What Do Your Resolutions Say About You?

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With the exception of Christmas and Easter, New Year’s is my favorite holiday.  It easily beats the 4th of July, Memorial Day and even comes in ahead of Thanksgiving.  It’s not the parties that do it for me.  To be honest, I can’t even remember the last time Laura and I stayed up to watch the ball drop.

It’s the opportunity to look back and look forward.  I love looking back over the past year and reflecting on all God has done.  2015 saw the arrival of Aidan into our family, a season of growth for the church and some major work in my soul, to name just a few highlights.  And I love looking forward.  What will 2016 hold?  How can I leverage my life more for the glory of Jesus and the good of others?  Where do I need to make changes?

All of the reflecting, dreaming and praying inevitably leads to some form of New Year’s Resolutions in my life.  I know some people hate them, some people are obsessed and some people make them every year and forget them by Martin Luther King Day.  For what it’s worth, I’m a fan.  I don’t create a whole laundry list of everything that needs to change in my life.  I try to identify one or two major themes for the year, an area I’ve neglected and new habits I want to develop.

But here’s the real question: what do your resolutions say about you?  This is a particularly good question for those of us who consider ourselves followers of Jesus.  Here’s what I’ve noticed in talking to a lot of Jesus people about New Year’s Resolutions over the years – our resolutions look very similar to our non-Christian friends.  There is nothing distinctly Christian about wanting to get in shape, pay off debt, have more meaningful vacations and make more time for friends.  There’s nothing wrong with any of those either.  But what do they say about our love for Jesus?

Shouldn’t our resolutions look different?  And I’m not just talking about adding in a token spiritual resolution (go to church more, read the Bible daily or find a place to serve).  I’m talking about a whole orientation that is shaped by Jesus.  Shouldn’t our resolutions talk more about honoring Him than improving us?  Shouldn’t they be more about His standing in the world than ours in the office?

Here’s what I know.  Jesus holds all of 2016 in His hands.  He’s King of it all.  Nothing will come into your life in 2016 that He doesn’t allow and that He isn’t greater than.  He sees every high and low.  He loves you.  He died for you.  He’ll carry you every step of the way.  The smartest thing you and I can do is walk into 2016 looking to Him and asking Him to become our greatest treasure and the goal of all our resolutions.

In Defense of New Year’s Resolutions

Let me just come out and say it.  I’m a New Year’s Resolution kind of guy.  I love everything about them:  the reminder of a fresh start, dreaming about the future, reflecting on the past year and giving myself something to aim for in the coming year.  I’ve got a few Evernote files with potential resolutions on my computer right now and Laura and I will spend New Year’s Eve honing in on our goals as a family for 2015.

What surprises me most about New Year’s Resolutions is the increasing number of Christians who feel obligated to turn up their theological noses and reject New Year’s Resolutions as unspiritual or not gospel-centered.  The basic argument seems to be: resolve to love Jesus more and everything will change.  Awesome.  I totally agree with the theology behind that.  I just don’t think we need to take it so far that we aren’t specific about some of the changes we would like to see.  Paul seems to spend the second half of his letters being very specific about the kind of change a proper understanding of the gospel should bring about in our lives.

So, if you want to join me in coming up with a few gospel-centered resolutions for 2015, here are two questions I’ve been asking myself this past week.

1.  Would any of my resolutions be shocking to a non-Christian?  

If all you want out of 2015 is to lose a little weight, pay off a little debt and go on a nice vacation, you’ve got to ask yourself how much the gospel is really rearranging your priorities.  Everyone wants these things!  What are you praying for in 2015 that only makes sense if Jesus Christ is the Sovereign King and you know for sure you will spend eternity with Him?

There’s nothing wrong with getting in shape and being a good steward.  But don’t settle for that.  Push on to greater things – new ways to serve; people you want to see come to faith; new ways to be generous with your time, experience and money; new things you want God to do in your heart.  These are the prayers God loves to answer and these are the goals worth fighting for in life.

Yeah, it would be great to spend a week in Hawaii but what about a week on the mission field?

2.  What heart change is required to stick with this resolution?  

There is zero benefit in coming up with a long list of things you would like to have happen without developing a plan to make them happen.  If you don’t have a plan, it’s just a list of dreams.  If your plan doesn’t involve the gospel transforming your heart, you’re destined to abandon your resolutions just as quickly as you did last year.  If this is the 3rd year in a row you’ve vowed to pay off your credit cards and you’re more in debt now than you were three years ago, something clearly isn’t working!  Don’t take a 4th lap around the same bad track.  Dig deep into your heart…why do you keep acting the way you do?  What lies are you believing that keep leading you to the same bad place?  How does the gospel speak to this issue?  How would God lead you to freedom in this area?  This is where the real power in resolutions is found.  Don’t just make a list of things to do.  Ask what needs to change in your heart to start living differently.

Whether you’re a New Year’s Resolutions kind of person or not, I hope you have an incredible 2015.

I’ll start blogging regularly again on Monday, January 5th.  Until then, Happy New Year!