Thursday, December 31, 2015

Should a Christian Make New Year’s Resolutions?

There seems to be 3 reasons why some say Christians should not make New Year’s resolutions:

1. They are unbiblical. You don’t see this practice prescribed in God’s Word.
2. They are worldly. This is a common practice of an unbelieving world, selfishly trying to make themselves better apart from God & His divine help.
3. They are rarely kept. Christians should follow thru on their goals.

It’s easy to read these 3 reasons and then piously add New Year’s resolutions to our list of things not to do. But are the reasons above legitimate? Should they keep a person from making resolutions?

The short answer is no.

New Year’s resolutions are not unbiblical. Scripture doesn’t speak on the subject. We need to be careful not to make hard and fast rules where the Bible does not. Where God prescribes specific actions, we must obey. Where there are obvious principles, we must practice them. But where God is silent, we cannot put words in His mouth.

New Year’s resolutions are not inherently worldly. While non-Christians may make selfish resolutions that are kept by their own strength, this doesn’t need to be the case for the Christian. Resolutions can be motivated by a desire for God to be glorified and an understanding that we are incapable of keeping them apart from God’s gracious power.

The third reason listed is entirely TRUE, but is NOT a reason against resolutions. It is faulty logic to say that because resolutions are rarely kept perfectly, Christians cannot make them. If this were true, than we should not be aiming for Christlikeness as we will never attain this perfectly. No, our aim should be the bullseye (complete Christlikeness), knowing full well that we will often miss the mark. If we set our standards lower, we are not following Jesus but rather a version of Him that we’ve created in our own minds. Yes, Christians must follow thru on our goals, but to never miss a goal means that you’re probably sitting on the bench, rather than playing as if to win.

So if there is nothing wrong with making resolutions, the question becomes: Is it good to make resolutions and if so, what should my resolutions be?

I believe making resolutions is a good idea. In fact, we should be making them all the time. Following Christ on the road of life is an every day, moment by moment decision. We didn’t (or shouldn’t have) hit cruise control when Jesus saved us. We should constantly be driving in the direction that He is leading us, while making needed adjustments (resolutions) in our steering as we start to get off course. But when we plow into another person or we drive into a ditch, it is helpful to have a clear demarcation of recommitting ourselves to following Jesus in specific ways that we’ve been neglecting.

What then should our resolutions be? The first thing to do is to ask God. He knows where you’ve gotten off course better than you. If it’s been awhile since you talked to God, your first resolution should be to become a person of prayer. I’ve heard it said and wholeheartedly agree that “Prayerlessness is a declaration of independence”. We must be people dependent upon God’s Holy Spirit working in us and on our behalf.

After asking God (and listening), take a look at what our Christian brother, Jonathan Edwards resolved to do.[1] You can find a link to an excellent article on what His resolutions were at the bottom of this post.

The basic principle for what we should resolve to do is to do what God tells us to do, for this brings Him glory. For instance, the Apostle Paul tells us “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”[2] We should resolve to not be conformed to this world but transformed into Christlikeness. If you recognize this is an area of failure, describe how you will practically do this and then resolve to do it. Repeat as necessary.

Conclusion: Our problem isn’t that we are too disciplined in our Christianity, it’s that we are not disciplined enough. Use New Year’s resolutions as an opportunity to be more faithful as a disciple-making disciple of Jesus, recognizing that it’s only by being dependent upon Him that your resolutions will ever be realized.

[2] Romans 12:1-2

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