New Year’s resolutions are a tradition far more dangerous to following Jesus than enjoying a pagan-inspired Christmas tree. The way we do resolutions gives us false hope, and encourages us to focus on things that probably don’t matter much, in the light of eternity. Scripture shows us a better way, a more encouraging, and ultimately, more effective way, to engage in change.
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NEW YEAR’S 2022
I love Christmas. There’s no way you could call me a Christmas scrooge. I like the spirit of the season. I enjoy getting gifts and I like giving them too. But when it comes to New Year I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, some New Year’s traditions appeal to me. I think it’s a good thing to look at where you have been for the past year, and then evaluate and consider possible adjustments in your life for the next year. Hanging out with your loved ones and considering how important they are to you, is also a great New Year’s tradition.
There are other traditions that aren’t so great, like beginning the brand new year by getting falling-down drunk. I also don’t care for the tradition that there is no more eggnog available in stores after New Year’s Eve. And there is one New Year tradition to which I emphatically say, “bah humbug.”
New Year’s resolutions.
Let’s face it, almost nobody keeps them. Nobody remembers them. Do you remember your resolutions for last year? But it’s not just that New Year’s resolutions don’t really accomplish anything for most people. The fact is, New Year’s resolutions, the way our culture practices them, reinforce a false understanding of spiritual reality and human nature. New Year’s, when we make resolutions, is a time when we reaffirm our belief in the power of the flesh.
Consider your most typical sorts of resolutions. We resolve to lose weight. Most of us don’t ever think about how, we just say we want to. We resolve to exercise three times a week. We resolve to say one nice thing every day, or to finish writing a book, or even to read the bible every day. Maybe we resolve not to get falling-down drunk next New Year’s Eve.
None of those resolutions are bad. New Year’s resolutions are full of good intentions.
Three things draw us to New Year’s resolutions. First, we see there is a problem. There are things in our lives that should be addressed. This is a very positive thing, and it is the only part of the resolution concept that I approve of.
But secondly, we gravitate toward resolutions because we are inclined to believe that we have the power within ourselves to change ourselves and make the world a better place.
Third, we tend to make New Year’s resolutions because our focus on what is in this world, instead of our eternal future. I’m not saying it’s bad to lose weight. I want to be healthy. I want to look like my old svelte self. But whether I lose weight or not, I will die someday. When this body is gone, it really won’t matter whether or not I lost weight in 2022. Most of the things we resolve at New Year’s don’t matter eternally. I’m sure some people make eternal-oriented resolutions, but the vast majority of our focus is on things that really don’t matter very much.
New year’s resolutions fail so often for two reasons.
First, they are ultimately self centered. I resolve to do this. I resolve not to do that. The focus of almost every resolution is self. Even an unselfish resolution – like saying something uplifting every day – are not focused on all the encouraging things there are to say – but rather, on the fact that I am going to say them.
Second, they rely on the power of the flesh. Aren’t you the same person that failed to keep your New Year’s resolutions last year? Isn’t the reason that you need to lose weight in 2022 because you failed to control your diet in 2021 (for me, the answer would be “yes!”)? Isn’t the reason you are resolving to exercise is because you have not been exercising? What makes us think that the mere passing of a certain date will make us able to do what we have not done yet?
It is a fake chance to start over – to start over in exactly the same manner you failed before. It is doing what you have always done, and expecting a different result. The reason I’m talking so much about New Year’s resolutions, is because it isn’t just New Year’s. We tend to live our whole lives this way.
Generally, we recognize when we have problems. But our approach to solving them is to put hope in the same flawed person who got you your problems in the first place – you. We think we can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We’ll think we’ll just act differently next time. But we can’t. We are trying to live not by the grace of “receive” but by the law of “do.”
God has a different approach to our problems. He would like to kill the sinful flesh. In fact, when we turn our lives over to Jesus, that is exactly what he does. Through faith, baptism buries us with Christ – our sinful flesh is dead and buried. We want to keep resurrecting it, so to speak, and trying to make it work for us. But the bible says, it’s dead. Let it rest in peace. Paul puts it this way:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.(Galatians 2:20)
So, you don’t get to make New Year’s resolutions anymore, because the old you is dead. The life you have now is the life of faith, not flesh. It is the Life of Jesus Himself that shall be lived out through you now. Are you going to bind the life of Jesus to some barely-relevant, ultimately meaningless New Year’s resolution?
