New Year’s Resolutions

Approaches to Making Resolutions

Every year I debate whether or not I should make New Year’s resolutions. This debate involves considering various approaches such as:

It also includes asking those closest to me if they’re making any resolutions. If they are, I ask them to share their goals with me and to tell me what they think of mine.

My debate also involves considering the reasons why many people choose to NOT MAKE resolutions. I don’t mean those who are just too lazy to set goals; I’m referring to people who deliberately choose not to set them and to either abstain altogether or take a non-traditional approach.

One approach is advocated by Pocket Mindfulness who explains Why You Should Not Set New Year’s Resolutions and What to Do Instead. It advocates:

“Rather than rushing forward in a panic to set resolutions or a list of goals you can start on New Year’s Day, forget all that and enter the New Year in a mode of being absolutely present, and absolutely positive, about how great [the coming year] is going to be.”

Another example comes from Tim Ferriss who recommends that we Forget New Year’s Resolutions and Conduct a ‘Past Year Review’ Instead. There’s also the approach of Georgia Bloomberg, professional equestrian and philanthropist, who says:

“I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I think if you want to change something, change it today and don’t wait until the New Year.”

I don’t disagree with Bloomberg, though I do think there’s value in including New Year’s resolutions in the process of change if only as a review as Ferriss recommends. Finally, simply determining to be “absolutely present, and absolutely positive” just doesn’t have enough substance for me.

Why I Make Resolutions

For the last 10 years or so, I’ve decided to make resolutions of some sort for the coming year. Ultimately, I make this decision because I can’t get past the success doing so has brought me. Not a perfect record. Not even close. Yet, far more progress with resolutions than without them.

I also make them because they have brought me closer to God and increasingly into His will. Plus, the Bible encourages the sort of self-reflection and examination that come with the process of making resolutions.

“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40)

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Simply put, making resolutions at the end/beginning of each year just reminds me to:

  1. Regularly go through this process of examination and renewal.
  2. Keep making progress toward perfection.
  3. Remember that I cannot make that progress on my own.

2020 Resolutions

In my yearly conversation over whether or not to make resolutions, I decided to make them for 2020. Doing so this year involves combining the approaches I’ve mentioned above with what has worked well for me in past years. That includes doing the following:

  • I am reflecting and looking for areas of weaknesses as well as strengths to improve upon.
  • My reflections are extending beyond 2019 and into the entire past decade.
  • Each resolution involves focusing on being absolutely present and more positive.
  • The “One-Word 365” approach can be expanded with multiple words that collaborate toward a resolution philosophy for the year.

Perhaps you’ve also noted that this reflection about New Year’s resolutions comes after the new year has already begun. My resolutions are not fully developed yet. This brings in a significant lesson I’ve learned over my many years of making resolutions: Don’t force them. Instead, pray about them. Reflect on them. Let the Holy Spirit lead you down the path of God’s will.

Going Public

FearFor many people, myself included, telling others about Jesus seems a bit like telling people about Amway. At least, the discomfort (fear?) ahead of time feels similar, and the reaction received is also strikingly similar. (I’m not at all proud of this truth, by the way.)

But that’s stupid. Isn’t it? I mean, Jesus is the best news ever, but people seem to receive words about him with as much disdain and skepticism as they do multi-level marketing.

Not exactly sure why this is, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Loving Jesus is a lifestyle, it’s actions, and not simply the words we use. As I thought about this and realized my struggle in this area, the Holy Spirit turned on a light that showed how sharing the Gospel — talking about Jesus — really is not difficult.

  • Focus on Gratitude — Letting people know what Jesus has done for you comes from a place of gratitude, not fear. So, if you feel fear, try focusing on being thankful.
  • Remember Your Anointing — Isaiah said it first, and Jesus quoted him. They said the “anointed” would proclaim the good news to the poor. We also know that the anointing abides (dwells) within us (1 John 2:27). So, no matter how we feel about our abilities or how about we’ll be received, the anointing exists to qualify each one of us.

Public 1

  • Focus on What You Know — What you know best is what Jesus has done for you. Simply speak to what you know about him personally.
  • Don’t Force It — Don’t focus on where you see others headed without Jesus, at least not at first. Let them see Jesus in you first and wait for the opportunity to go further.
  • Create Awareness — Do this by the way you live life with Jesus. Let his peace and power be seen in and through you amidst the chaos of life, and let others be drawn to him as they desire that same peace and power. Trust the Holy Spirit to do the drawing.

