We are all aware of the widespread practice of making New Year’s resolutions. The Forbes Health/One Poll for 2024 survey found that the most popular goals were improved finances, improved mental health, losing weight, and improving diet. Self-discipline in those areas of our lives would likely be beneficial for all of us. Would those resolutions, even if put into actual practice have yielded the satisfaction of a closer, more obedient, walk with God?
For us, whose comfort is that we are not our own but belong to our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, and believe that God’s Word is sufficient for a life of faith, we enter into the New Year already knowing what we ought resolve to do. But knowing and then doing are not the same thing apart from willing and diligent effort, both in dependence on Christ’s strengthening us. Given our proneness to sloth and worldly desires, making easily reviewable Christ-centered resolutions might indeed be useful for a godlier walk.
18th century American theologian and preacher Jonathan Edwards is known, amongst his many other writings, for his seventy resolutions he wrote in his diary. Immensely helpful to us in any of our resolution-making is his preface:
“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.”
His first resolution starts out:
Resolved: I will DO whatever I think will be most to God’s glory.
As Gene Edward Veith states in a 2021 Ligonier article: “Edwards’ effort at self-improvement – though so strenuous as to engage ‘all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of’ – is that of a man wholly informed by the Word of God and the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Edwards exercised his will while knowing that his will was in bondage. He resolved to be righteous, while knowing that his righteousness did not earn his salvation. He scrutinized himself, while knowing that his spiritual security rested outside himself – in the objective fact of Christ’s atonement for his sins.”
If we Christians do make New Year’s resolutions, let us keep foremost in making them the Christian perspective and priority Edwards expressed. The resolution-walk which is to God’s glory can be summarized by the apostle Paul’s exhortation to the saints: “conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27).
A new year does invite a look back to gain perspective for looking forward. For us who have the Christian worldview, our backward and forward perspective is rooted in our union with Christ Jesus. As we do look back over the past year(s) with the eyes of faith, we “see” that indeed Christ Jesus has been with us always (Matt. 28:20). In our weakness and thus proneness to be distracted from living Coram Deo, we might not have been attentive to Christ’s shepherding presence, and did not give thanks in everything (I Thess. 5:18), including our joys as well as our sorrows. And our conduct was then likely more a witness to our remaining sinful flesh rather than a reflection of Christ living in us. And as well, whenever we lose our focus on Christ Jesus, we are malcontent and even fearful. In this new year, let us keep reminding ourselves of this memorable statement of faith: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).
So with thankfulness for God’s persevering love to us in Christ Jesus, and with dependence on Christ strengthening us we ought to resolve to indeed be running “with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (from Heb. 12: 1-2).
Entering a new year should bring hope for the future. Because the captain of our salvation is leading us ever closer to the consummation of the salvation He gained for us by His humiliation and exaltation. As Hebrews 10:23 exhorts: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
There really are no higher priority resolutions we can make than the imperatives of Scripture, since they are all rooted in the indicatives; the great and comforting works of redemption God has accomplished for us in Christ Jesus. Consider these foundational exhortations by our Lord to help our gospel-worthy, God-glorifying walk (perhaps write them as resolutions to read daily):
“Set your mind on things above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:2-4).
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col. 3:12-13).
“Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25).
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (I John 5:21).
Obviously, this is only a truncated list!
If we are to have any realistic hope of keeping, yes, imperfectly, these resolutions we must diligently avail ourselves of the regular proclamation of the gospel, study it, pray over it, be actively engaged in our local church fellowship, so as to keep on being sanctified to be heartily walking no longer according the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:1).
Let us resolve as did Jonathan Edwards:
I will DO whatever I think will be most to God’s glory.