As we begin the new year, people all around are setting their annual new years resolutions. These could be living a healthier lifestyle, learning a new skill or hobby, ending bad habits and/or starting good habits, and many more. These are all very good things to do, and I’m glad that people are wanting to improve their lives. However, I think that it is very easy to have a shortsighted view when it comes to making resolutions and we can easily lose sight of what really matters.
It all really comes down to this: What is the main motivation for why we are making a resolution, no matter what it is? Are we doing it so we can feel better about ourselves and improve our self-esteem? This is by no means a bad thing. Are we doing it so that others will see us and praise us? This could potentially lead us down a dangerous path. Or are we doing it out of a sense of duty? We see others around us doing it so we feel obligated to join in, even though we really don’t want to. This could be a possibility.
Whatever our motivation may be, it is incredibly important that we never lose sight of what our main drive and motivation should really be, and that is this: That “whether [we] eat or drink, or whatever [we] do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Boosting our self-esteem is not a bad thing, but when it is the main thing or the end goal we have in sight, we will never be satisfied. There will always be something else we need to improve, another issue we need to resolve, and so on. But, if glorifying God is our end goal, the thing we most desire, we will find our confidence in that.
When the glory of God is our end goal and our confidence alone is the finished work of Christ, we no longer feel powerless to improve ourselves. And it’s not just that we feel powerless apart from Christ, the reality is that we are powerless apart from Christ. Consider Romans 5:6, “For while we were still weak [or powerless, NIV], at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” There is nothing at all that we can do to satisfy our own desires, let alone satisfy God. The only way that can be done is through having faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, through whom we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).
Christ has conquered our guilt and shame for not being good enough by taking all of that on himself and in return, giving us his perfect and spotless righteousness. God sent “his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). Whose sin? Ours. Whose flesh took it on and killed it? Christ’s. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ gets our sin (which he destroyed), and we get his righteousness (which will never be destroyed). What a glorious exchange!
This is not meant to discourage anyone from setting and pursuing new years resolutions. Most of them are really good things! But we must not lose sight of what is most important. We must “pursue righteousness” in Christ above all (1 Timothy 6:11), and in that, all of our deepest longings and desires will be satisfied.
No, this is not me pushing the “prosperity gospel” or “name it, claim it” routine. I abhor and despise these teachings. What I mean is the same thing that Jesus said when he told his followers to, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [food, drink, clothing] will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Or when he said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). Do we really live like this? Do we live in a way that clearly shows we are more desperate for the kingdom of God to come (Matthew 6:10) and to let our “manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27; also see Ephesians 4:1) than we are desperate to be fed physically or have water or clothing?
We cannot miss the point of it all. Enjoying the gifts of God is not a bad thing. Setting goals to live a better life are not a bad thing. But reader, it would be disastrously tragic if we did these things without consciously giving praise to the One who gives us good gifts (James 1:17: Matthew 7:11) and enables us to live a life that is obedient to his will and dedicated to kingdom work. We must not be so shortsighted as to do things only for the here-and-now benefit, but we must live in the light of eternity and do things which bring everlasting benefit and joy.
Jonathan Edwards, whom I have referred to in the past as my theological grandfather, once made a list of 70 resolutions by which he would govern his life. The very first of these is this: “Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence.” In other words, Edwards did not see God’s highest glory and our highest pleasure as opposed to one another. In fact, they are one and the same! We should not see glorifying God as a joyless duty like washing the dishes or taking out the trash, but as something which satisfies our innermost longings and desires.
We must look deeper than the trivial and fleeting pleasure that the world offers and look to the One who offers the deepest and longest lasting pleasure. We must run for righteousness, and in doing so, be completely satisfied.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2