Colossians 3:1-4, says this:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
You died. Your flesh is counted as dead in God’s eyes. There’s nothing there anymore to fix or reform. You’re trying to put make-up on a corpse, and the result is only grotesque. Why are we messing around like this anymore? Paul says to fix our eyes and our focus on our real life – the eternal life that is ours with Jesus. It’s already in heaven, hidden until Jesus returns. That is where our focus should be for the New Year, not with what is already dead and dying.
Now, you may say, but Tom, what if there is something that really should change in my life, something that may have eternal significance, like getting into a habit of daily bible reading?
I’m so glad you asked.
When I was thirteen years old, I read a book called the Cross and the Switchblade, by David Wilkerson. It was the exciting true story of how a small-town pastor in Pennsylvania began a ministry to gang members in New York City. There was crime and fighting and it was a great book. Also in the book, was the story of how David Wilkerson got filled with the Holy Spirit when he was thirteen. I wanted that to happen to me, so I prayed that God would fill me with the Holy Spirit
As far I could see, nothing happened. I didn’t feel any different. I didn’t speak in tongues. Sometime, not long after that, I finished mowing our lawn. It was my favorite time of day, and our spot in Papua New Guinea was really quite pretty. I looked around and said, “God, you are so beautiful, I’m going to read the Bible every day from now on.”
That wasn’t the first time I tried to read the Bible regularly. I had started many times before, and never got much further than Exodus. But it was the first time I’d tried to read the bible after I asked to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I read a chapter that night. I read the next chapter the next night. For some reason, I didn’t start in Genesis this time. I read the psalms first. Then the New Testament. Then I went back a read a few books in the Old Testament. Ten years passed…and I had never missed a single day of bible reading until I was about 23. During many of those years I traveled extensively. I often went out, and stayed up late, like any respectable young person. But somehow, I always read my Bible before I turned in, wherever I was, no matter what time it was.
Now, it wasn’t New Year’s when that happened. I didn’t think about some resolution I wanted to make. But the life of God, living through me (not my flesh) resolved in me to do this. I really don’t think I can credit myself with anything here. What thirteen year old boy decides to take up bible reading? What teenager can stick to a promise to read the Bible every day? Not me. It was the Holy Spirit, living in me, that brought forth the resolution, and the power to carry it out.
What we need in 2022, is not more effort. We need more Holy Spirit. More trust in what Jesus has already done for us. We need to hear from him, to obey when he speaks, and trust that he – not us – will carrying it out through us, using His power.
Take a moment right now with the Lord. Ask him to fill you again with his Holy Spirit. Or ask him to do so for the first time!
Now sit quietly a minute more. Let Him speak to you about 2022, about your life, about His life that he wants to live through you. Be aware this next week, of how he might speak to you. And trust him for the power to do what he wants to in you and through you!
3 thoughts on “NEW YEAR: 2022. KILL THE RESOLUTIONS!”
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
I read your post and I definitely have to say I never ever, viewed a New Year resolution as self-center and I still don’t.
Here is just my humble view on this topic..
Writing down ” Goal” to accomplished is not crossing God out, the bible is clear, we can do all things through Christ who strengthen us, writing down desires of our heart may it be to eat healthy, read the bible more, is a desire of the heart and something we can look at daily, read and take to God in prayer.
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
New King James Version
2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
We have to be very careful to not assume the person making a New Year resolution is not honoring God or praying over their hearts desire to do better. As a Christian we know that we do everything unto the Lord. We should be more worried about people pulling away from God then making a resolution to read their bible more. The bible tells us that satan is the accuser of the brethren.
Hi Rashida, thanks for commenting. You make some very good points; definitely heard. I’m very sorry if I came on too strong. My main point was not that all NY resolutions are self-centered, but rather sometimes, the focus becomes more about us, rather than the Lord. I think maybe we should consider a few things whenever we want change in our lives: Is the change regarding things that are important to God, or things that won’t matter in eternity? What motivates us to change: desires of the flesh/pressures from the culture around us, or does it come from God’s Word/Spirit/People? Finally, are we trying to carry out the change in the flesh (e.g. our own strength), or do we consciously rely on the power of God through his Word, Spirit and people?
As always, I am not remotely infallible, but God’s Word is. If there seems to be a conflict between my teaching and the Bible, of course, listen to God’s Word, not me. I’m so happy to see that you know the Word for yourself!
I am also very glad that you are here on WordPress, and engaging: it blessed me to know that! Have a very happy New Year, walking with Jesus!
Good morning Pastor Tom.
I appreciate you taking the time to reply back and I now have a better understanding of your message, and the importance of making sure that in everything that we do and goals that are set to make sure they are Christ centered.
Have a wonderful New Year, and I look forward to reading more of your posts!