This year, we have two months before Lent begins, and this blog will be simplified, with less homework, yet I pray, powerful for us. So often we make and break New Year’s Resolutions, because we concentrate on the symptom (eating too much, worrying too much, spending too much) and not the cause. We don’t know how to live the gospel, for the gospel is not just meant to deliver us from the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin. For the next two months, we are going to learn from saints who have experienced victory, many of whom have gone before, saints like Martin Luther, Oswald Chambers, and Charles Peterson. In these few days before New Year’s Day, we will contemplate our helplessness, and areas where we have tried to change and failed. We must first embrace the truth that we are helpless to help ourselves. And then we will dive into Luther’s famous preface to the Galatians, for Galatians is where we are headed, and Galatians helps us overcome the lies about God that cause us to stay in bondage. This year could actually be the year you see progress where you have in the past remained in chains.
Martin Luther had a famous argument with Erasmus, who likened the power of grace to a parent helping a toddler to walk.
Luther said, “NO!” Rather, Luther said, “We are like caterpillars in a ring of fire. Our only help of rescue is from above.”
We are wise to look at the lives of those who ran well, who found the power they needed to overcome the lies and the obstacles that cause so many to drop out or give up. Tim Keller put it like this:
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from the Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why?
The Morning of New Year’s Eve: Reflecting
The insight the Lord has given me is that my New Year’s Resolution needs to deal, not with the symptom, but the real problem. I love the quote from Keller above, and this year my New Year’s Resolution is to continually ask the Lord a line from a song of Sara Groves: “How is it between us, Lord?” That will help keep me in the light, in the Word, and bearing fruit.
3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight?
4. Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share.
New Year’s Day, 2018: Beginning Luther’s Preface to the Galatians
This famous preface changed, indeed converted. men like John and Charles Wesley. Tim Keller has abridged and paraphrased it. Print off this pdf, if you have a printer. Then carefully read and underline the first page.
The Most Important Thing in the World
5. What is the rock that was shaken by Satan in paradise?
6. Why is Christian righteousness passive in contrast to other kinds of righteousness?
The Need For Christian Righteousness
7. According to the first paragraph under this sub-head, why do we need to constantly teach this, repeat this, and work it out in practice?
8. According to the second paragraph, what do we tend to do when faced with danger or death itself? And what is the real evil?
9. Share a recent time when you fell into the trap of the real evil.
Wednesday: Law and Grace
Read the section on law and grace, underlining.
10. How is the law to be used for non-Christians? And how is the law to be used for Christians? (1st and 2nd paragraph)
11. Why should you not despair when you sin?
My experience this fall in breaking my hand in pickleball comes to mind. I prayed for wisdom about a doctor, but as I was driving to my appointment, I was overwhelmed with fear that I had made a poor decision. I was living like an orphan, thinking of my failures, assuming God did not guide me. But He whispered to my spirit, “You are not an orphan, you are my child.” I did nothing to become His child so I can do nothing to lose that status. He did guide me, He was with me, and the doctor turned out to be not only a believer, but a good doctor. Whether or not my hand completely heals (but it is healing), God is with me, for me, and will do all things well.
12. Can you identify with my story? Do you have a personal illustration?
Thursday: Living the Gospel
Read this last section, underlining.
13. If we do not build our confidence in the finished work of Christ, where will our confidence lie?
14. How does Luther tell us to put this truth into action?
15. Think about a common fear or temptation for you. Now, here, speak the gospel to yourself:
Friday: The Wesley Brothers Converted by Luther’s Prologue
Prepare your heart for this article with this hymn by Charles Wesley — one of his most famous! Then read the following brief article.
16. Share your notes and comments on the above.
17. What is your take-a-way and why?