What if you can’t?

The New Year is a time for resolutions.

Resolutions of all kinds. Things to do. Things to stop doingNew Year's Resolutions  .

But what if you can’t stop doing something that has been harmful to you, and or others?

What if there is a sinful habit, a bad habit, an unhealthy habit or quirk (sin) that you’ve tried to stop doing over and over, and over again…but have failed? What then?

Or maybe you’ve tried to put down a specific sin and were successful only to find that another bad habit had replaced it.

Does this mean that you are somehow less of a Christian? Does this mean that you are still a Christian, but just a little bit lower on the obedience chart?

For the Christian, what are the implications of not being able to conquer sin? And what about not being able (or not wanting) to do all those things that God wants you to do?

23 Responses

  1. I remember as a teenager making a new year’s resolution list by 30 Dec. Jan 2 comes and I have already broken half of them.

    I cann’t do it. I wish I could but I cann’t.

    I have repented of my resolution making.


  2. Who is doing the conquering? Romans 8:37 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

    2 Corinthians 2:14 “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”

    Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

    Do not always be discouraged by trials, the book of James tells us that trials can be profitable:

    James 1: 2-8 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

    The problem with sin comes from our own sinful desires:
    James 1:12-15 “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. “

  3. I intend to be less tolerant of vegetarians.

    You know, you have them round and cook according to their values and on the return match do they do the same and cook meat? Do they ever!

  4. As to just simple bare naked New Year’s resolutions. Worthless, if one cannot engage them during anytime of the year one hasn’t the strength to sustain them past a few days or weeks at the New Year. If the New Year is the emotional fuel and not the thing itself, it will not last.

    AS to the theological:

    A poem written by John Newton captures this best against all pietism’s ToG. I’ve found it both personally true and encouraging. I cannot from memory quote it but this is the best I can (the gist of it):

    I prayed for more grace thinking that by some certain and favored hour I would obtain this power whereby I would subdue my sin and flesh. However, You (God) seemed to do nothing but press more angrily upon me and aggravate my sins all the more to the increase thereof. When I asked why it is that You do this you answered, “Tis the way I answer the prayer for more grace”.

    This is the essence of the true Christian. The real poem is much better than my “gist” memory of it as to beauty and language. Anyway, a theology of glory whether it be that outside of the name Christian or that which parades itself around as “Christian” in Rome or under the denominations will in now way comprehend what is being said there, or if it does rejects it or worse caveats it with a “yea but…”. For this theology of Cross is upside down to it and the right way is the wrong way and the wrong way is the right way to it. A ToG prays the first part of the prayer and in great delusion and hallucination fantasizes somehow that it is now given this power. It, ToG, calls it by “grace” or under “sanctification” ‘I can now do/not do______ more and more’. It cannot grasp that it is not God that works this power in it but the devil, yet it calls it “god”, “grace”, “sanctification”, “bible”, “Christian” and so forth. The devil is not stupid in his tactics; to many he cannot sell works salvation so boldly, so he must sell it as ‘sanctification’ but not true sanctification or ‘by grace’ but that which is truly not grace. This is the way he sells works salvation to most in the church, subtly, so that confessionally one can deny “works salvation”, especially protestants after all we are not Roman Catholics or something, but in reality, fact and action that’s all one is doing “working one’s way to heaven”.

    Nor does a christianized ToG understand that it is fleeing from God and the Cross as the first thief who immediately wants to “get down off of that cross”. “The doer” NEVER wants to stay on the cross where the “Truster” is and suffer in passion. That is to say it will not suffer itself to be a real sinner very long or without improvement(s), this is to ‘get off of the cross’ and not bear one’s cross. “No improvements” IS a cross that must suffer, for it must suffer to live ONLY by a Word of Gospel and the water, bread and wine Word’s of Gospel and nothing more around it detected or seen. That’s what it means to LIVE by faith or naked bare bones trust ALONE. But it is for the old Adam crucifixion linked to Christ. The guilty conscience that suffers this is in light of the pain and suffering of the innocent conscience of Christ that became OUR sin and prayed the Psalm “My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me” calling upon God with nothing. To so trust the Word in Word and Sacrament alone necessitates nothing less or more than an unfurnished vacant faith so bare and naked, so suffering and passive (which are really the same things) that it is repugnant to the ToG. Thus, the ToG does not realize it has not received more grace but is bewitched by the devil and now skipping along the clean side of the broad road to hell.

    The ToC simply sees life entirely antithetical to the ToG and the facts cannot be changed for they are mortal antithetical enemies one to the other.



  5. John Newton’s Poem:
    I ask’d the Lord, that I might grow
    In faith, and love, and ev’ry grace,
    Might more of his salvation know,
    And seek more earnestly his face.

    ‘Twas he who taught me thus to pray,
    And he, I trust has answer’d pray’r;
    But it has been in such a way,
    As almost drove me to despair.