Yes, Jesus and the Gospel of salvation seem too good to be true. The idea that our past can be erased and that we can be made new and pure is amazing. The fact that it’s free to us is baffling. In today’s culture, many people want something for nothing but avoid that which truly is free to them. Salvation is free to everyone, but making him Lord requires giving all of what we are.

“If you live for Jesus as a secret agent, you’ll eventually wake up as a double agent.” (Pastor Steve Miller)

Don’t keep Jesus a secret. Don’t try to live for him on the inside and neglect doing so on the outside for fear of what others might think. The Great Commission says to “go and make disciples.” This “go” really means “in your going,” in other words, “as you go about your life.”

For me, this means as I write and teach. It means as I parent my two boys and as I fulfill my marriage covenant. It means taking the opportunities God gives to share Him and realizing these opportunities often come through the way that I live life and the way I react when life runs me over.

Forcing things in my life has never turned out very well. In fact, it’s almost always gotten me overwhelmed and in places I knew weren’t meant for me (jobs, commitments, etc.) But waiting for God to open doors always leads down the path of balance.

It’s hard to resist creating my own path. After all, the worlds’ wisdom says I need to make my dreams happen. But that’s just never worked for me. Every opportunity that’s held God’s anointing came when He created the path as I waited for him to do so. Taking steps down the path he creates isn’t always easy and require a lot of effort on our part, but they will always lead to a place where going public about Jesus comes from who we are in him and not from forced “shoulds.”

DISCUSSION: How do you feel about “going public” about Jesus?

The Old Will Become New

Garage sales. Yard Sales. Rummage sales. Whatever you call them, they represent one person’s junk becoming another’s treasure.

We recently bought a new (i.e. gently used) vehicle. As we cleaned out the old vehicle, I remembered when it was new to us. Now, it will move on and become new for someone else, stained seats and all.

If you watch any of the trendy decorating shows on television (see HGTV for examples), the word “repurpose” comes up a lot. This refers to taking a household item and finding a new use for it.

These examples illustrate that we are surrounded with the old becoming new again, and we are active participants in that process.

Scripture talks about the old becoming new again in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. Through Christ, Christians have been “made new” and become “ambassadors for Christ.”

What are the characteristics of someone who has been “made new” for Christ?

  1. Controlled by the love of Christ. In the old life, the flesh controlled. In this new life, the love of Christ now motivates. With new motivation comes new attitudes, actions and words that please Him.
  2. Live to please Christ. Our motivations change from pleasing self to pleasing God. What we say and do and the way that we say and do them now focus on glorifying Him and not ourselves.
  3. No longer evaluate others and Christ through the world’s eyes. Instead of looking at Christ and other people from a worldly point of view, we can look at them through the eyes of Scripture. Only in this way can we see others with grace, mercy and hope and know that He is the source of those things.
  4. Have the task of reconciling people to Him. Since we are now new creations in Christ, we have the task of encouraging others toward being made new in Him too.
  5. Speak to others about the Gospel. Encouraging others toward being repurposed or made new requires telling them about the Gospel.

Being repurposed as a Christian does not mean just being changed into something else. It means literally being re-created. It means beginning a brand new life in Christ. It means all the past sins are gone and completely under the blood of Christ.

Being made new in Christ requires letting go of the old life and stepping into the new one He has created for us through His death and resurrection. All the old stuff from our past (that means our sins) cease to exist in His eyes.

Unfortunately, I sometimes become a hoarder who for some reason finds herself unable to part with pretty much anything. Her house becomes impassable from being packed with items collected over years and years of hoarding. My hoarding involves holding on to old attitudes, actions and words that don’t reflect my being a new creation in Christ.

Christ calls us to let go of that which entangles or weighs us down and to “throw off [the] old evil nature and former way of life” and to instead allow for a “spiritual renewal of thoughts and attitudes” that shows itself in our attitudes, actions and words (Ephesians 4:20-24). In other words, we can’t be hoarders of our old way of life. Once we become Christians, we must allow ourselves to be transformed into new people. In this process, we get to be a part of the greatest victory ever achieved.

DISCUSSION: Ephesians 4:25-32 gives some very specific suggestions for transforming our old selves into new creatures. What suggestions can you begin to apply today?

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