Skip to main content

Resolutions That Last

New Year's Resolutions
Q: Why is it so hard to maintain resolutions that people make for the New Year? I want to walk with Jesus but it's so hard sometimes! Am I doing something wrong?

A: The first full week of 2015 has come and gone. In just a short week, many people have already become frustrated. They have failed to keep their New Year's resolution(s).

If you made some resolutions, how are you doing with them?

Change is hard. Many explanations for this reality are offered. The Bible is clear and straight-forward: Jesus taught that human beings are slaves to sin (John 8:34). This bleak truth works itself out in different ways. For our sinful ways that we enjoy, it doesn't bother us as much. We are slaves to various lusts and impulses in our flesh which we enjoy gratifying. When we enjoy gratifying them, we are usually good at justifying our behaviors.

This is a major reason why the spiritual discipline of fasting is not very popular. When we justify our appetites, and enjoy fulfilling them, we don't desire to die to self or crucify the flesh by denying those appetites. If anyone tries to point out that these things may not be in accordance with God's will, it is easy to write these things off as the ravings of a legalistic and judgmental person.

On the other hand, when our slavery to sin is expressed in an area we don't particularly enjoy, then our slavery becomes burdensome. This is often (not always) why New Year's resolutions fail. We see something in our lives that we don't like. But we're hard-pressed to eliminate it because we are powerless to release ourselves from slavery to the sin in our flesh. Only Jesus can truly make us free through repentance and faith in Him. When we are successful in bringing about change in these areas, we are usually trading one form of slavery for another (more pleasant) form.

Jesus gave the answer to our bleak problem just two verses after telling people that the one who sins is a slave to sin:
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
(John 8:36, NASB)

The question that was asked points to a Christian struggling with resolutions to genuinely walk with Jesus in obedience to Him because that's what it means to love Him (e.g., John 14:15; 1 John 5:3). I think most professing Christians can relate to this struggle. Many have experienced it for some (if not all) of their Christian walk. But why? Why is it so hard?

Questions like these are hard to answer definitively. There may be something wrong. Maybe not. What I can suggest is that I think many resolutions to change - whether they are made at the beginning of a new year, or anytime else - fail for similar reasons. We have the wrong focus.

Often our resolutions are made to change things that we don't like about ourselves. That's the problem right there. When that's our motivation, then our resolutions are really about us.

You may be saying, "Well... duh! Of course my resolutions are about me!" But this idea needs to be explored further.

Christianity is not about us. It is not about you. It's not about me. Christianity is about the glory of God.
Building on a shaky foundation
If we fail to understand this foundational point, then whatever we build on a different foundation will be shaky at best. God's grace in our lives - the reason Jesus came to set us free from slavery to sin and death - was not primarily for our benefit. It is for the glory of God. The aim of God's grace changes with this perspective.

Many resolutions to change fail because we make our resolutions about changing things in our own lives that we find unpleasant. We may ask God to help us but really we are attempting in our own strength to change our circumstances so that our life will be more enjoyable. Or, we are asking God to accomplish our will for our lives instead of submitting ourselves to His will for us. We may succeed. We may fail. But ultimately, either way, we are aiming at the wrong goal.

As Christians we should be aiming at the glory of God. Seeking to cooperate with the purpose that He intends for us. God's grace is amazingly powerful. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in all of God's people!

When we forget God's purpose for His grace in our lives, we are actually working against it.

Instead of seeking to change what we don't like about ourselves or changing circumstances that we find unpleasant, Christians ought to seek to participate with God's grace in being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ. This is God's goal for His grace in the lives of all His children (Romans 8:29). Instead of praying and asking God's power and grace to work in our lives to achieve our goals and purposes for ourselves, we should switch our prayers to ask God to cause His power and grace to work in us both to will and work for His good pleasure. This is a more biblical prayer (e.g. Philippians 2:13).

Something the Lord has been working on in me recently is opening my eyes to see that focusing on my inheritance in Christ is worthwhile. But it is not the full picture. In addition, Christians should focus not only on our inheritance but also on God's inheritance!

Does that sound strange to you? Listen to the Apostle Paul's prayer for the church at Ephesus:

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:15-19a, NASB)

Paul prays that God will give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; specifically, that the eyes of their hearts will be enlightened so that they will know the hope of His calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power toward those who believe.

To understand these things, we must not separate this prayer from the surrounding context. in Ephesians 1:3-23 God's activity in salvation and His purposes for His people are described. Christ became a man to redeem a people for Himself. The hope of this calling is amazing! Ephesians 1:14 states that God saves people and seals them with His Holy Spirit, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:14).

As God's people, redeemed by Jesus, we are God's inheritance. Let that sink in for a moment.

So often we focus on the inheritance we receive as God's people. But God has saved us to be His inheritance. To the praise of His own glory. Kind of puts a new perspective on our calling to live a life worthy of our calling, doesn't it? To live a life worthy of being an inheritance for the living God is a tall order.

