Re-considering New Year resolutions

The first day of the new year is often marked by people making resolutions to do certain things in the new  year (or stop doing certain things).

The more observant among you might notice that I’ve marked out this post as theology, rather than personal. So this isn’t going to be a post on my resolutions for the new year. I have mine written down already. Rather, it’s a post on 4 general resolutions Christians tend to make, and how we can think through each of them within a biblical framework.

1. To serve God more

Usually top of the ‘Christian’ resolutions. I appreciate the good intentions that underlie such a resolution. But I would ask you to consider what it means to serve God, in light of Paul’s statement in Acts 17:24-25: The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. There is nothing we can give to God that he does not already have. If we wish to relate better to God in the new year, don’t make service the key point. First and foremost, learn to enjoy better your position as children of God. Delight in the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Spend time with them. Don’t spend all your time serving them. Be like Mary, not Martha, who understood that spending time listening and resting in Jesus was the most important thing of all. Let Christ meet all your needs.

And while this might appear selfish on the surface, it is far from selfish in reality. By resting and delighting in God, we glorify Him as an all-sufficient loving Father who delights to meet all our needs. By enjoying our status as children of God, we will glorify Him by being the children we really are. And as we spend time with the Father, Son and Spirit, this communion spurs us on to encourage and love one another. Christ meets our needs, so that we are freed to meet the needs of everyone else, both people in the church, and outside the church.

2. To finish my Bible reading plan this year

This is a most commendable resolution. In fact, I would encourage people to get stuck into the Bible, as it is the primary means of grace and the only infallible standard by which we can come to know God and grow in our relationship with him. However, if you are like me, that is a slacker and shirker, here are some modifications I would recommend.

First, I’m not quite sure where the one year time limit comes from. I guess there’s a nice ring to finishing the Bible in a year. And it is in fact entirely do-able. So for those able to do so, by all means go ahead and do so. But if you’re the sort to slack, or the sort to speed read each day without really absorbing the Bible in its entirety, I suggest getting your favourite reading plan, strip out the dates, and move through them at your own pace. Then call up a fellow Christian and ask them to keep you accountable, to make sure you don’t go a whole week without reading your Bible, and that you in fact attain a minimal comprehension of what you are reading.

Second, I would suggest purchasing a book that will help you to study the Bible (alternatively, find a mature Christian you can learn this from). Far too many Christians skim over the surface raking for leaves when they should be rolling up their sleeves and digging deep for treasure. Dig Deeper by Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sachs comes highly recommended on my part.

Third, for all the long commuters among you, if you can’t read the Bible this year, then would you consider listening to it? Getting an audio Bible, or subscribing to the ESV podcast, will in fact help you listen to the entire Bible this year. After all, we already spend too much time listening to music or the radio. Why not spend your time listening to the Bible?

Fourth, start building in memorising the Bible into your routine. In addition to resolving to finish the Bible in whatever time period, resolve too to spend time each week memorising some portion of the Bible. Not just your favourite verses, but chunks of text, as to keep each truth in context. This sort of memorisation slows down your reading and allows you to meditate deeper on the truths in the passage you are memorising.

3. To stop [insert action]

Be very careful with this one! At the start of the year it would be wise to remind ourselves of the wonderful gospel of Christ and how it relates to living upright and godly lives. We do not preach a gospel of morality: be good and God will bless you. Rather we preach a gospel unto depravity: there is no way you can be good (Rom 3:23), but God loved us while we were still sinners that Christ died for us (Rom 5:8) – to pay the penalty of our sin, overthrow the power of sin in our lives, and establish his benevolent dominion over us.

Remember then first of all that our efforts at being good doesn’t make us right before God. Nor can it make us MORE right before God. We are as justified as we ever will be in Christ. Resting in this wonderful truth, live your lives as faithfully as you can as children of God. There is no sin he has not already forgiven, and no pressure to attain a moral and godly standard by our own willpower.

4. To be more [insert positive characteristic]

We all like to be more loving, or more considerate, or more disciplined. I have very little to say that has not already been said above. Drink deep first from the fountain of God. If anyone wishes to be more loving, he must drink deep of the one who loved us most and gave us his Son. If anyone wishes to be more considerate, he must drink deep at the fountain of the one who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but humbled himself unto death for us. If anyone wishes to be more disciplined, he must drink deep at the fountain of the one who bent every fibre of his being – mind, heart, body and soul – to the mission given to him by the Father.

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