As the calendar reads December 31st I find myself transitioning from the Post-Christmas Blues to New Year’s Celebration. As is the annual tradition for many people New Year’s celebrations include staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve, having a party with friends and family, counting down until the ball drops in Time’s Square, watching football all day on New Year’s Day, and of course eating black eyed peas. However, one of the most popular traditions among western culture is the New Year’s Resolution.
New Year’s Resolutions are filled with the hope of new year. I mean who plans to quit drinking soda or smoking on July 15th? It’s always January 1st. January brings a new year, new hope, new motivation, new ideas. January 1st brings hope…the most powerful human emotion. New Year’s Resolutions are basically people anticipating what they can accomplish while harnessing the concoction of hope, motivation and new ideas.
Yet, most resolutions end up the same old ideas. Worse yet, most resolutions are all empowered by hard core will-power that lasts all of 5 hours to 5 weeks. Ever been to a gym in January? Craziness! Ever been to the same gym in February? You have your choice of parking spots. That’s the nature of human nature.
Most of us can’t muster up the will-power and determination to maintain a change unless something deep down in us has changed.
This goes for everyone…including most Christ followers. So, with this in mind I want to mention 5 Different Resolutions I am making that are a tweak to traditional resolutions. And when I say “tweak” I really mean “turn on their head.” The difference between my resolutions this year and years past is what the ultimate goal is and where my motivation is coming from.
Without a change deep within me all determination will fall short. History proves this to be true for all of us. Yet, if we are transformed from the inside out by Jesus’ grace and redemption, we are actually capable of making an impact in 2014.
So, without further adieu, here are the 5 New Year’s Resolutions that I believe myself and other Christ followers should consider:
1. Read the Bible through — so that your view of God’s mercy and grace are ever shaped to know Him as a gracious Father. Many Christians plan to read the Bible through in a year. I have set this goal before and failed every time. When evaluating why I even set this goal it is mainly to say I have done it. I have read every verse in the Bible but never in one year. This is basically a self-righteous goal. However, if my desire is to know and see God as my true and loving Father who is merciful and transforms me by his grace then that changes my entire motivation. If I read through the Bible I can see the over arching story of Scripture clearly as God, the Father, Son & Holy Spirit, reconciling the world back to himself. That is empowering!
2. Pray more — Scripture. What? Pray Scripture? How does that work? Well, it works in many different ways. Instead of vainly trying to capture what has already by eloquently and helpfully written check out John Piper’s thoughts here or here. Also, Kevin DeYoung has helpful thoughts. Jesus said not to pray by “heaping up empty phrases…think[ing] they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7) Man, do I wish that some pastors and deacon’s offertory prayers kept this in mind! If you are like me, prayer can become stale and a lot of me talking, repeating the same things over day after day. Praying Scripture will refresh your prayer life bringing glory to God while joy and peace to you!
3. Prayerfully consider witnessing — to someone you know already. I throw this in for my resolutions because in the past witnessing has been all about door-to-door telling people about Jesus. It’s been about mustering up courage to share Jesus with my waitress or someone I sit next to on an airplane. Those are fine and good but many times it becomes a canned gospel speech and assumes they see a need for good news in their life. The reality is that knowing a person’s life, struggles, hopes and fears enables you to truly share good news where they are looking for it most. Show them Jesus is in control and trustworthy so they don’t have to worry about what they can’t control at work or with their kids. Show them Jesus is good and we trust him. Tell them how Jesus is gracious so they don’t have to feel shame. Speak life into their approval needs to let them know that the ultimate approval available is the approval of a loving Father God who sent Jesus to obtain his approval on our behalf. Share good news! And to share this good news you have to know them.
With that said:
4. Get to know your neighbors — so that you can meet their needs where they are and be the light that Christ called you to be where he has placed you…in your neighborhood. It’s easy in our western civilization and suburbs to open and shut your garage door, gaze out from your patio at your fenced in backyard and talk to no one. I know it’s easy because this is me in my neighborhood. For me, my New Year’s Resolution is to learn their names. That’s a start! Then you can invite them over for dinner or take care of their dogs for them. You can build real, authentic relationships. Who knows they may be Christ followers already and you gained a brother or sister. Or maybe, they have never met Jesus.
5. Work out — what God is working into you. Yes, work out. Sure you can exercise. You should exercise and take care of the body God has given you to steward. More importantly, though, work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). This statement in Philippians is Paul encouraging the believers in Philippi to work out their salvation after his citing of the hymn from Philippians 2:5-11 about how Jesus has been highly exalted by God, the Father, because he, although being God, did not consider equality with God something to be held onto. Instead he made himself a servant, taking on human flesh, and being obedient to a gruesome, embarrassing death on a cross. But God raised him back to life and made Jesus the Lord of the world. Therefore, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. But it’s not because we earn salvation. It is something Jesus obtained for us. That’s why we work it out with fear and reverence before God. Plus, the next verse in Philippians brings comfort. All of our working out is empowered by God who is actually at work in us, empowering us “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) Good news! When we work out our salvation we are merely working out what God is working into us. God is for us and his grace to us in Jesus is what makes the good works possible. He gets glory, we get joy. Praise be his name!
So I challenge you to consider at least one of these resolutions. Maybe 2014 will be the year that Jesus’ good news make a difference in your life everyday as you are in his Word allowing it to impact your payer life with an overflow into the way his grace impacts you, your neighborhood and the people you know. Maybe, come December 31, 2014, you can look back and see that God was working in you for his good pleasure and your joy as you work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
God bless you in 2014!
Intersection: What are your resolutions for 2014?