The making of New Year’s resolutions has petered out over the course of my lifetime. No doubt this is partly because resolutions tend to have a life of about a week and a half.
But it may be that Christians have a more serious issue with making resolutions. Some of us fear that doing so is a presumption. We worry that the making of a firm decision to eliminate one behavior or to acquire another verges on works righteousness. The person who says boldly, “This year I will stop irritating my wife by being late for family functions,” or, “This year I will trust in God” is liable to the charge of having too much “I” in his statement, or operating in the flesh.
You may easily test yourself on your own discomfort quotient regarding resolutions by speaking a resolution out loud and seeing how you feel. Is such verbalized boldness foreign to you? Can you hardly get the words out of your mouth? Try these on for size: “In 2014 I will no longer bring up my husband’s past offenses when I am feeling hurt.” Or, “In 2014 I will be slow to speak and quick to listen.” Or, “In 2014 I will make a conscious choice to praise God every time I am tempted to worry.”
I could just as easily have said: “In 2014, by the grace of God, I will no longer bring up my husband’s past offenses when I am feeling hurt.” Or, “In 2014, by the grace of God, I will be slow to speak and quick to listen.” Or, in 2014, by the grace of God,I will make a conscious choice to praise God every time I am tempted to worry.”
Personally, it makes no difference to me which version I use. When I say, “I will praise God every time I am tempted to worry,” I always mean “by the grace of God.” I just don’t say it after every sentence.
I notice that the apostle Paul had no qualms about making resolutions or confident declarations:
“‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).
Hear the unqualified tone and lack of hedging and finessing and ambivalence of his declaration: “In 2014 I will not be dominated by anything.” There is a certain kind of theological hedging and ambivalence that so whittles away at resolve that it paralyzes action, and nothing ever changes.
Are you waiting for God to change you and that is why you haven’t lifted a finger to change? God is waiting for you! He has made available “all things that pertain to life and godliness,” but He will insist that you take Him up on it.
Whether pornography or anger or smoking or self-pity or a spirit of complaining or whatever has enslaved you, you have permission, as well as an example from Paul, to fill in the blanks and say, (prayerfully and calling on God’s grace) “In 2014 I will not be dominated by …”
No presumption. No works righteousness. No legalism. Just the clean confidence that is fitting for one who believes that Christ died to give not only forgiveness but also power to walk in newness of life.
One thing is certain: We can never attain that which we think is impossible. The first prerequisite for the transformed life that Jesus came to purchase—the first prerequisite for obeying His command to “put off” certain vices and “put on” righteous acts—is to believe that you can do it any time you choose because God has commanded it, and He does not command what He does not give the grace to obey.
In 2014, what about being free of what entangles you?