Some people make new year’s resolutions and some do not. Are new year’s resolutions a good idea? I think so, as long as this is not the only time you think about making changes in your life.
To live in hope we must believe that change for the better is possible. Constructive change begins as we accept what God shows us needs to change – and then resolve that we are going to do something about it.
One of the greatest theologians that America has ever produced used to keep a running list of resolutions. As God impressed upon him something he needed to do differently, he would write it down in a little book. Then he would regularly meditate on these changes, and, by the grace of God, he saw his life progressively develop over time.
One may not see themselves keeping an ongoing list in a book, but the transition to a new year does provide a good opportunity to evaluate your life and make some resolutions for change. What has God been showing you that needs to be different? What steps can you take to bring those changes about?
The top three new year’s resolutions are typically: get in shape, eat healthier, and get out of debt. These, along with other common resolutions to better one’s life, are all good ideas. But there are even better resolutions that can be made – those that directly pertain to improving your character.
The Bible tells us that bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim.4:7). The principle here is straightforward: those efforts toward improving one’s character are the most fruitful in the long run.
The Bible gives us much direction about character formation. And from this you can develop your own resolutions to further your own character. Here’s just a sample.
Do not do what you do merely to please men, but God (Eph.6:6). Whatever you do, do it with all your might (Ecc.9:10). Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (Jas.1:27). When you do speak, be sure it’s truthful and in love (Eph.4:15). Do not seek to be served, but serve, and give your life for others (Mat.20:28). Think only on those things that are true, honorable, right, and pure. . .(Phil.4:8).
Resolutions like these are superior because they have eternal consequences. They also require us to seek the grace of God to fulfill them, which is always good. Not only that, we may pursue these qualities in hope, knowing that God wants us to possess them.
Are you thinking about making some new year’s resolutions? Go ahead and make them. But be sure to include the best resolutions – those that involve the development of your character. And as you pursue them, do not do so in your own strength, but according to the grace God supplies through His Son, Jesus Christ. There’s no genuine, lasting character change apart from Him.
In an article I read last week, the author stated that last Christmas
was the last “happy Christmas.” He made this claim based on his
observation that last Christmas we were still under the illusion that
you could borrow and spend your way to prosperity, but this Christmas
reality is dawning. It’s becoming clear that financial principles
cannot be broken without suffering the painful consequences.
Looking at Christmas in purely economic terms, it’s not hard to see
that last Christmas may indeed have been the last happy Christmas for
some time. For many families, gift buying has been scaled way back.
For others, unemployment (or underemployment) has become an unwelcome
reality. And just about everyone has awakened to concerns about what
the year 2009 may bring.
All of this has put a damper on the Christmas spirit. It has created
for some all the makings of an unhappy Christmas.
But the recent turn in conditions has also done something else. It
has given us an opportunity to think about what really makes Christmas
a season for celebration after all. Is Christmas merely a designated
time to revel in prosperity? Or is there something more, that would
give us reason for happiness no matter what our economic
The answer is that there is definitely something more.
Gift giving has its place as it helps us think of the individuals God
has placed in our lives. And the need for a job and the money it
provides is obvious. But from the perspective of what God has done in
giving His Son, there’s reason for happiness no matter what the
current economy. Because at Christmas we remember God has sent His
Son as Savior and Lord.
For millennia the world has suffered corruption from sin. And this
corruption – which resides in our own hearts – has left no aspect of
life untouched. But at Christmas we have reason for joy in that God
has provided a Savior for the world. ”For today in the city of David
there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
It has also been apparent through history that this world needs one
who would rule rightly. Here too Christmas gives us hope. Kings and
presidents make promises, but the Lord keeps them. And He has shown
this by sending His Son who rules the world in righteousness.
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the
government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace;
there will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace. .
In the birth of Christ as Savior and Lord the real basis of our
happiness is to be found. As the carol “Joy to the World” puts it,
“He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found,” and
“He rules the world with truth and grace.”
Will it be a happy Christmas? If your focus is on Christ and His
kingdom, it will be, no matter what the passing circumstances of this
Rejoice! Merry Christmas!
At a time when so many are looking and praying for answers to their needs and concerns, it’s fitting for us to remember that God has already given us THE answer in His Son, Jesus Christ.
When we face problems, it’s easy to look at the surface and hope a quick solution can be found. But we must look deeper, to see where we have gone astray and what we must do to recover our way.
God has already taken that deeper look and provided what we need. God knows we have strayed from Him in the pursuit of our own desires, but He has not left us without hope. He sent His Son into this world so that we would be forgiven and restored to life in Him.
The Bible tells us that God’s Son would be named Jesus, because it is He who would save His people from their sins (Mt.1:21). So, Jesus’ very name (meaning Savior) points to our most fundamental need: deliverance from sin which separates us from God.
The deliverance Jesus brings from sin first comes to us in the form of forgiveness. This basic need has been communicated well in a familiar poem called “God Sent Us a Savior.”
“If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.”
