This month a lot of people will be making resolutions for the new year – little self-promises about how the things that they don’t like about themselves or their lives will somehow be different this year. It’s interesting to think about the idea of these resolutions as a Christian. While non-Christians are hoping they have enough will power to make themselves better people, as Christians we know that we can’t make ourselves good enough, and that the standard of goodness we are trying to reach is much higher than non-Christians realize!
There is far greater distance between sinful humanity and a holy God than something as simple as eating better, being nicer to strangers, or other traditional resolutions. So how should we think about living in this new year? We can’t make ourselves better, and we can’t be as good as God, anyway. So what do we do?
As we contemplate resolutions, we should be reminded about what the Bible teaches us about salvation. It talks about salvation in the past tense: we have been saved through Jesus Christ. It talks about salvation in the future tense: when Christ returns to judge the world, we will be saved from His judgment. But it also talks about salvation in the present tense, something that we are going through now in this lifetime – a process in which the Holy Spirit is indwelling us, transforming us more and more into the image of Christ. We refer to this “salvation in the present” as sanctification.
Sanctification is the Christian’s answer to New Year’s resolutions. Sanctification means that, while we certainly cannot make ourselves better people, the Holy Spirit can … and is! So while we might not make resolutions in the traditional sense, as Christians we ought to expect the results of resolutions all the same. We should expect to grow in love and grace this year. We should expect to be more disciplined in our spiritual walks. We should expect to have more wisdom and discernment – to be more like adults and less than children spiritually. This is what should happen in the lives of those who are cooperating with the power of the Spirit of God at work in them!
Thus, Christians actually have more confidence going into this new year than those making their own resolutions and trying to fulfill them in their own strength. For God has made our resolution for us: be like My Son. And He has sent His very Spirit to bring this about! But as Christians we also have more comfort when we stumble and fall this coming year, for we know that God in His grace will still forgive us, still receive us back, and still keep working in us through His Spirit until we are like His Son.
So as you see others around you making resolutions this new year, remember this: you can be different because of the Spirit of God in you. As believers, we should seek resolutions that are honoring and glorifying to God as we strive to steward our lives’ and God given blessings. Remember, too, that no matter how much you stumble, struggle, fail, or fall this year as you undergo the process of salvation in the present, God Himself has guaranteed that someday you will be perfect like the Son is perfect. When finally we see Him, we will be like Him! In the meantime, let us obey the Spirit, submit to His transforming power, and see how much we may grow in love, grace, knowledge, wisdom, maturity, and power in the coming year.
Now that sounds like a great New Year’s resolution!