“For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”
(1 Thessalonians 4:3)
The word we probably hear most often from almost everyone every single New Year’s is the word, resolution. People, in great hope and anticipation, become resolute in a cause to better themselves or to better something that centers around themselves. With the New Year, quite literally, representing new beginnings, it is normal, I think, for people to resolve themselves to break bad habits and become a “better” person in one way or the other. These goals, I believe, give people a type of hope that will cause them to believe that things can be better than what they are. Even further, and targeting a deeper root, these resolutions can reflect what people hold to be most valuable to them.
In order to give a face to the name, so to speak, here are resolutions that top people’s list for 2018: Eating better, losing weight, spending less, reading more, learning something new, getting a new job, and quitting smoking. Not a list unfamiliar to most of the resolving public, right? Eating well, being healthy, reading more, working yourself toward a better job, and all that, aren’t things that are inherently wrong nor is it wrong to set one’s mind to achieve them. They are respectable things to accomplish in a world filled with all sorts of horrible vices and colossal wastes of time.
My intention, though, isn’t to question the inherent goodness or badness of these types of goals. My focus, rather, is the source for why we do what we do. I think that as Christians – pilgrims travelling through a transient world – we can be susceptible to believing all of these practical things don’t matter, or we can force them into polarizing categories of black and white or spiritual and unspiritual, which would be a mistake and unbiblical. Practicing practical apathy or spiritual compartmentalization is a prison that does not leave the Christian unaffected.
My contention, as I have been reflecting on this, is that when God saves the sinner, and that sinner is brought from the darkness in His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9), that God becomes the Lord and Savior of the whole man – mind, body, and spirit – not just part of him. This means, then, (as my Pastor preached not too long ago) that in our Christian living the practical has equal value to the spiritual. In other words, our salvation through the Gospel doesn’t affect us in some spiritual reality waiting for us when we die but, instead, is something that should affect us in the here and now. The New Birth should cause us to eat well, have healthy habits, work hard, provide well, be fiscally responsible, and grow in knowledge because we “serve the Lord Christ (Col. 3:24).”
My encouragement to all who reads this, and the prayer I have for myself, is to pursue growth. We, as God’s people, should be on an unwavering quest for growth that spans a lifetime and is renewed day after day, not solely at the eclipse of a leaving and coming year, and that growth is one that should incorporate our entire being. How we talk and think; what we eat; how we take care of our bodies; how we spend our money; how we work and serve; how we use our gifts; and how we pray and read the Scriptures should be motivated by the Gospel – a Gospel that calls us to, “…work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward (Col. 3:23-24).”
There is a danger in making our resolutions the idols that we will cling to in order to provide ourselves the joy and anticipation for a better life that only God can provide. What protects us from that is recognizing that the Gospel demands all of us and instructs all that we do, in the here and now and the hereafter. Let us, then, be resolved to grow in the Lord for His glory, giving our whole life to Him, so as to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him (Col. 1:10).”
“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)