So dare we even attempt to make a resolution?
To give the word its appropriate meaning it would have to be something we are sure we can, and indeed are determined we will, do. But in this flesh, knowing our sin nature, knowing that whatever plans we might have, they could at any moment be interrupted by the gracious and powerful God who rules the world (Prv. 19:21) - knowing all this, what can we be resolved to accomplish in the this next year?
Can or even should we be resolved to accomplish something this next year?
There are a lot of ambitious goals out there. And if we know we can't do something or we know we won't do something, we shouldn't try to convince ourselves that we're "resolved" to accomplish it. After all, we should live honestly and simply let our yes be yes and our no be no (Jas. 5:12; cf. Mt. 5:37).
Does that then mean that we should give up resolutions altogether? Not at all. But I would suggest thinking Biblically about them before you make them - if they are true resolutions, things about which you are decidedly resolved to accomplish. And before making them it would certainly be beneficial to heed James' warning concerning our ambitions (Jas. 4:13-15), remembering that none of our resolutions can be attainable unless the Lord sees fit to allow us to accomplish them.
And with that, I can say that if I make it to the New Year, there is one thing I am decidedly resolved to do:
I am resolved to know more and to love more my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now, how can I make such a resolution? How can I make such a claim, knowing who I am and that in and of myself I have a very great propensity to turn further and further away from the Lord? How can I be resolved in a great matter such as knowing and loving the Lord? And surely it is a great matter (Jn. 17:3; Eph. 6:24)!
The answer is that my resolve in this matter is not dependent on me, but on Jesus Christ. I am resolved to know Him more and to love Him more, not because I think I'm capable of doing it on my own, but because I'm confident it is a work He will do in me.
For of what am I capable? One thing I am sure I will be able to accomplish in the upcoming year, though in my sanctified moments I don't ever want to accomplish, is sin.
Truly we are told over and over again that as we grow in the Lord we are to sin less and less (Rom. 6:1-2, 11-14; Heb. 12:1-2; Jas. 1:22; 1 Jn. 3:6). That is the normal Christian experience, and the one for which we should, by His grace, endeavor. Yet the Bible also teaches that there will never be a time on this side of glory where we will be completely without sin (1 Jn. 1:8).
Sin by it's very nature is the opposite of growing in the Lord. Yet it is the one thing I know I will do this next year. Aware of this situation, how am I to be resolved that I will still come to know and to love the Lord more this coming year? Well the Bible speaks to that too. Though we are never commanded to sin nor are ever commended for seeking after it, it still rings true that "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom. 5:20-21).
Even as Jesus would tell those whom he healed and forgave, "go and sin no more" (Jn. 5:14, 8:11), He also spoke so clearly that those who understand their sin and the severity of it and were forgiven it - they are the ones who know and love Him more (Lk. 7:41-50). And just as John writes to His beloved sheep so that they might not sin, his very next statement is concerned with knowing the Lord as a powerful and wonderful Savior for when they do sin (1 Jn. 2:1-2).
I will strive and strive by the grace with which He enables me to sin less and less in this coming year. But because of who He is, I am resolved that even when I do sin, I will come away with a greater knowledge of and love for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Even though God is so gracious as to allow my own sin to bring me closer to Him yet there is something else that will ensure I accomplish this resolution...disappointment.
It's not only my sin that God will use to bring me closer to Him, but He will also use the sins of others. I don't know the details of what will come my way in this next year or the year after. But one thing I know with certainty that I will come to face, is disappointment. And whether that comes from my own shortcomings, the stumbling blocks created for me by others, or just the nature of a fallen world - disappointment is sure to come!
But a far greater thing than the disappointment that awaits me is the compassionate, powerful arm of the Savior that comes with any and all hardships. As He has done so often in the past, and as with all His saints, He will use the trials, the sufferings, the sorrows, and all other humbling situations to bring me closer to Him.
They are these very things that He used in the Psalmists when they would write words such as:
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
Indeed, to know the Lord is to know, at least to some extent, what He endured (1 Pet. 2:21). And it is for very good reason the Scriptures said of Him that He was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3), so scourged was He by the world (Ps. 22:6-7). Yet His only hope was the faithfulness of God (Ps. 22:10-11, 19-24, 25-31) - even amidst the greatest suffering ever known to man (Isa. 52:14). And just as Solomon teaches us that is better to go to a house of mourning than a house of mirth (Eccles. 7:4) he is teaching us to follow in the footsteps of our Savior (Isa. 53:3), so that we might know Him and love Him even more for what He went through for our sake (Isa. 53:4-5; 2 Cor. 8:9).
But greater pleasures are there still. For He never simply brings us closer to Himself through hardships, but also through many great joys. Indeed, it was "for the joy that was set before him" (Heb. 12:2) that He endured the cross and is seated at the right hand of God. And are we not seated there with Him (Eph. 2:6)? So there is so great a promise in Him bringing us through our sufferings, our hardships, our losses, our discouragements, our disappointments, our humiliations - He brings us through all these things into His marvelous joy (Rom. 8:16-17; 1 Pet. 1:6-7), because of which we will know Him and love Him even more (1 Pet. 1:8-9)!
Indeed, whether through our sin, the sin of others against us, the disappointments or challenges we face, the joys we celebrate - no matter what we encounter in this upcoming year, truly in all things Christ will bring us closer to Himself (Rom. 8:28ff)!
Does Christ then do it all?
Yes! He does it all! But in His grace He gives us an active role in participating in these blessings. We get to know the joy and pleasure of being resolved to know and to love Him more. And that is my New Year's resolution. It's a lofty goal to be sure - to know the living God and love Him continually more (Jn. 17:3; Eph. 6:24). Who can be resolved to do such a thing?
Thankfully, my resolve in this matter is not dependent on my own self-will. For if it were, I'm surely positive I would fail. My resolves is in the faithfulness of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has promised that it is He who will bring me closer to Himself!
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely,