Manners and sanctification


Republished from January of 2017



Have you made any New Year’s resolutions this year?

If you have not yet carved out some time to quiet yourself and think about some basic goals, especially spiritual goals for yourself, and your family, I exhort you to do so. It really does help recalibrate our lives around what is most important: our walk with Jesus Christ.

Toward that end, may I suggest one resolution that will make a huge difference in reaching this most important goal? Learn to say, “NO!”

Our own growth and our participation in the growth of others in Christ requires good old focus and intentionality which means saying NO to usually very good things such as:

-athletics (that keep families constantly in the car and out of the house multiple nights per week)

-personal hobbies

-church activities

-parties and gatherings

(NOTE that I am not saying these are bad things and I am not saying that everyone must say no to these specific and/or all other activities. The point is, are we willing to say NO if that’s what’s required to achieve the better goal of knowing Jesus more deeply as individuals and families?)

WE SAY NO SO THAT we can say YES to more important pursuits such as:

-Getting to know Jesus better through Bible reading, meditation and prayer as individuals and as a family.

-Making it a regular part of our a schedule to sit down with our spouse, and/or child(ren) to talk deeply about what is going on in each other’s lives and deal with the idolatry that often runs–and ruins–our lives and relationships.

Who on their death-bed ever wishes they had spent more time at the office, the gym or on their favorite electronic device? Life quickly passes and as we age, we realize how much time we’ve wasted on good things that really added no long term value in our lives and the lives of others.

Two important points before I close:

First, how we say NO is important. It must be done in a loving and gentle way that shows empathy and understanding. But this is even more true for how we accept being told NO! We must be understanding and accept someone’s decision to say NO without bitterness, judgment, or sending subtle messages meant to convey disapproval (things which we’ve all done at one time or another). I have been encouraged when people have responded to my saying NO with an affirmation of the friendship and/or acknowledgement of the import of other commitments that led to the NO.

Second, why is all of this so hard? One central reason is that we idolize other people’s approval. We don’t want to be the wet blanket. We don’t want people to wrongly conclude that our saying NO means that we don’t like them or that we don’t see them as important. We crave the approval we get when we say YES.

But the approval idol is at work both ways. For the person who has to hear NO, it can mean battling the feeling that you are not approved because they said NO.

Thankfully, the gospel addresses the approval problem at both ends and frees us to make wise and sometimes hard decisions. We already have all the approval we need from the One whose opinion matters most, God. “We are not our own. We are bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 16:20) God the Father bought us with the precious blood of His Son, Jesus Christ so that we might serve Him not our own expectations or those of others.

Living for him means saying YES to Him. It means joyful obedience. But in order to say YES to Him, we must become better at saying NO to other things. Let us be emboldened to say, “NO”, knowing that we are gaining something that is much more satisfying and fulfilling in return: an eternal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that unites the church and the home in love.