    I hop’d that in some favour’d hour,
    At once he’d answer my request:
    And by his love’s constraining pow’r,
    Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

    Instead of this. he made me feel
    The hidden evils of my heart;
    And let the angry pow’rs of hell
    Assault my soul in ev’ry part.

    Yea more, with his own hand he seem’d
    Intent to aggravate my woe;
    Cross’d all the fair designs I schem’d,
    Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

    Lord, why is this, I trembling cry’d,
    Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
    “‘Tis in this way,” the Lord reply’d,
    “I answer pray’r for grace and faith.

    “These inward trials I employ,
    “From self and pride to set thee free;
    “And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
    “That thou mayst seek thy all in me.”

    “This is the essence of the true Christian”.
    It is indeed, Larry, as the Lord takes the very futility of life and makes this the anvil of His work to drive us to grace, that we can truly know that He has begun a work, deep and good and true, is our troubled souls.

  6. My latest post …. related to many of your recent posts:


  7. I don’t think there is anything wrong with tying to stamp out a bad habit, or starting a good one.

    But to tie them to righteousness or improved standing in God’s eyes is a ‘theology of Glory’.

    Personally, I have never kept a New Year’s resolution. But that’s the kind of guy I am…consistant. Consistantly doing harmful things and consistantly not doing “good” things.

    As many of you have already hit upon, it is only by God’s grace that anything good is accomplished in, and through us.

    His purposes will not be thwarted by the likes of us and He even uses our sin to do what He wants done.

  8. Jon,

    Your latest post on “Bipolar Christianity” is very interesting.

    You correctly (in my opinion) point out that there is God’s way and our way. I agree. They are at odds with each other.

    But at the end of your post you make an appeal to your Dad to accept Christ and in essence…make a decision for Jesus.

    I can certainly empathize with your desire to want your Dad to go to Heaven so that you can be together for eternity and for your Dad to know the love and forgiveness that is God’s gracious gift to him.

    But I think the appeal to your Dad to make the decision and say the prayer (the sinner’s prayer in essence) is ‘our way’ of doing things.

    For us to finally have to make the choice, even after all God has said and done for us, is an act of the law. Accepting Christ may be only one work…but it is one work too many.

    When my Dad was dying of cancer. We had talks about Jesus and Heaven and how things might be “up” there.

    My Dad never in his life (that I am aware of) said the sinners prayer, or accepted Jesus openly in an act of decision.

    But I reminded my Dad that in his baptism God had accepted him. The decision was made for my Dad, by God, at Calvary and in the waters of my Dad’s baptism when he was just an infant back in 1930.
    When I reminded my Dad of this fact, I was preaching the gospel to him (and myself at the same time).
    And it is in this gospel, the handing over of Christ Jesus, free of charge, with no act required on the part of the sinner, where God works His forgiveness and gives life and salvation to the sinner.
    Rom. 1:16 ” I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God…”
    I thank God that my pastor was also able to come by several times and remind my Dad of the great things that God had done for him in his baptism. This was a great comfort for my Father and he knew and believed that he was an adopted son of Jesus and that there was no doubt about where he would be going after his death.

    You are dead on when you speak of two ways of doing things. We as sinners, want to do things our way, we want to have a say in all of this, but Christ Jesus hushes us and tells us not to worry, He has done all that is needful.

    Well, Jon, and anyone else peeking in…that is the Lutheran view of baptism and the gospel…or at least part of it…a big part.

    Thanks Jon. I’ll pray that your Dad is reminded of the great things that Christ has done for him, and that in the hearing of those promises, your Dad will once again, or for the first time, come to believe (by God’s grace) .

  9. Howard,

    That’s the one! Sweet words indeed! I use to keep it posted in my office but when I moved I lost it. I’ll have to make a new one.

    Thanks much,


  10. As I understand it Lutherans believe baptism is sufficient to save but does not necessarily guarantee salvation. I think that is the teachin inside the Church.

    It gives the power to save but we still need to nurture our faith…. not by works by contineuing to die to the Gospel. Thats the message I was trying to portray in the message that we need to rest in the all sufficiency of Christ and the only way to do this is by starting a relationship with him.

    In this I accept as mystery as to how it works after this relationship gets started… because I know In Christ I am saved and I also know outside of Christ I am not. How everything works in-between I see as a mystery ….. “in Christ” that is.

  11. I actually should not have used the words … continuing to die” I do see it as continusously nurturing our faith via what Christ did though on the cross.

  12. Jon,

    I actually liked your use of ‘continuing to die’. That is the life of the Christian…repentance (death) and forgiveness(life).

    “Thats the message I was trying to portray in the message that we need to rest in the all sufficiency of Christ and the only way to do this is by starting a relationship with him.”

    This is where we differ a bit, but it is an important “bit”.
    The Lutheran view is that He starts the relationship with us. And one of the ways He has chosen to do this is in baptism.