This amazing truth is why Paul prayed for the Ephesians. That God would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation to understand the hope and glory of this reality. If God has saved you by the blood of Jesus, He has determined to conform you into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:28-30). God does this so that we will be a people fit for Him! God is serious about His inheritance - a people redeemed and conformed to the image of Jesus from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

We may reflect on our own lives and see failures, stumbles, and other things that are not fitting of the Lord. Paul continued to pray that we wouldn't just understand these first truths but that we would also know about the surpassing greatness of God's power toward us who believe. If you are a Christian, God is at work in you. His power is surpassingly great. As we persevere in our walk with the Lord, we should conduct ourselves with wisdom as we allow His power to work in and through us for the praise of His name. We should set our aim on allowing Him to direct the course of change so that we will be fit for Him. This is instead of us attempting to direct the changes that seem best in our eyes (for whatever reason).

It is an interesting study to see the glory of the individual Christian's inheritance in the kingdom of God. It is equally as interesting to study God's own inheritance in a redeemed people, purchased by the precious blood of Jesus.

If you are a Christian, God's grace is at work in you to bring lasting change that is fit for Him and bring praise, honor, and glory to His name. Are you participating with this grace? Or are you seeking for God to change things in your life according to your own will and comfort? I pray for all of God's people (myself included!), that our God will give us all a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that our eyes will be opened to know the hope of His calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

God's will cannot be thwarted. His purposes will be achieved. However, it is common to see that God's people all throughout history have worked against God's purposes for them - both individually and as a body. This is why repentance is necessary for both Christians and non-Christians alike. When we find we are struggling against God, we should immediately turn and once again submit ourselves to His will. Participate with Him by the power of His grace. This is what resting in God looks like. It's not passive. It's active!

Genuine and lasting change should be the reality in each of God's people. If we are genuinely His, He is working towards the purpose of conforming us to the image of Jesus. Let's participate with a full heart and mind in what God is doing in 2015 and however many days the Lord is pleased to give us. We are called to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). As representatives of Him, it is critical that we allow Him to work in and through us so that we will represent Him faithfully in the world He has made.

Comments

Popular Posts

Prayer vs. Petition

Q: What's the difference between prayer and petition? Phil 4:6 for example.

A: An excellent word study question! When attempting to study words from the text it is necessary to analyze the word being studied in the original language (in this case Greek) as attempting to look up the words in English will often produce erroneous results.

For example, in English the word petition has within its range of meanings things that are certainly not within the scope of meanings for the Greek word (i.e. “a sheet that is signed to demonstrate agreement with some principle or desire for some social action to be taken” is part of the range of “petition” but not of the Greek deesis from which “petition” is translated).

The word most commonly translated as “prayer” in our English Bibles is proseuche, which appears 36 times in the New Testament (NT) in one form or another (for the purposes of this study, we are only examining the usage of these words as nouns – the verbal forms will not be included…

What is Salvation, Part 4

Q: What is salvation and can you lose it?

There's the saying "once saved always saved". Using the scripture that no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand. (John 10:29) but it says in verse 27 My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me. So the no snatching is referring to those who hear and follow, in other words who are obedient to His Word. So, the ones that do not heed the call of the Lord and follow can be snatched?

What about sin hardening the heart? (Hebrew 3:13)

Shipwrecked faith? (1Tim 1:19)

I have heard the saying - "It's not how you start the race but how you finish it."

In Hebrew 3:14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,

If you aren't a true follower of Christ then how can you have the strength on your own to even run the race. It is because of Christ and who He transforms you to be that you would even want to run the race at all. So…

The Judgment Seat of Christ

Q: If our sins are forgiven, what are we going to stand judgment for?
A:Part of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that "...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). This is great news indeed! How amazing that the Holy and Righteous Judge and Creator of the world has made a way for rebellious and wicked sinners to be reconciled to Him.

Jesus the Christ, the one who became accursed by God so that all who believe in Him could be justly forgiven, and who rose from the dead and who is exalted at the right hand of God, has secured a victory over sin, death and the devil both now and forever. On the foundation of this completed work of Christ, believers can have assurance that they will be able to stand on the Day of Judgment. This is why it is good and right to sing the praises of Him who has overcome!

Because of what Jesus has done, the Bible teaches very clearly that our salvation is not on the basis of deeds, but on the basis of…

The Sign of Jonah

Q: Jesus Himself states, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

According to John 19:31, it seems as though Jesus died on the "day of preparation" which was immediately followed by the sabbath, and then followed by the first day of the week. This leads us to when Mark 16:2 happened, the ladies went to the tomb "very early on the first day of the week". It was at this time that the empty tomb was discovered.

My question is, according to history and maybe even Greek text, is there any explanation as to why Jesus said that He would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights when as I am reading the accounts, I am not coming up with three days and three nights?


Thank you, as always!


A: This question has been raised by many people. Numerous answers have been suggested. The reasons for asking this question are good ones. The r…

The Church Isn't A Business

I used to be a salesman. I sold a lot of different stuff. I worked retail. I did door-to-door. In all my various jobs my function was essentially the same. I was the link between company and customer.

Successful companies know their customer demographics. Many sales meetings revolve around numbers. Persons are treated as statistics. The customer becomes a set of numbers, preferences, and habits. Really successful companies cater their goods and services to a target demographic.

It's all about the consumer experience.
I remember when I began in pastoral ministry. People assured me that my experience as a salesman would be beneficial. They said there was a lot of overlap between pastors and salespeople. That may be true in our experience. But is it true of what we read in Scripture?

When I open my Bible and read about Christ's church I see a beautiful design that is very different from a business. Night and day different.

When Jesus walked the earth He rebuked those who failed t…