Monday, December 30, 2013

Thinking About New Year's Resolutions

Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet?

Yes, I know that many Christians ignore the whole idea. In fact, some are downright grinchy about it, believing that making resolutions is more about reliance on one's own willpower than on God's grace to effect change in their lives. Many more, however, dismiss the idea simply because they've failed so many times in the past. They decide they're actually better off by staying the way they are, playing around with the same excuses, and trying to keep themselves comfortably distant from higher aspirations.

But here's the deal -- making resolutions isn't optional for the Christian. Not at all. Think for just a moment about the Scripture's frequent use of exhortational verbs like "dedicate," "reckon," "establish," "consider," "purpose," "consecrate," "prove," "remember," "put aside," and many more. All refer to the prayerful making (and keeping) of spiritual resolutions.

You just can't avoid it...not if you want to live in accordance with the Word.

It may help for you to dispense with the idea of New Year's resolutions and instead see careful, purposeful changes in your life as Christmas gifts to Jesus. That's what Claire and I try to do. And it's been a great reminder to us that God is a God of wondrous and inexhaustible grace. Through the cross of Jesus, He is always ready to forgive sin and failure. And He is also ready to empower His disciples to begin again and again.

Note also that the Latin word behind resolution means to untie. And an awful lot of our obstacles to spiritual growth involve un-tying the knots of bad thinking and bad habits. To untie these knots, we need patience and other virtues given by the Holy Spirit. We need better information which means more frequent and more effective Bible study. We need to make sure we're praying hard as well as trying hard. We also need a heavenly perspective, one that sees our honest resolutions and efforts as investments in eternity. And finally, the successful achievement of our prayerful resolutions is greatly helped by authentic Christian fellowship, the kind that provides rich supplies of encouragement, accountability and assistance.

Resolutions are not our enemies. But we need to envision the benefits of spiritual growth (liberation, peace, joy, greater effectiveness in ministry, etc.) in order to more willingly embrace the work involved to get there.