The Gospel & New Year’s Resolutions!
I’m excited as we start the New Year together as a church. I have lots of learning to do but look forward to seeing God’s grace unfold in our church family. How do we resolve to do that?
Dr. David Powlison, biblical counseling guru, helped me to understand how individualistic we are at times when we make resolutions. We often make resolutions that set us up for failure or success based upon man’s ability to change him or herself.
We often describe our problems while not seeing the gospel as the goal. Powlison illustrates this concerning men and women—“I find abc displeasing about myself.” Then, we make no evaluation in relation to the power of our passions, fears, habits . . . inner sinfulness, sin directly against God Himself . . . We often propose self-dependent solutions – “I resolve to do xyz to change myself.” Change depends on fickle will-power and on common-sense strategies for self-management (e.g., “set achievable goals that are personally meaningful, and take small steps”). So they fail in large measure. Or, even when they succeed, they create absolutely no reasons to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
A self-improvement plan finds no corporate context for commitment, no reasons for joint effort and mutual accountability, and no participation in a common cause bigger than any and all of us. So it fails. Or even if it succeeds, ditto the previous paragraph. I might feel better about myself, but what is God thinking about the Better Me I have become?
Is Christ at the center of my plan while the church encourages me or am I a lone ranger?”
In other words, we need to see our resolutions as a response to God’s grace not fleshly remorse that leads to temporary results. Powlison encourages believers to “express the mind of Christ, mapping out a new life through all our days and years.” For example, the mind of Christ identifies sins like the following: gluttony, laziness, drunkenness, overspending, drivenness, anxiety, and the rest against what ought to be. It aims for the fruits of change: temperance, diligence, gratitude, stewardship, rest, trust, love, joy, and peace (Galatians 5:22-26).
Here is a great resolution we could all adopt…“I now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that I will endeavor to live as a follower of Christ.”
This resolution impacts how we handle hefty balances on our credit cards as well as bitterness that can brew in our hearts towards those we know. Let these words by the Apostle Paul be our prayer, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:4-5).”
I pray we will keep applying the gospel on January 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on…individually and collectively as a church…put together by God to proclaim His power (Romans 1:16, Eph. 3:10).