    We don’t place any stock AT ALL in our decision for Christ…since our decisions are weak and insincere and made with impure motives and not from love.
    “No one seeks for God.” (St. Paul) ” I choose you, you do not choose me.” (Jesus) I could go on and on.

    Anyway, it is Christ that acts for us..in His Word and in His sacraments. This takes the God initiative out of our hands…where it does not reside to begin with, and places the onus back onto Christ where it rightfully belongs.

    We know that many, many Christians say the sinner’s prayer and make their decisions for Jesus and we do not say that they are not Christians. We don’t judge ourselves let alone anyone else. But we just want to uphold the Christ and how He is revealed to us in scripture.

    We believe Christ instituted baptism and holy communion to make Himself the actor (the giver) and us the recipients of His gracious gifts, apart from anything that we say, do, think, or feel.

    Thanks Jon.

  13. Steve,

    you should probably know that the only area where I come close to disagreeing with the Lutheran stance is in the area of baptism. If I had to do it all over again I would still baptise my children as babies but I am not sold out on it like many Lutherans are. it as something “in remembrance” of jesus but not much more than that to me. Thats the difference between it being an ordinance and a sacrament.

    This would be a better lunch-time discussion. :).

  14. Jon,

    No problem. You are not alone, believe me. There are a lot of Christians that do not value baptism as God’s action for us. But then, the majority of the world’s Christians do (value baptism as God’s saving action for us)

    We can certainly discuss it anytime you’d like.

    It is one of my favorite subjects concerning the Christian faith.

    If you get the chance, check out some my older posts about baptism.

    There may be something in there that you haven’t heard before, or that you would like to discuss…over lunch.

  15. I agree with the God initiating part of what you said…. absolutely. Of course there is the whole baptism by water vs. baprism by spirit both of which are God-initiated.


  16. Jon,

    The trouble always revolves around the water. Luther reminded us that it is not water only, but God’s Word with the water that makes baptism effective.
    Almost every reference to baptism in the New Testament is in context to water baptism.

    Some good bible verses concerning what God actually does in water baptism are:
    Romans 6
    Acts 2:38,39
    1st Peter 3:20,21

    I also like the analogy of adoption. Does a baby have any say in wheter or not he or she is adopted? Of course not. God uses this language of adoption also in Holy Scripture to convet to us the fact that He wants us to become His children and therefore He adopts us.

    Now, can we reject our adoptions? Sure, some children even go to court to sever the tie between them and their parents. We too can walk away from our baptisms and reject our Father. But He will not reject us, and will always take back a repentant child…over and over, and over again.

    Jesus said “do not hinder the little children from coming to me.”

    We love to baptise infants in the Lutheran Church because it puts God’s grace ahead of our faith. God’s grace must always come first and infant baptism is an excellent way to illustrate that fact.

    Lot’s more good stuff on baptism, but we’ll get to it.

    Thanks Jon for letting me bend your ear (eyes) a bit with respect to water baptism!

  17. I am always willing to let you bend my ears. Its not hard whatsoever listening to you. :)…. unlike a few other BLOGS.

    I have the day off …. a blogging we will go…. a blogging we will go. Hi Ho ….


  18. Jon,

    You are good man, Jon!

    Off to do chores…

    Talk to you soon!

    – Steve

  19. *I intend to be less tolerant of vegetarians.*

    That was actually very funny to me…………lol…..

    Good one Jack –

  20. Does Gods Grace apply to vegetarians?


  21. Yes.

    Espiscopalians, Seminarians, Luthernarians, and Vegetarians. (how can they kill those poor defensless plants?)

    All denomoninarians will be welcomed into the Kingdom.

  22. Such a heavy subject! For myself the answer is simple. The implication of you never conquering sin is that you rely on Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on your behalf, and you remember God’s promise of salvation in your baptism. Period.

    However to others it’s not so simple. I have a friend raised Lutheran who refuses to step foot in any church. He believes most Christians are hateful, sanctimonious, hypocrites under a delusion they are better people than he. Even with my limited experience with the member’s behavior in my own congregation (was president of the congregation this past year), I can see how one can come to this belief. Take your pick, there are a multitude of reasons over the centuries why we have discouraged or excluded people from church: historical, social/cultural, racial, economic, etc. I believe the reasons predominately stem from wanting to preserve the morality of “good people”.

    However the reality is there are no good people; humanity has been shattered since Adam and Eve. Instead, all Christians everywhere should include themselves among those who are in the process of mending but are still essentially broken. Perhaps it’s pride speaking, but I want to think that my friend wouldn’t be estranged from the church had he experienced humble words at the time he really needed to hear them.


  23. Brian,

    “The implication of you never conquering sin is that you rely on Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on your behalf, and you remember God’s promise of salvation in your baptism. Period.”

    I like it. I like it a lot.

    It had better be the truth or I am in big trouble.

    I know it is the truth, otherwise we all would be in big trouble. Without Christ we are left to our own devices…and they ain’t pretty!

    Thanks very much, Brian!

    – Steve

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