I don’t do New Years resolutions. Now, I could give you a self-righteous answer and seem like I am above New Years resolutions (see below), and thereby make you wonder if I have so reached perfection where I don’t need to change anything. However, if I did that I would be self-righteous and those who know me best would die laughing at the ridiculousness of that assumption. The true reason is that I don’t like to fail. A study in 2005 found that 92% of Americans do not achieve their New Years resolutions (45% by the end of January)! Why would I set my self up for that kind of disappointment?
Now, at the risk of sounding self-righteous, I think that one of the inherent problems with the making of resolutions is that they are outside of the work God is doing in our lives. In Christian Theology class last semester, we went over what is called the via salutus (the way of salvation). This is the general way in which God is working in our lives reconciling us with Gods-self and showering us with God’s love. The process goes like this:
- Conviction of Sin
- Hearing the Gospel
- New Birth through Christ!
- Sanctification!! (Being made perfect in God’s love. Another process)
This is the main way in which God seeks to make us into better people, not through pithy resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking, spend more time with family. Not that these are bad, but that they are incomplete. New Year’s resolutions fail because they are Pelagian. Pelagius was accused by Augustine of teaching that humanity could work hard enough to earn their salvation. New Year’s resolution’s fail because we can’t do it on our own. Scripture is encouraging and enlightening:
But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
Matt 19:26 NRSV
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Phil 4:13 NRSV
But, do you see the emphasis (hint: I bolded it)? Anything we want to do or change needs to be done through God and with God’s Grace.
One of my favorite emphases of my Wesleyan theology is the fact that the Christian life is a journey. We are all trying to do this thing called Christianity together, and sometimes (a lot of the time), we fail in that, however, God is a God of Love who gives us second (third, forth, hundredth, millionth) chances because that is who God is (Praise be to God!). John Wesley adapted a Covenant Renewal Service, for use with the Methodist societies as a way for them, on a regular basis (usually on New Years) to renew their covenant with God. It does not need to be New Years, for you to decide to make a change, it can be any time, but I guess, now is as good as any. Therefore, instead of New Year’s resolutions, I want to share with you some of my resolves, the areas, I am praying that God will work in and through:Confession: God, in the midst of school, friends, work, and entertainment, I have relegated you to a second-class status. Neglecting the means of grace such as prayer, Scripture reading, worship, and study. Confession: God, I know that this year I have been self-righteous and self centered. I have thought of the needs of myself over the needs of others. Gospel: ““Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”” (Matthew 22:36–40 NRSV) Prayer: God, give me the grace needed to live my life focused on You. Give me the discipline to study your scriptures both personally and academically with the goal of hearing Your Word and preparing to serve Your Church. Give me a community of fellow-believers, who will hold me accountable when I fall short, and encourage me along the way. Help me to see in others the love you have for them, and to treat them accordingly. Help me to humble myself, without beating myself up, remembering that I am not the center of the universe, but that I am still created in and for Your image.
It is my hope that you who take the time to read this will also take the time to help hold me accountable to it. And, allow me to do the same for you.
Happy (and Grace-filled) New Year!