Forgiveness is foundational because it enables us to stand before God, knowing we are accepted by Him. Once our guilt it taken care of, we are ready to move forward.
But the deliverance Jesus brings also comes in the form of power to live in keeping with His way. God did not send His Son so we would be merely forgiven and remain as we are, but that we would become what He intends us to be.
When Jesus’ birth was foretold to His mother, Mary, she exclaimed, “My soul exalts the Lord” (Lk.1:46). With this declaration, Mary does not make the Lord great, but recognizes His greatness over our lives. And as the One who possesses this greatness, we are to submit ourselves to Him as Lord, knowing that in Him all things are made new.
Jesus not only humbled Himself by taking on human flesh, but was also exalted to reign above every name, and at His name every knee should bow (Phil.2:9-11). As the day will surely come when all will bow, it is wise for us to yield to Him today. In fact, this is God’s answer for us in our troubled times.
If you’ve been following current events, you know there hasn’t been much good news lately. But there is good news to be found if you look in the right places.
God commonly uses hardship as a way to get our attention, open our eyes, and show us where we need to get back on track with Him. If we are willing to accept our need for His correction, we will be able to see what steps He would have us follow to experience His blessing again. That’s good news.
It’s good news to realize that in the midst of our difficulties we have an opportunity to return to those fundamentals that are essential to stability and prosperity. And what are those fundamentals to which we must return? Here are a few of them.
First, personal responsibility. This generation has become accustomed to what has been aptly called, “the nanny state.” Under the nanny state, the government sees itself as having the role of rescuing and providing for everyone who has a need – without regard to their responsibility.
Well, there’s an opportunity for that to change. As the list of companies looking for a bailout grows by the day, it’s becoming clearer that the nanny state is in over her head. She needs to repent of her promises of false security and return to policies that require personal responsibility. That’s good news.
Second, the family. It’s been said that if you have money, it increases your options. That’s true. But not all the options are good. How many divorces have taken place over the past decade because it was financially possible? How many young adults have remained alienated from their parents because they made enough money to not need their help? Plenty.
Well, that’s changing too. Divorce isn’t so financially feasible these days. Young adults are having a harder time finding a decent paying job. The result? People are finding that they need to get along with their spouses and family members. Hard times help to compel families to work and stick together. That’s more good news.
Third, church and community. When you’ve got all you want, it doesn’t take much to harden your heart and think you have no need for God or others. But take away the good life you thought you had, and you realize you’re not so self-sufficient after all. You see the need to break out of your isolation and come before God and attach yourself to others. And that’s still more good news.
Why are these things so? Because there is a God in heaven. And though we may ignore Him, we can’t escape Him. He will always pursue us in order that we would fulfill our part in the redemption of this afflicted world. And that leads us to the best news of all.
Jesus Christ has come into this world, full of grace and truth, in order to restore humanity to Himself and lead us in His way. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (Jn.3:17).
In His best-known message, The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus concluded by stressing the need to build one’s life on the right foundation (Mt.7:24-27). Those who hear His words and do them build on rock, and need not fear the tests that are sure to come. Those who hear His words and ignore them build on sand, and will not endure the storms when they arrive.
These words are always worth considering, but especially during the trying times that have come upon us. The kingdoms of this world – with all their apparent splendor and strength – are being shaken. And as we live in the midst of this trial, it is a good time to check the foundation of your own life.
What would happen if all that gives you security suddenly was taken away? How would you handle it if everything that grants you comfort and a sense of identity in this world disappeared? Sounds like a scary thought. But it doesn’t need to be.
Back in the fourth century there was a desert monk named St. Anthony. To strengthen His faith and draw closer to God he voluntarily gave away his earthly goods and entered a long period of solitude. What he experienced at first was terrifying. He discovered that what had been giving him security was nothing but a superficial shell which easily cracked. But out of this St. Anthony emerged a new man as He submitted himself to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. His old compulsive self was gone, and he became healthy and whole in body, mind, and soul.
Well, you don’t have to become a desert monk to be transformed by Christ. But you do need to be willing to break free from your superficial sources of security, and submit yourself to Christ’s Lordship. You must be willing to not only hear what He says to you, but do it. This is the only way to build your life on a solid foundation.
Of course, building on such a foundation doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, and here are some practices to implement that will move that process along.
Regularly make time for solitude, silence, and prayer. This world will constantly seek to squeeze you into its mold. An important step to resist this and become the person God intends you to be is to get alone, get quiet, and pray.
Get better acquainted with the Bible. The experts and talking heads are at a loss when it comes to solutions for the problems we face. But answers are available in God’s Word. We need to uncover the ancient paths of scripture before we can walk securely into the future.
Apply what you are learning at home first. When you get quiet before God and look to His Word, He’ll show you profound principles. But these principles must first be applied at home if they are to do any lasting good.
Get involved with a community of believers. The Lord never intended you to go it alone. He made us to function within His body, the church, wherein Christ is the cornerstone and we are built up as a spiritual house.
While our world remains enamored by appearances, be wise and consider the foundation you are building your life on.