God Doesn’t Want Your Resolution, He wants You!

English: New Year's Resolutions postcard


Today is the last day of 2013.  Tonight, we will celebrate the passing of the old year and the dawning of a new one.  Like millions of other people last year, like every year before, I made a series of New Year’s Resolutions. Among other things, I wanted to read more, lose weight, get into better shape, and spend more time with my family.  In addition to these personal resolutions, I also made some spiritual one’s — spend more time with God, increase my giving to missions.  Sadly as I look back none of these resolutions were ever kept.


It wasn’t because they weren’t noble commitments or that I was half-hearted in making them.  Honestly, it was the very nature of a resolution that got into the way.  This morning as I contemplated a New Year and prayed about the opportunities that lie ahead in the next twelve months , it dawned on me that God doesn’t want my resolutions, He wants me.  And He wants you as well.


You see the nature of a resolution is self-centered and self-empowered.  This is diametrically opposed to the gospel which teaches us to be completely dependent on God.  In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  This verse reminds us that in the strength of flesh we can accomplish nothing of value, but through Christ empowering our lives we can bear much fruit.  The key word in this verse is abides.


To abide in Christ means that we are utterly and completely surrendered to His will.  Rather than attempting to do things for Christ this verse teaches us that He wants to work through us.  But in order for that to happen we must be surrendered to His will, His mission, and His ways.  So this New Year’s Eve instead of making resolutions, I want to urge you to surrender your will to His.



