Tune My Heart

Living and speaking for Jesus

Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

The new year comes with renewed attempts to get our act together, to pull our socks up, to do better. Our resolutions can be vague (“eat less chocolate”) or specific (“get up at 6.30am to pray”), expensive (“join a gym”) or money-saving (“spend less on clothes”). They can be realistic (“eat an apple each day”) or seemingly unachievable (“stop looking at porn”). They can all be good desires to grow in godliness, but they can also be dangerous attempts at self-justification – trying to save ourselves through our efforts.

By nature we try to gain acceptance from God, others and ourselves through performance. We ask ourselves whether we’ve achieved enough, worked hard enough, or improved enough. If we manage to keep our resolutions, we feel better about ourselves; if we fail, we feel guilty and despondent. Success makes us think that God loves us and is close to us; failure, that he’s angry and aloof.

New year’s resolutions can reinforce the idea that we can save ourselves. For those of us who are generally self-disciplined, we can become confident in our own ability to change, to become acceptable to God. For those of us who are weak-willed, our inevitable failure leads to hopelessness. Either way, we end up focused on ourselves.

Our problems lie deeper than mere behaviour. The eyes of our hearts constantly turn inwards, looking to ourselves for salvation and satisfaction rather than to Jesus. We may try to gain acceptance from God through performance, but we never will. Spiritually, we are dead and in need of resurrection. Resolving to do better by ourselves is like a corpse resolving to learn to tap-dance.

This is why God’s resolutions are such good news. He promises us that “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). He has raised us with Christ, giving us new, resurrection life in him (Eph 2:4-5), and has promised us an eternal inheritance, giving us his Spirit as a guarantee (Eph 1:13-14). He has resolved to bring us home, and he does not break his word.

How does this change how we think about new year’s resolutions?

First, we must accept that we cannot save ourselves from the death we deserve, but God has graciously done it all. Nothing we can do will change this certainty.

With this foundation, Paul says to “offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness” (Romans 6:13). We don’t do this to earn a relationship with God; we do this because we have a relationship with God that is unshakeable, and our new hearts long to serve their new master.

So this year, let us resolve to constantly look to Jesus, knowing all our salvation and joy comes from him; and consequently resolve to do our utmost to follow him daily, knowing that he has resolved never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). His resolutions are never broken.

2 Comments

  1. Makes me think of Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation. Here are some relevant theses:

    1. The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.

    2. Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end.

    3. Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.

    13. Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin.

    14. Free will, after the fall, has power to do good only in a passive capacity, but it can always do evil in an active capacity.

    16. The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.

    17. Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.

    18. It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.

    25. He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.

    26. The law says, »do this«, and it is never done. Grace says, »believe in this«, and everything is already done.

    • 16 to 18 are where I think I was going with this – though I guess I also wanted to see what it looks like to then “offer ourselves to God” with that background. It was getting too long at that point!

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