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by Scott Moore

As 2012 draws to a close, people everywhere focus their attention on a new season of life. We reflect on the year behind us, as we look forward to the year ahead of us, and we embrace (or kiss) the person next to us as the transition happens.

 The Problem with Resolutions 

Looking back across the landscape of our past can be a moving exercise. Our personal horizons are lined with monuments of great achievement, victory, and relationships. Those same horizons are also interrupted and overshadowed by the tragedies of our own mishaps, failures, and relational disasters. Our first inclination as the new year approaches is to change the bad things – to rid our lives of negative repetition, especially on a habitual level.

And so we make resolutions. We resolve to eat healthier, work harder, study more, and take better care of our bodies.

For most, resolutions are merely decisions to cease or start certain activities that were either done or not done the year before. Resolutions, we think, are like a light switch that you turn on or off. I did “x” last year. I won’t do “x” this year. I didn’t do “z” last year. I will do “z” next year. By February, however, “x” is back, and the only thing left of “z” is the bill to the gym we went to three times in January.

Unfortunately, most resolutions have a short life span. Not because of a defect in them, but because of a defect in us. We kill them by starving them of the spiritual nutrients they need to survive, like repentance and faith, hope, and love.

Repentance and Our Resolutions

Repentance forces us to consider the weight of our actions, first toward God, and then toward others. Behaviors worth changing are behaviors toward (or against) God. They affect a person.  So, if there is something worth resolving, it must be something accompanied with repentance toward God and each other.

Common resolutions we make against eating poorly or not exercising properly demand spiritual repentance.  These acts damage the body the Lord has so graciously given. They hinder the vessel of mercy the Lord purposes to bless the nations. Similarly, not using our minds well is also an affront to God. It is failing to love him with all of our mind. Poor communication follows. And the progress of the gospel slows.

When we skim past repentance by saying, “I will just start working out” or “I will eat healthier”, we fail to recognize anyone other than ourselves. It’s like a husband telling his wife, “I will just stop committing adultery” without first telling (and showing) her he is deeply sorry for the pain he has caused. Repentance makes our resolutions less selfish. Repentance directs our hearts, minds, and actions toward Christ – the true object of our faith.

Faith and Our Resolutions

While repentance acknowledges and forsakes our trust in the commandments of men, faith acknowledges and trusts in the commandments of Christ. Man tells us to work out for a better looking body. Christ tells us to work out for a better worshipping community. Man tells us to eat healthier so that we may live and enjoy life longer. Christ tells us to eat healthier in order to love people better. Man tells us to study so that we may be superior. Christ tells us to study so that we may become more of a servant, like him.

Resolutions that are not fueled by repentance and faith die because they are not attached to anything worthy of sticking around. If they are attached to man, they will become like man – a vapor. But if they are attached to Christ, they will last. He died so that we (and our resolutions) will not ultimately die.

Christ and Our Resolutions

And this is our hope isn’t it? That we will not ultimately die. That we will one day be with him in glory. He is “the hope laid up for us in heaven” (Col 1:5). He is, and should be, the reason for our resolutions. We follow Christ’s commands; we trust in his death and resurrection; we repent of our sins – all for a reason. We are after something. We are aiming in a particular direction. We desire a great, certain, vast, eternal, everlasting inheritance.

As Christians, we are not stoics, resolving for the sake of resolving. We are not selfish, resolving for the sake of our own earthly gain. As Christians, we do things differently in the new year because we eagerly desire the reward that awaits us in heaven!

Those who obey for nothing don’t obey for long. Resolutions that don’t have a reward in view don’t ultimately remain. For the Christian, the thought of treasures in heaven is the greatest motivation to step out in obedience to Christ. Yes, Christian, we have a reason to obey. We have a reason to love.

 Love and Our Resolutions

Our resolutions, therefore, must be saturated with love. Just as most of us embrace others as New Years Day draws near, so ought we meet with and embrace others as “the Day” draws near (Heb 10:25). If faith and repentance are the basis for our resolutions, and if hope is the reason for our resolutions, then love ought to be the nature of our resolutions.

Faith in the person and work of Christ liberates us from the slavery of self-absorption. And the hope he has purchased for us frees us to sacrificially give all things for the sake of others. He is our shepherd, we shall not want.

Because of our unique faith and certain hope, our love ought to shock the world. So should our resolutions. They should be bloody, scandalous, selfless, and strange. They ought to be strategically constructed to direct every person we encounter toward Christ the Lord who is worthy of the most dangerous of actions. Our resolutions should reflect the image of the One who makes the new year possible. Our resolutions should be invitations to our enemies to enjoy the heavenly feast with us forever.

The world should be different in 2013 because Christians are making redemptive resolutions. Happy New Year to all!

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