HOW TO MAKE RESOLUTIONS WORK

“I’m starting a new hobby–procrastination. Or maybe later.”

“I am going to start believing in something. I believe in cheesecake.”

“I resolve to spend more time with underprivileged kids: mine.”

Most of us feel a need for some changes. New Year’s seems like a good time. We chucked the old calendar. Can we toss out old habits as easily? Not a bad way to think, and there’s biblical precedent for doing it on New Year’s and on other times, like…

Daily. The day started for the Hebrew the night before: “There was evening and there was morning—the first day” (Genesis 1:5).  Here are questions to review the day: “Did I live for others today? Did I miss any God-appointed opportunities?” Start the day right—when you hit the sack! We take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). And the name of the Lord is to be praised “from the rising of the sun to its setting (Psalm 113:3).

Weekly. Each Sabbath brought a new opportunity for a Hebrew. A day of rest meant time for reflection. Worshipping Christians find an opportunity in taking communion: “Let a man examine himself…” (I Cor. 11:28). We are not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together…”

Monthly. Hebrews built their calendar around the moon. The Hebrew word for month (“hodesh”) means “new moon.” The new moon brought a fresh month. Time slowed down and work ceased, bringing a chance for rest and review. Some friends take a day a month for reflection.

Yearly.  The Hebrew agrarian society harmonized with nature. Key seasons came at springtime and harvest. Feasts were holy days, marked by worship and reflection. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated in the fall. It gave them (and still does) a time of serious introspection, confession, and resolve, ending ten days later with Yom Kippur, day of atonement, the most serious day for repentance and renewal in the Jewish year.

The God who says, “Behold! I make all things new,” gives us the desire to make some changes as well. Businesses take inventories. We can do the same. However–

We cannot change. Resolutions fail if founded upon our ability. Paul acknowledged that willpower did not get the job done (Romans 7:15,18). Resolutions should maybe start with the confession, “I can’t.”

God changes us through the Holy Spirit.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news, not good advice. Jesus came because we couldn’t change. If we could, no need for the cross. God works from the inside out–by the Holy Spirit. The law says, “Do.” The Gospel says, “Done!” Think about stating your resolutions as an invitation. Instead of, “I am going to exercise more,” try saying, “I am trusting You to work in me self-control.”

If we catch the rhythm of change throughout the year, we don’t have to put all our marbles in the New Year’s basket. Otherwise we cave in by Valentine’s Day. The calendar provides us with a rhythm for resolution.

One final word: who we are determines what we do. Those who only focus on the imperative, “I must change my eating habits,” don’t get the results they want. The indicative leads to the imperative. The Christian life is more about receiving than doing. If we know we are princes and princesses, how we live follows. When we get the indicative down (who we are), the imperative (how we’re commanded to be) comes more as an invitation than as a standard. Identity drives behavior. So–remember who you are, and have a happy New Year!

 

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