Monday, January 23, 2012

Long time coming... a path still to walk... Are You Ready?

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions. IF I were to have one it would be something like, "workout more" or "blog more consistently" ... but those types of things usually fail for most of us.

I think it is plain to see that this is an area of struggle in my life being that I'm writing a "resolutions" post and it is the 23rd of January...

Something like 46% of resolutions are still operating after 6 months... that's less than half. Now, that isn't to say that making goals is bad. In fact, from the same article I picked up the previous stat, I read that those who make goals regularly are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals over those who don't.

The problem isn't in the making of resolutions but in the motivations for doing so.

JC Ryle (1816-1900) was an evangelical Anglican minister, and later Bishop of Liverpool (home of the Beatles for all my hippie friends).

He was a great lover of God's Word and a faithful follower of Jesus in the midst of great personal heartache.

He wrote a "tract" called "Are You Ready" as a preparation for the New Year. It has been a challenging read for me, one who is prone to disregard the making of traditional resolutions and try to write it off as if I am just being logical.

(I mean... 54% don't last... right?!)

While most of the public discourse surrounding the new year is focused on putting the difficulty of the previous year behind us and focusing on the hope of the year to come, Ryle doesn't do that. In fact he starts on the exact other side of the spectrum.

"It is a solemn thing to part company with the old year. It is a still more solemn thing to begin a new one. It is like entering a dark passage: we know not what we may meet before the end. All before us is uncertain: we know not what a day may bring forth, much less what may happen in a year. Reader, are you ready?"

Happy New Year! Ready for your "dark passage?" Ryle goes on to list the possibility of calamity in the coming year asking the reader:
Are you ready for sickness?
Are you ready for affliction?
Are you ready for bereavements?
Are you ready for death?
Are you ready for the second coming of Christ?

"O reader, these are solemn questions! They ought to make you examine yourself. They ought to make you think. It would be a terrible thing to be taken by surprise. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But shall I leave you here? I will not do so. Shall I raise searchings of heart, and not set before you the way of life? I will not do so. Hear me for a few moments, while I try to show you the man that is ready."

He that is ready has a ready Saviour.
He that is ready has a ready heart.
He that is ready has a home ready for him in heaven.

Then he asks, "Reader, do you know anything of the things I have just spoken of?"

It is there where I think I found my problem... I don't ready myself in the Truth of God's Word... That I have a ready Savior in Christ Jesus!
That I have a renewed heart and mind, because of Christ, and that the Spirit is at work in remaking my heart every day!
That Christ has promised an dwelling eternal with himself as the light of the Great Eternal City forever!

Here is the reality...
All the the first list... the solemn list...
ALL of it will continue until Jesus returns and the wedding supper of the Lamb begins.
As will all my drift towards bad-habbits, proclivity to sin, and all the other behaviors for which we so readily make resolutions in order to modify...

I can be ready to face the trials & temptations of sickness, afflictions, bereavements, and death (because they will come). Not because I WILL myself to face them but because the Lord stands ready to save. Like Hezekiah we can say, "The Lord will surely save me." (Isaiah 38:20)

Jonathan Edwards writes a fairly short preamble to his famous list of resolutions:

"Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake."

HE has to do this work in me. Not me doing my best and hope God makes up the rest.

So... I don't think I will write out and post a list of resolutions... but, over the coming days and weeks, my time in prayer will follow this advice from Ryle:

"Reader, if you have reason to hope you are ready, I advise you to make sure. Walk more closely with God,-get nearer to Christ,-seek to exchange hope for assurance. Seek to feel the witness of the Spirit more closely and distinctly every year. Lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily besets you. Press towards the mark more earnestly. Fight a better fight, and war a better warfare every year you live. Pray more,-read more,-mortify self more,-love the brethren more. Oh that you may endeavour so to grow in grace every year, that your last things may be far more than your first, and the end of your Christian course far better than the beginning!"