2018 New Year’s Resolution

I was listening to our local “positive and encouraging” Christian radio station on the way home from the pool this morning, and the disc jockeys were having a discussion about New Year’s resolutions. These types of conversations always pique my interest. Most of us know that New Year’s resolutions have no real impact to change our habits or our lives. Typically, they involve some type of diet or exercise program, and a resolve to “get healthy,” whatever that means according to current trends. But this year, according to these morning DJs, the number one resolution among those interviewed was different. The number one New Year’s resolution for 2018? To be a better person.

When I heard this, my mind immediately went to Romans 3, where Paul quotes from the Old Testament, reminding us that there is no one who does good, no one who is righteous. I was also reminded of the words of Jesus, who told us in Mark 10:18 that there is no one good except God alone. Meanwhile, on the radio, the conversation deepened to what it means to be a good person. One said, “You know, we all know right from wrong, and we need to do what’s right.”

Really? Do we really all know right from wrong? What about those who say abortion is right? Will they be better people if they do more to support the murder of innocent children in the New Year? What about those who believe in euthanasia for the terminally ill, severely disabled, and elderly? If they are sincere in what they see as a compassionate answer to suffering, can they become better people by doing more in 2018 to promote that? I don’t think so.

What is Our Moral Standard?

As you surely know by now, this world has lost sight of what is right and what is wrong, because there is no longer any moral standard. Your truth is your truth, and my truth is my truth. It saddens me that these professing Christian DJs are so ignorant or cowardly to say that we all know right from wrong. Why did they not challenge these poll results? They should have stood for righteousness, stating that there is only one “right” way, and that is the way of Christ. They should have reminded the listeners that there is no way they can ever be a good, or “better” person. Only God is good. We can only become better by becoming more like His precious son, and even that is not something we can do by working.

But, since it’s not my place to judge other believers, and I don’t know the hearts of these folks, my mind moved on to the true believers who may be resolving to be better Christians in the New Year. Even now, they are searching the internet for organizations to volunteer for, or charities to give to. They want to be more generous, more loving, and more faithful, as the Bible commands all of us to be. These are good things, friends. But what we must all remember is that there is no work we can do that will make us more holy. There is no gift, no love, no kindness that will make us more like Christ. This is the exclusive domain of the Holy Spirit.

So, how does one receive more holiness, more goodness? If we can’t manufacture it or muster it up, or do enough to earn it, how can we grow?

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;  that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Col 1: 9-13)

According to this passage, I see three important steps we can take toward holiness:

Prayer

This is the first and most important step in Christian growth. Bringing your heart before your Father often and in earnest is the most powerful and effective thing you can do if you want to mature in your faith. He is the One with the ability to change your heart, grant you repentance from sin, and set you free from life-dominating habits that would slow or stunt your growth. The humble, needy attitude of sincere prayer reminds us of our dependence on God, not just for growth, but for everything. We must know at all times that we are nothing, can do nothing unless God provides the strength. He is the creator and sustainer of all life, including our own, and He is the One who brings growth. Pray for the wisdom to know His will, and that the work you obediently do will be pleasing to Him.

Increasing in Knowledge

How well do you know this God you say you want to imitate? How often do you read and study His Word, and how much do you love it? If you are trying to know God without doing all you can to understand the Bible, you are likely to be misguided. Listening to sermons, reading Christian blogs, and playing Christian radio (even as I did this morning), will never give you the understanding of God that consistent reading and meditation on His Word will; nor will they convict your heart, change your mind, or transform your life.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Only the Bible is the infallible Word of the Living God. No pastor, Christian writer, or musician, no matter how sincere or earnest they are, is infallible. God’s Word always accomplishes its purpose; always succeeds at what it sets out to do:

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
(Is 55:10-11)

Gratitude

Paul tells us in verse Colossians 1:12 that we are to give thanks to God, because it is He who qualifies us for salvation and sanctification in the first place! We would have no desire to grow unless He had first drawn us to Himself and saved us. How can we possibly think that anything good that we do would originate with us? Our hearts are desperately wicked and beyond cure. Only God knows our hearts, and only He can change it. When you do sense that you are growing, never fail to drop to your knees in humble gratitude for even one iota of growth. Ask the Lord to show you areas where He is working in your heart, and join Him there.

I am so glad that I have not resolved to be a better person in 2018, because I know that I can never succeed in fulfilling that resolution. But I can resolve to be more submitted to Christ; to learn more of Him; to be more prayerful, and more grateful. I know that these desires will be fulfilled, because God tells me that as I trust and delight in Him, He will give me the desires of my heart. As my desires are informed more and more by His spirit, and less by my flesh, I know that they will bear fruit. This is when I will see true growth.

So, if you want to grow in the Lord, my “positive and encouraging” word to you today is this: Ask His Spirit to dwell in you richly. Dive into His Word and learn all you can of Him. Trust and obey His will as He reveals it to you, and be grateful for His wonderful mercy in your salvation.

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