Grace for Your Failed New Years Resolutions

Chances are you probably made a New Years Resolution.  Many this time of year muster the will power to make the next year greater than the one before.  We set ambitious goals for ourselves and chances are many of us have probably already failed at them by now.  Maybe your resolution was to eat healthier but for lunch today you couldn’t help but go through the drive through at McDonalds.  Maybe it was to read Scripture every morning, but you found that this morning you hit the snooze button more times than you’d care to admit. Following through on resolutions can be difficult.  Creating new habits and adjusting our lifestyle can be a rocky road filled with failure. If your like me, you tend to beat yourself up over the failure.  You may berate yourself verbally or fill ridden with guilt.  Failure can often paralyze us and instantly take the wind from our sails.  Chances are if you have not failed yet, you probably will fail at your resolutions at some point.  The key to follow through is resiliency and being able to bounce back from our setbacks.  Here is where the wonderful and radical grace of God can help us in those times where we fail. Thank God our salvation is not died to our performance, even at New Years resolutions.  The grace of God empowers us to bounce back from our failures and shortcomings.

  • The Gospel reminds me that my acceptance before God is not dependent on my performance, but on Christ's. 
  • The Gospel reminds me that God’s love does not increase or decrease depending on completing my resolutions. 
  • The Gospel reminds me that though I may fail miserably, in Christ I’ve been given His great success. 
  • The Gospel reminds me that I’m free from guilt, because Jesus bore the punishment for my sins.

You see the amazing grace of God frees us from the oppressive burden of failure. In Christ we are free to fail and empowered to get back up and try again.  This truth is absolutely liberating. There is no need to sit and wallow in your failures, God’s grace compels you to get back up and try again.

You may have already failed miserably at your resolution.  You might have committed some grievous sin.  You may think of yourself as an incredible failure.  Yet, with God there is no cease to second chances. Remind yourself of the security, the comfort, and love you have in Jesus Christ, then get back up and try again.

4 Lessons from Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions

Jonathan Edwards, one of Americas greatest thinkers and pastors, was a man of incredible discipline. At New Years he tends to come up again and again because of his personal resolutions. As a young man he resolved a series of 70 resolutions for how he would live his life.  Desiring God put together a great post organizing Jonathan Edwards 70 resolutions into different categories.  You can read them all here. I love reading these resolutions, and read through them again this time of year, because you can almost feel hit youthful vigor, ambition, and drive to live for the Lord. Here are a few of my favorites.

Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

I’d encourage to take a ten minutes or so and read through all 70. By examining these carefully, here are a 4 lessons we can learn about from Jonathan Edwards as we kick off the New Year.

1. We Must Practice the Art of Self-Reflection

Edwards was a man of careful self-reflection. Many of his resolutions involve him examining his behavior. However, he is not just concerned about his own behavior but he is concerned with the sinful motivations that may be underlying his actions. Self Examination is largely losses upon us today. We tend to be too busy to pause and reflect on the state of our hearts. Yet, Edwards thought it was vital for him to regularly check the pulse of his spiritual life. In fact, he would read through his resolutions weekly to remember them and to put them into practice. Perhaps the reason our spiritual life flounders so much is because we do not pause and reflect on our own hearts. We don’t pause and let the Holy Spirit reveal to us hidden sin.

2. We God’s Glory Must Drive and Motivate All We Do

Edwards was motivated by one thing, God’s glory. His faith in God was not kept in a separate compartment away from his day to day life. Edwards was a man who wanted his entire life to be devoted to God and his glory. Many Christians today may confess Christ, but their beliefs and actions do not match up. We may say we long for God’s glory, but we do not live that way. Edwards’ resolutions were the consistent overflow of his theology and worldview. It affected how he thought about his time to how he thought about his eating. If the grace of God does not penetrate to the deepest and mundane levels of every day life, we are missing all that God has for us. The Gospel is holistic, changing the totality of who we are.

