Theology Tuesday: 4 Christian Principles for Making New Year’s Resolutions
As we enter the first full week of 2018, many of us will be making resolutions. What are some biblical principles for doing so? We’d encourage you to look over this article by Burk Parsons (pasted fully below) as you do this.
The nineteen-year-old Jonathan Edwards knew his weaknesses and was aware of the destructive nature of his sin, so he resolved to make and keep certain resolutions in his effort to live for God’s glory. He helped pave the way for us all as he prefaced his seventy resolutions with these words:
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.
These simple, introductory words of Edwards not only provide us with a glimpse into the mind of one of history’s greatest minds, they provide us with a glorious insight into the heart of a young man whose heart had been humbled and mastered by the Lord God Almighty. We would therefore do well to consider Edwards’ prefatory remarks as we seek to glorify God and enjoy Him forever in our churches, our homes, and our hearts.
“Being sensible,” Edwards begins his preface—we must be sensible, reasonable, in making resolutions. If we set ourselves about the business of hastily making resolutions as the result of our grand illusions of sinless perfection, it is likely that we will not merely fail in our attempt to keep such resolutions, we will likely be less inclined to make any further resolutions for similar desired ends. We must go about making resolutions with genuine prayer and thorough study of God’s Word. Our resolutions must be in accord with the Word of God; therefore, any resolution we make must necessarily allow us to fulfill all our particular callings in life. We must consider all the implications of our resolutions and be careful to make resolutions with others in mind, even if it means implementing new resolutions incrementally over time.
“I am unable to do anything without God’s help,” Edwards admits. We must be sensible in grasping the simple truth that every resolution must be made in dependence on God. And while every Christian would respond by saying, “Well, of course we must depend on God for all things,” most Christians have been sold the world’s bill of goods. They think that once they become dependent on God, then they will have immediate strength. They mimic the world’s mantra: “Whatever doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.” While the principle is generally true, such thinking can foster an attitude of proud independence. We must understand that in being able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us means that we must depend on His strength continuously in order to do all things and to keep all our resolutions (Eph. 3:16; Col. 1:11). In truth, whatever doesn’t kill us, by God’s conforming grace, makes us weak so that in our weakness we will rely continuously on the strength of our Lord (2 Cor. 12:7–10).
“I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions.” In making resolutions for the glory of God and before the face of God, we must not come into His presence pounding our chests in triumphal arrogance as if God must now love and bless us more because we have made certain resolutions to follow Him more. In reality, the Lord in His providence may choose to allow even more trials to enter our lives; in His unchanging fatherly love for us, He may decide to discipline us even more in order that we might more so detest our sin and delight in Him. We should approach Him in humble reliance on His grace as we seek not merely the blessings but the one who blesses.
Resolving For Christ’s Sake
“So far as they are agreeable to his will for Christ’s sake.” We cannot resolve to do anything with a presumptuous attitude before God. The whole matter of making resolutions is not just goal setting so that we might have happier lives. We are called by God to live according to His will, not our own—for Christ’s sake, not our own—for it is not unto us but unto Him that all glory belongs (Ps. 115:1).