New Year’s Resolutions & Earning Salvation

It’s the beginning of February and most of us have probably already broken those New img_4018Year’s resolutions that we made in such good faith a month ago. Maybe it was to eat healthier, to give up sweets, to exercise more, to stay off social media, to pray more, to waste less money, to save more money… It could have been anything. But yet, it probably hasn’t lasted even to the end of the first month.

My goal for the new year was to waste less, be it money, food, resources, time. I chose it call it a goal instead of a resolution because I wanted it to be something I could progress toward through the year instead of fail at right away. I’m not sure that worked, but I’m still striving for this goal.

But what happens when our New Year’s Resolutions, like eating better and cutting out sugar, start to confuse us about what makes us ‘a good person’? Our current culture magnifies our diets, our bodies and healthy living to such a degree that they start to be the rulers by which we measure ourselves. While I am at least grateful that our culture is now celebrating healthy bodies and healthy body image, I’m also concerned about how much of our personal worth is wrapped up in our physical bodies.

We want to earn our ‘goodness;’ when complimented on our weight-loss, our cooking skills, our arm muscles or our marathon time, we respond with something that puts our ‘goodness’ in perspective, the long road it took to learn to love our bodies and the struggle to overcome our health issues or our personal hurdles. There’s nothing wrong with this– if anything, it can be inspiring to others to know that amazing changes  can be made in our lives and we are not permanently condemned to our current situation.

But the thing is, we can’t earn our righteousness. Keeping our resolutions doesn’t earn us any righteousness points when we meet our savior. Even when our resolutions are spiritual resolutions, about spending more time with Jesus or giving more of our time to ministry or increasing our tithes, these actions are not enough to earn us salvation.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

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Forgiveness and the Grocery Ad

Last week, I read through the grocery ads, made my lists and planned my coupons. Sometimes I will divide up my needs between as many as four stores in order to take advantage of sales and coupon match-ups. This particular week, there was a one-day sale that put Oscar Mayer P3 Protein Packs at $1 each; having a great coupon, I was going to be able to get two of these for FREE! I was pretty excited about this, as I wouldn’t ever pay much for such a simple (and overpriced) product, but was looking forward to being able to stash a few of these in my fridge for good snacks on busy days.

But then I saw the sign. Stuck over the price tags for each variety of this product was a bright pink paper stating ‘This flavor not included in ad pricing’. I was frustrated and irritated. So I then started looking around for whatever flavors were included in the ad pricing. Nowhere to be found. No second location. No empty rack. Nothing.

I was angry. Stupid and trivial as it was, I felt taken advantage of and lied to. So I finished my shopping and quickly left. I haven’t been back. Yet.

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Paying the Bill Twice

A little over a year ago, my now-husband and I went out to dinner. When we had finished our meal, we asked our waiter for the check and were shocked to learn that someone, a stranger, had picked up our tab. What a blessing! Stunned but feeling so blessed, we finished our drinks, put on our coats and left the restaurant. (Then we went back to his apartment and got engaged, but that’s beside the point :P) What we didn’t do was pay the check a second time.It only needs to be paid once

In this season of Lent, preparing for Easter, we focus on our need for God, our humanity and brokenness. We are reminded that “from dust you come, and to dust you will return.” We put ourselves into our own desert, committing to sacrificing something we enjoy (like meat, or fat, or Facebook or sweets). At my church, we are studying the Seven Deadly Sins. We spend the 40 days before Easter focusing on our own broken humanity. This prepares us for Easter by helping us recognize our need for the sacrifice He made on the cross, helping us to appreciate and internalize His salvation.

But what I’ve come to realize is that, for many, believers and non-believers alike, Lent lasts all year. Continue reading