t anything beyond my control keeping me from writing. I know that real writers would’ve told me that I just needed to write until something actually came out sounding decent, but I decided that it wouldn’t hurt anything (even my resolution) if I skipped one night.

We all struggle with that sometimes though don’t we? We decide we’re going to stick to something that we inevitably fail at, and then we just beat ourselves up over it. We are better at condemning ourselves than anyone else ever could be. We love to “make laws” and then force ourselves to stick to them. We are just like the pharisees in the bible (and our legislature today), making laws at every turn in order to try to better regulate our lives.

Isn’t it interesting in light of that, that God doesn’t tell us that the way to self-improvement is through law keeping?

See, we think that the best thing we can do to improve ourselves is to make “resolutions” and start new routines. We think that if we can “just follow” this rule that we’ve made for ourselves, that we’ll feel more fulfilled, and be better people, but the bible stands in stark contrast to that. Scripture of course tells us that we must keep the law. God tells us we have to be perfect. He says that if we want “everlasting” fulfillment, then we have to perfectly keep his law, but we stumble keeping our own “self-imposed” laws, how much worse are we at keeping his? That’s why God’s method for self-improvement isn’t law keeping, but “faith living.” God says that the way to self-improvement comes first and foremost through the gospel. The news that Jesus kept all God’s laws, and then credited his law keeping to us is the foundation for all true self-improvement. The biggest reason for this is because Jesus constantly reminds us that even though we tend to condemn ourselves when we fail, whether keeping our own rules or God’s, that God will never condemn us if we are in Christ. This provides freedom to fail, and then not to get stressed out or depressed when we do so. It gives us the ability to look at times when we need to take a break from keeping our self-imposed rules, and not feel guilty for doing so. It also frees us to be able to strive to keep God’s laws (which we MUST strive to do) without a fear of condemnation from God. God’s laws ARE the perfect recipe for self-improvement, but only when we first believe and trust the gospel. Only when we have already been counted righteous by God, can we even begin to forge a path of “self-improvement” (yes I’m using that term very tongue-in-cheek to define sanctification, don’t shoot me).

But keeping God’s law and keeping our own self made rules are very different. One is very good, and will lead us to joy and fulfillment (only if we are in Christ), the other though, is very fickle, and may or may not be something that will truly help us. We all know of course that the best way to know whether or not a self-imposed “law” is going to truly help you, is to figure out if your rule lines up with God’s.

So today, if you are working hard to follow your routine, I would just encourage you not to feel guilty, and don’t fall into self condemnation, and also, don’t forget that sometimes, it’s ok to take a break.


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