3. We Must Live in Light of our Mortality

Edwards was a man who had the faint aroma of his own death in his nostrils. He was constantly reminded of his own mortality and desired to live as if every day was his last. Although we would never say it, many of us live like we are immortal. We live as if tomorrow was guaranteed to us. We goof off and slack off now, because we think tomorrow we can get our act together. Yet Edwards lived his life with the end in mind. He didn’t not want to become an old man filled with regret over wasted time. No matter how young or old we may be, Edwards teaches us to live in light of our mortality.

4. We Must Be Ambitiously Disciplined

These resolutions are incredibly ambitious. It is that ambition that I love about these resolutions. Throughout Edwards life he would fail in the pious perfective goals he set for himself. Although he knew he would not follow them perfectly, he set them any way. He continually sought perfection in this life, even though he knew he could not attain it this side of glory. So often we tend to just give up in our walk with Christ. We think “I can never get rid of this sin” or “I will never be that Christ-like”. We tend to apathetically live our lives letting sin defeat us, all the while failing to realize that sin has lost all power in the life of the believer. Edwards reminds us that we should be unapoloticalcly ambitious in disciplining ourselves for godliness.

As you prepare to Kick Off the next year, dream big. Be ambitious in resolutions and seek after God with every fiber of your being. Resolve to do all for the glory of God and to be found a faithful steward of your life.

Happy New Year!

Why Holiness Isn't a Microwavable Bag of Popcorn

Laziness comes pretty naturally to human beings, especially to those of us in the West who tend to live in such affluent prosperity. We live in a day and age where we don’t have to work very hard. We have washing machines, dish washers, computers, cars, and the list goes on and on. We live in an age of incredible ease and comfort. So the idea of hard work is something must of us are allergic to, especially when it comes to our spiritual lives. The idea of training and working hard to be like Christ makes us cringe. We want holiness to be easy for us. We expect to be like Christ overnight. We want to transform into Jesus as fast as cooking a microwavable bag of popcorn. However, our spiritual lives do not work that way. Jay Adams writes in his book Godliness Through Discipline,

“The word discipline has disappeared from our minds, our mouths, our pulpits, and our culture. We hardly know what discipline means in modern American society. And yet, there is no other way to attain godliness; discipline is the path to godliness.”

Discipline Ourselves for Godliness

1 Timothy 4:7 tells us to “discipline ourselves for godliness”. Discipline can seem so cold and legalistic. Discipline either makes us think of our Mom grabbing the belt for a spanking or monotonous scale playing on the piano for hours on end. Discipline is  necessary for the Christian life, yet it is something we avoid. We see it as burdensome and we do not see it as a liberating joy.

The best book on Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. It is a book I recommend to anyone who is looking to grow in their faith. It is theological, historical, and above all extremely practical. In that book he lists out 10 Spiritual Disciplines.

  1. Bible Intake
  2. Prayer
  3. Worship
  4. Evangelism
  5. Serving
  6. Stewardship
  7. Fasting
  8. Silence and Solitude
  9. Journaling
  10. Learning

Strength in Some, Weakness in Others

Each of us tend to be stronger in some of the disciplines than others.  Some disciplines come much more naturally to us than others.  For example, Bible Intake and Silence & Solitude come much more naturally than Fasting or Stewardship. However we must seek to grow in discipline even in the areas where we may be weak.  Just because Bible Intake is tougher for some than others, it does not mean that we can neglect it (although it is one of the most important of the disciplines). Identify the areas that you are weak and seek to grow in them in the coming year.

Resolve to Grow Spiritually

I love new years and this time of year. We by nature almost seem to go into a state of reflection. We think about our highs and lows, our successes and our failures. Many begin to make resolutions this time of year. I think it is a great practice, although there are some potential dangers such as legalism, pride, and shame. People tend to make resolutions for all sorts of things.  Some resolve to go to the gym, quit smoking, or eat healthier.  Although all those resolutions can be good, lets not neglect the most important area of our lives, our spiritual maturity.

