The new year…the time when we “resolve” to somehow “be better.” The time when we look at ourselves and determine to fix that which we perceive to be wrong. We commit to lose that weight, stop drinking, go to church more, and finally stop letting our past dictate our future. The time when we abandon all that is gospel.
To be sure, these are all very good things, but what drives those resolutions? Is the desire to lose weight driven by a desire to be a good steward of the body God has given us, or is it driven by mere vanity and the desire to wear a swim suit come summer without blushing in shame? Are we seeking to be seen as strong and dominant over our past, or are we really wanting the power of Christ in the gospel to heal us from it, and by doing so, confess our weakness?
In Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian writes:
[Legalism] shows up when behavioral obligations are divorced from gospel declarations.”
I fear that many times we approach the new year with yet another attempt at fulfilling external behavioral obligations without realizing that we’re going to fail, and fail miserably, without the internal work of gospel realization in our hearts and minds. When the gospel breaks our vanity and replaces it with good stewardship, we have a deeper desire to stay healthy than other people’s opinions. When we the gospel frees us from addiction, we find the strength to resist compelling urges. When the gospel gives us a deep love for Christ and His body, we find ourselves longing for authentic gospel-centered community, not just the desire to appear as a “good person.” When the gospel heals us from our past wounds, the gospel breaks that hold over us, freeing us from both the past wounds and from our current pride of having to be dominant. Instead, we can confess that because Christ is strong, we are free to be weak.
Yet, our sanctification, though resting firmly in God’s sovereign hands, does not come without our own effort as His intended means to that end. So, my challenge to each of us is this, consider Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions, and how he prefaced them with the following:
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.
Whatever you resolve, resolve to do so according to God’s will, by the power of the gospel, for the sake of the gospel. And whatever you want to resolve, pray that God would give you the desire to keep the resolution, and that the gospel would be the fuel that propels your life this year, in all things, not just resolutions.