Rationalizing Our Sin: Joshua 1

Have you ever tried to rationalize your sin?  Several years ago,  I had a guy come to my officeone day to tell me that he was leaving his wife.  It turns out that he had found someone who fit him and his personality better.  Someone who would fulfill his life and make him happy in a way that his wife could not.  For nearly an hour I listened to this man try to rationalize and explain away his sin.  The truth is that we all do this at times in our lives.  Maybe not as severely as this man did, but in various times and in various ways we all try to rationalize our sin.
Ultimately, rationalizing sin is one of Satan’s greatest tools for keeping us from experiencing the power of the gospel in our lives.  Rationalizing is the opposite of repenting.
Open your Bibles to Judges 1 and let me show you some ways that we sometimes try to rationalize or explain away our sin. 
This morning we begin a series of messages from the book of Judges entitled, “Delighting in Deliverance.” The book of Judges records for us the history of the nation of Israel as it descends spiritually and morally into chaos.  It’s primary purpose was to demonstrate why the monarchy, that is established in 1 and 2 Samuel,  was necessary.
For us the book serves as a tremendous example of why we need to be constantly reminded of our need for the gospel.  Even a casual glance through the book reveals that it deals with the issues of apostasy, backsliding, discipline, and God’s judgement.  It is a book filled with stories of some of the most interesting characters in all of the Bible — people like Samson, Gideon, and Deborah.  Because of this, the book often gets treated as just a set of moral stories about bravery, courage, and faithfulness.  But what often gets overlooked is that this book is primary about the gospel.
 The book begins by showing how we as God’s people can easily get snared by sin and then fall into the trap of trying to rationalize it to make ourselves look better.  
Let’s begin this morning by look at the basic setting of this book (v.1-7)
  • The events recorded in Judges take place just after the death of Joshua.
  • The book records for us the final stages of Israel’s conquest of Canaan.
  • You will notice that the book begins by reminding us of the promise God made concerning the conquest (look at v.1-2)
  • But if you read the text carefully you will notice right away that the people experience a lapse of faith that leads to disobedience. (v.3-7)
    • Judah enlists the help of Simeon
    • God never told them to do this, in fact in the previous verse God had been very clear that HE had already given the Land into their hands.”
    • In other words, the war was already over and the people just needed to go in and take what was theirs.
  • Rather than simply trusting God, Judah thought that they had a better plan.
    • They would get the tribe of Simeon to help them do what God had already promised that He would do.
    • This is a classic example of Proverbs 14:12 which says,  “There is a way that seem right to a man but its end is the way of death.”  
  • The simple truth of the matter is that we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that God needs our help or in subtle ways thinking that He needs help in carrying out His promises.
    • Therefore, we tend to cut corners or enlist the wrong kinds of help.
    • In the case of the Israelites, this initial lapse of faith ends up leading a number of other compromises.
    • Let me show you three ways that the Israelites rationalized their lack of faith in the remainder of this chapter and more importantly I want you to see that we make these same rationalizations:
Three Ways We Rationalize Disobedience
  1. We Overestimate the Strength of Our Enemy (v.16-21)
    • Notice the rationalization in v.19 – “but he could not drive our the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.”
    • The Canaanites Had CHARIOTS
      • Earlier when fighting in the hill country chariots were useless
      • But in the plains, chariots were a fierce and seemingly invincible new form of mobile warfare.
      • The Israelites were completely intimidated by them.
    • This was not the first time this issue had come up.
      • Joshua 17:14-18
      • Tribe of Joseph asks for another allotment of land because they are unable to drive the Canaanites out of the plains due to their chariots.
      • Joshua refuses and assures them that they will “drive out the Canaanites, even thought they have chariots of iron…”
    • Instead of trusting in God the Israelite got intimidated by the Canaanite chariots.
      • We hate to admit it but sometimes we get intimidated by the world and those who oppose the things of God.
      • We end up trusting more in politics, boycotts or other forms of protest than in the most powerful weapon at our disposal — the gospel.
    • The truth of the matter is simple — God is stronger and more powerful than any opposition that we will ever face.
      • The battle is real, but the outcome is sure.
      • Jesus WINS!
      • So don’t ever be intimidated by the enemies of the cross.
  2. We underestimate the guidance of God. (v.22-26)
    • God did not tell the Israelites to send a spy into the land, he didn’t tell them to go and make a deal with one of the inhabitants of the city.
      • But instead of simply trusting God and His plan for them, they decided to seek the counsel of the ungodly and it backfired.
      • Notice what happens in v.25-26
      • The man they enlisted to help them overthrow the city ended up rebuilding it in another location and the city of Luz became a constant reminder to the Israelites that they had failed to carry out the conquest.
    • Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
      • The key to being faithful to God is to trust His guidance and His Word implicitly.
      • We don’t need to seek after the advice of fall counselors, just trust Him.
  3. We allow economics to dictate what we do rather than the command of God (v.27-28)
    • God told the Israelites to drive out all of the Canaanites, but to some this policy didn’t make much sense.
    • The Canaanites could serve a much more practical purpose, so they put them to forced labor — why waste this source of free labor.
    • But again, God had not told them to do this so they compromise simply because it made good economic sense.
    • Sadly, this may be the single greatest problem we face in the church today.  People are willing to compromise on the commands of God simply because it might cost them economically.
    • Pleased with the Dynasty family/the Robinsons.
      • Phil’s language was too coarse but he was correct in what we said.
      • But more important still was. The family’s willingness to say they would walk away rather than compromise their faith.
      • Economics did not determine their obedience. Willing to do what was right even if it cost them financially.
So what we basically have in chapter 1, is view of the conquest from the perspective of the Israelites.  Bascially, they try to spin the story to make them look good.  The way they present the story is that they had conquered most of the land but had good reasons why they allowed some of the Canaanites to gone on living in their midst.
They rationalized their disobedience in order to try to explain their predicament.  Next week we will discover what God thought about all of this but for now I want to talk to you about our tendency to rationalize our sin.
Satan will always try to get us to rationalize away and explain our sin.  This strategy goes all the way back to the garden of Eden.  He showed Eve the forbidden fruit and then helped her to come up with a rationalization about why she should disobey God.  In Eve’s case she saw that the fruit was good for food and that the try could make her wise, so she ate.
Some of you have been rationalizing sin.  You’ve bought into the lie of Satan or you have simply fooled yourself into believing that you have a good reason for why you are being disobedient to God.
But I remind you that Proverbs 14:12 says ” “There is a way that seem right to a man but its end is the way of death.”  
What you are doing may make sense right now, but I assure that disobedience always comes with a price.  Rationalizing sin is one of Satan’s greatest tools for keeping us from experiencing the power of the gospel in our lives.  Rationalizing is the opposite of repenting.
Rationalizing keeps us bound in our sin and prevents us from experiencing the freedom of God’s grace through the gospel.
 My urgent plea to you is to stop rationalizing your sin, repent, and trust God.