How about this year we resolve to grow in godliness?  We need to really seek after the Lord this year. Maybe we need to create a new habit or discipline for godliness. Maybe we need to read the Bible every day, spend nightly time in prayer, or read more edifying books.  Maybe you need to be more active in serving in your church or sharing the Gospel with others regularly. I’m not sure where in your life God is leading you to discipline yourself for godliness, but I do know this – godliness will not happen to you by accident. The Spirit of God sanctifies us through our efforts and diligence. As Paul writes in Philippians 2:12, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure”. Our Christian Maturity is a beautiful combination of God’s divine work through our human efforts. Resolve to grow spiritually this year and discipline yourself for godliness.

Better Than a Bag of Popcorn

So Holiness takes time and it takes effort.  It is not instantaneous or over night.  However in the grind of disciplining ourselves for godliness, God teaches us to depend daily on his empowering spirit and continue to draw on his restorative grace.  As we spend our lives growing in godliness and in the spiritual disciplines we will look over the course of our lives and see that God was faithful to grow us and mature us as he has promised.  We will see the beauty of his slow cooked image in our lives and his glory will be evident.  Isn't that much more glorious than a two minute bag of popcorn?

Grace for Your New Years Resolutions

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New Year's Resolutions: You either love them or you hate them. If your like me, at this time of year you are filled with past reflection and future hope.

You are looking over the past year and examining your life. "How have I grown spiritually this year?" or "Am I more like Jesus than I was a year ago?". These are great questions to ask. We need to constantly be examine our lives and seeing where we can grow and mature.

You are looking towards the future year as well. "What will this next year bring?" or "What areas of my life need to be changed?" or "What ways will I grow and what ways do I need to repent of sin?". Again, these are all great questions to ask and the end of the year brings these questions to to forefront of our minds. We form our resolutions and our hopes based off of the answers to those questions.

Tomorrow is 2013. You will begin to put those resolutions into practice. Filled with hope and excitement, I'm sure you will start off strong. You will hit the gym every day this week. You will read that book every single day. You will have great success for the first couple weeks. As we all know, starting something new is easy, but finishing is very difficult. We are all great at starting new years resolutions, but we are terrible at finishing them. Let me give you an example.  We all know that the busiest time of year at the gym is in January. Why? Because everyone is starting their resolution, but by the end of the month those resolutions wain and those new people disappear. Each and everyone of us has experienced personal failure like this. Why do we have such a hard time with follow through? Why is change so difficult for us?

I want to provide you with some encouragement to help give wind to the wings of your resolution. It is a simple truth, but I think understanding this will greatly aid us as we make changes to our lives. The simple truth is this:

Whether you succeed or fail in your resolutions, God's love for you does not change.

You see, even though we have put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Even though we believe that we are justified by faith and not by works, we still believe that we have to earn God's favor. So often, our twisted motivation for our New Years resolution is some hopeless attempt to make God love us. We think, "If I read my Bible more, then God will really love me" or "If I can start being a more loving spouse, then God will really care about me". So often we are trying to earn God's factor through our actions and through our New Years resolutions.

Here is the good news, God's love for you will not change depending on your behavior. Your standing before God has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to keep New Years resolutions! Your worth, your righteousness, and your hope is intricately tied to your union with Christ! As the Scripture says, "Even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). Even when we fail miserably, God's love for us doesn't change. God loved you at your worst. He loved you when you couldn't sink any lower, and his love towards you is just as extravagant whether you keep your New Years Resolution or not.

There is that dose of grace to help you in your New Years Resolution. Work hard and make sacrificial changes so that you can ben more like your Lord Jesus. Make those resolutions and do your best to keep them. However, even when we fail or fall short, God's grace enables us to get back up and try again. His merciful unconditional love for us empowers us for change.

What are your New Years resolutions? Have you had success in keeping them in the past? Why or why not? Share with us in the comments!