Originally published Thursday, 03 January 2013.
We’ve made it through Christmas, the “most wonderful time of the year,” and now we’re in the midst of (what I’ve deemed) the “most annoying time of the year.” New Year’s; the time when every magazine, billboard, junk mail flyer, and television commercial attempts to sell me on their brand of change. “New Year, New You,” they boast as they fill the air with empty promises and pump us full of false hope.
I’ve been one of those well-meaning, desperate-for-change folks longing for this year to be the year of change. I’ve fallen for their gimmicks and been seduced by the power of the New Year’s change bandwagon. I’ve vowed to avoid this or do that. And for a while, I stick with it. But eventually, the newness wears off, the sacrifices are too sacrificial, and the success no longer sweet. So long resolution, so long hope. Hello despair.
Statistically speaking, eighty-percent of you are right there with me. So, should we give up on making resolutions? Not so fast. Let’s not throw the proverbial New Years Baby out with the bathwater. Resolutions can be a great way to grow in our relationship with God, as long as they’re shaped and guided by the gospel.
The Gospel Radically affects the way we approach resolutions.
Our resolutions aren’t salvific. No amount of weight-loss, muscle-mass, or money in our bank account will make us holy before God. Only through the blood of Christ will we find forgiveness. And it’s out of abundant gratitude for the gift of Jesus, we pursue righteous living by resolving to eliminate the bad and add the good. The changes we strive for are an act of worship out of love and obedience.
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." -Ephesians 2:13-16
The Gospel demands our resolutions be cross-centered.
The continual pattern of striving and failing can either lead us to despair, or it can lead us to the cross. When we fail to follow through on our resolutions, we boast in our weakness and our utter dependence on Christ’s work on the cross. Instead of self-reliance, we beg for God to help us rely on His strength and we trust in His sanctifying work on our behalf.
Our resolutions are an act of worship when we are:
- Fighting the good fight.
“Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called...” -1 Timothy 6:11-12
- Putting our flesh to death.
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
- Setting our hopes on grace and being holy.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” -1 Peter 1:13-16
- Forgetting past failures.
“forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:13-14
- Humbling ourselves.
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” -1 Peter 5:5
- Counting it all joy.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” -James 1:2-4
Gospel-centered resolutions speak.
Resolutions can also be evangelistic. At a time of the year when everyone around us is methodically depending on the power of self-control, self-discipline, and self-reliance, resolve to demonstrate the alternative - full dependence on Christ. Testify to the changes you’ve seen personally and how you’ve come to know Christ as the only one capable of bringing real and lasting change. How can your resolution proclaim this truth to a watching world?
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” -2 Corinthians 4:5-6
This year as I pray over my own resolutions, I’ll be asking myself these questions:
- Are my resolutions based on a pursuit of self-gratification or the pursuit of holiness?
- How likely am I to allow this resolution to become an idol, distracting me from my relationship with the Lord?
- How can I avoid allowing my resolution to fuel a spirit of self-reliance or pride?
- How can I show love to others as I pursue my resolution?
- Do I define success by tangible results or by a heart more yielded to Christ?
As you strive to make changes this season, do it with a gospel-centered perspective; resolve to worship.