I’ve never been one to make resolutions for the new year. Perhaps I have been and am still too young to appreciate an annual challenge (or challenges, such as those Chris of Digital Wilderness has set for himself), though I might as well go ahead and admit that playing an age card at 24 is a bit of a cop out.
Several times throughout 2007, I was made aware of just how content I am; indeed, I might just be so content that it has sapped whatever ambition I’m supposed to have toward whatever today’s American Dream is. This has been my attitude ever since discovering this gem:
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves through with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10, ESV
It is thanks to those verses that daily life for me is far from the rat race willfully faced by so many. I can look at the circumstances of my wife and me and realize that we’re in no danger of being without food and clothing, and so I can be content. Everything else we attain is simply icing on the cake, but I do not believe it is to be striven for.
Now go back and look at that passage. Right there at the beginning, Paul declares there is great gain in godliness with contentment. Being content means nothing ((Or at the very least, very little.)) without being godly.
Godliness, as Paul well knew, takes a lifetime of work, yet it is only perfected in the life to come. That does not, however, excuse us from seeking godliness actively in our lives.
Which brings me to 1 Thessalonians 5, verses 12-22:
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil. ESV
From the initial admonition to respect and esteem our spiritual leaders to the closing command to have no part in any evil, these verses stand out to me as a sort of New Testament Ten Commandments. ((And there really are ten, though the punctuation in some versions, such as the King James Version, may result in different numbering.))
As is typical with New Testament commands, ((Such as Jesus declaring hate to be a violation of “You will not murder” and lust to be a violation of “You will not commit adultery.”)) the above list of admonishments is actually much stricter than the Ten Commandments, if only because of its closing command to avoid every form of evil. ((So while this passage is more strict, it certainly depends upon the rest of the Scriptures to find its full meaning. Taken alone, “evil” can be defined as just about anything.))
New Year’s resolutions aside, it is my hope to continually live out what Paul has expressed in this passage; in doing so, I am more fully conformed to the image of Christ. I cannot fathom how incredible a goal that is, and I eagerly await its future fulfillment; moreover, I encourage every one of my brethren reading this, as Paul did, to do the same things, living their lives in a manner pleasing to the Father of Lights.
Here are the “New Testament Ten Commandments” in my own words: ((Okay, I confess, I’m doing a bit of grouping to get the number to come out to ten as I’d like, but ten is such a nice, round number!))
- Respect and honor not only your fellow laborers within the church, but especially those who are over you.
- Get along with each other! We belong to the Prince of Peace; let us daily reflect that.
- Encourage those who do not work to get up off their bums and work, reminding them that those who do not work for their food do not deserve to eat. ((2 Thessalonians 3:10.)) Console the faint at heart, doing what you can to aid them in carrying their burdens, such as the loss of a loved one. Lend your aid to the weak, in body, soul, or mind. And to all of these, show patience.
- Has someone wronged you? Remember what the Lord taught concerning turning your other cheek. Never repay evil done to you with more evil! Rather, seek to do good, to everyone!
- Be always cheerful, knowing and rejoicing in the Lord who has bought you, trusting in His sovereignty that all of life’s events are being worked out for your own good.
- Be always ready to go to the Lord in prayer, and do so often, bringing every care to His attention, for He cares about you.
- No matter what you face in life, give thanks to our Father in Heaven.
- Do nothing to stifle the Holy Spirit, either by means of sinning or anything else. In worship, do not elevate to a sacred level those traditions and practices which cannot be found in the Scriptures; rather, embrace what the Scriptures do tell us about worship, for thus will be glorified the Holy Spirit.
- Don’t hate prophecies, but always test them against the sure ground of the Holy Bible; anything which deviates from God’s Word is to be rejected. Whatever concurs with the Word, embrace it.
- Study the Scriptures and learn what is good and evil in God’s sight; refrain from committing any form of evil, regardless of how big or small it may seem to you or others.
Happy New Year’s everyone. As Paul said in verse 23, immediately after the above cited verses:
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. ESV