BIG IDEA: The beginning of a New Year always brings with it the dilemma of New Year’s resolutions. These resolutions are often a symbol of our society’s inability to follow through with desires for growth or self-improvement. If New Year’s resolutions often end in failure, are they really worth our time? How can we make prayerful New Year’s resolutions that won’t just end in disappointment? If done with the right motivation, New Year’s resolutions can be a good thing.
Scripture: Philippians 2:11-13
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (ESV)
- Remember: New Year’s resolutions are a way for us to remember where we’ve been and dream about where we might go. We look to the past in order to look to the future. Look back at 2016, learn and thank God, then look forward to 2017 and resolve.
- Resolution Pitfalls
- Forgetting the past and failing to learn from it.
- Or getting stuck in the past.
- God wants us to change and grow in the way we act, and in the way we think, but more importantly in the way we desire. He often starts by changing our motives, then works the changing of our thoughts and actions.
- Wrongly motivated resolutions come from a desire to….
- …prove ourselves to God so that he will bless or save us.
- …prove ourselves to others so that they will like or bless us.
- …prove ourselves to ourselves so that we think well of ourselves or so that we can save ourselves.
- We can become rightly motivated to resolve when we recognize that God has already adopted us, that we already have a new identity in Jesus, that our sins are already forgiven. Then we become motivated to change and grow not by something within us, but by the celebratory joy of this new reality in Christ.
- Rightly motivated resolutions….
- Come from a desire to live a life consistent with our freedom from sin and our new identity in Christ.
- Come from the ability to enjoy God fully and completely in every area of life.
- We will begin to experience fuller enjoyment when our purpose matches our identity
- Make Resolutions from grace, not for grace. Let your first resolution of 2017 be to live every day by grace.
- Look Up: Consider God himself: read more, pray more, study scripture, attend church more regularly.
- Look In: Consider yourself and your community: learn to love who God has made you, explore your gifts and unique design, get counseling, be a faithful member of your Fellowship Group, mentor someone.
- Look Out: Consider others more important than yourself: find a place to serve/volunteer, get to know your neighbors, invite someone to Alpha.
- Let 2016 be 2016: leave behind unmet expectations. Release any bitterness to embrace change and newness.
- Focus on the will of God that you know for sure:
- Focus on his general will for your life instead of your specific calling.
- Maybe God’s waiting for you to master his general will before he gives you a specific calling.
- What is the general will of God? We will see it defined in part during our continuing study of Ephesians. The “will of God” for all Christians according to Ephesians is to….
- Praise God for his eternal mercy, grace, and spiritual gifts.
- Be peaceful, harmonious, united, and working together with all Christians.
- Separate your new self in Christ from your old self and its sinful habits and patterns.
- Be angry at sin and evil whenever you see it, but not to retaliate with your own anger.
- Get an honest job and do something useful with your time.
- Speak life and love into other people and not gossip and tear down others.
- Be kind, generous, and forgiving with all people.
- Warn others about the destructive nature of sin.
- Sing songs of praise together with other Christians.
- Love your husband well and respect his leadership, if you are a wife.
- Love your wife well and sacrifice for her as Christ does for the church, if you are a husband.
- Honor your parents by listening to them and respecting them.
- Discipline and instruct your children well, but not be overbearing, if you are a parent.
- Respect your boss and work hard for him/her even when they aren’t watching, if you are an employee.
- Respect your employees and care for them in the same way you would care for yourself, if you are an employer.
- Arm yourself for godly living by
- Knowing God’s word
- Loving to pray
- Standing firm in truth
- Leading with faith in front of you
- These things are the will of God for your life.
- You can do all of this. You can strive towards the will of God in 2017 regardless of knowing the specifics of who you are working for, where you are living, if or who you are married to, how much money you make, how old you are, or what your ten-year plan is.
- Focus on God’s general will for your life this year, and you will experience real change and growth in 2017.
BOOK LIST FOR 2017: Consider making one of your 2017 resolutions to read one of these books as one of your LOOK UP resolutions.
MERE CHRISTIANITY // C.S. Lewis
SCREWTAPE LETTERS // C.S Lewis
MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST // Oswald Chambers
LIFE TOGETHER // Dietrich Bonhoeffer
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP // Dietrich Bonhoeffer
THE CASE FOR CHRIST // Lee Strobel
THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL // Brennan Manning
BASIC CHRISTIANITY // John Stott
THE PURSUIT OF GOD // A.W. Tozer
THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HOLY // A.W. Tozer
ORTHODOXY // G.K. Chesterton
KNOWING GOD // J.I. Packer
HANDBOOK OF CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS // Peter Kreeft
EVERYDAY CHURCH // Tim Chester & Steve Timmis
THE REASON FOR GOD // Tim Keller
EVERY GOOD ENDEAVOR // Tim Keller
THE UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR // James Sire
THE HIDING PLACE // Corrie Ten Boom
DESIRING GOD // John Piper
THE NEXT CHRISTENDOM // Philip Jenkins
THROUGH GATES OF SPLENDOR // Elisabeth Elliot
HOW CHRISTIANITY CHANGED THE WORLD // Alvin J. Schmidt
THE GOD WHO IS THERE // Francis Schaeffer