...gonna try again this year?

Like me, you're probably thinking about New Year's resolutions today. And this makes sense; it's Monday, January 2nd, 2017! The holidays are unofficially over and it's basically time to fall back into a routine. 

But haven't we all been through this before? Even this time last year? We make resolutions, do our best to keep these resolutions but end up petering out as early as mid-February?

Well, let me share something with you. One of the main spiritual truths I learned in 2016 (and I learned it the hard way!) is that as hard as I try to stick to these resolutions - whether they be physical, emotional or spiritual in nature - the rate of my "success" rests entirely in the hands of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in my heart and life. 

Is this a Biblical truth you've grappled with before? I hadn't until January, 2016, when I walked into a bookstore and my eyes fell on Edward Welch's quote at the top of a prominently displayed book entitled Extravagant Grace: God's Glory Displayed in our Weakness (Barbara R. Duguid). It said "If you desire to follow Jesus but still feel like such a sinner, this is the perfect book for you." Tears flooded my eyes as I picked up the book and walked directly to the cash register. Why? Because this was exactly ME! Bible study teacher, conference speaker, worship leader, church piano player, "spend time with the Lord daily" disciple-er. I'd been working my entire life to be good at these things (and had the apparent tenacity TO BE GOOD at these things) yet I was still such a blankety-blank sinner! I walked to my car brimming with the hope this quote promised for my 2016 after such a difficult 2015. 

But I didn't understand at the time what I understand now, a year later: I am completely dependent on the Holy Spirit for both the will AND the ability to obey God. Yes, I must strive for obedience yet simultaneously acknowledge that I will fail every time without the Holy Spirit giving me the will and the power to be obedient.

Whew! I'm not a complete loser! I'm a sinner saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) who needs the active, sovereign intervention of the Holy Spirit in my life for the supernatural power and strength to do the good things he planned for me to do a long time ago (Ephesians 2:10, emphasis mine). 

If you're a faithful reader of mine, I have much, much more to say on this subject in the coming weeks. In fact, this post barely skims the surface of what God's taught me in 2016; how he striped me of every one of the above spiritual accomplishments, as well as every other thing in my life that I thought was an accomplishment. But for today, January 2nd, 2017, trust what I've become confident in: that God, who began the good work within you [and me], will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6).