PHILIPPIANS 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
THEME OF THE DAY. NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS. It will happen with many people; the making of new year resolutions. It is estimated 45 % of Americans will make them, but only 8 % will keep them. The making of new year resolutions isn’t new and it has a religious connection. According to Sarah Pruitt, a writer for the History Channel, the Babylonians started this tradition over 4,000 years ago. She writes, “They were the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year—though for them the year began not in January but in mid-March, when the crops were planted. During a massive 12-day religious festival known as ‘Akitu’, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions.” And this practice was not lost to Christians. Pruitt continues, “For early Christians, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. In 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Also known as watch night services, they included readings from Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the new year.”
Today, new year resolution making is mostly secular. Many people today will “resolve” to eat better, exercise more, and lose weight. Or “resolve” to give up harmful habits to the body. Whatever the flavor, new year resolutions will be made, and, if the statistics are correct, abandoned soon, maybe by February.
As for Christians, there is a “spiritual resolution” that would be good to put into our lives this year or renew from last year. We find it in today’s scripture in the personal resolve of the Apostle Paul. And what is this man of God resolved toward? Christlikeness – “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul knew the one thing, the one goal in life to pursue is likeness to the One who saved Him and called Him to Himself. This one thing, the one goal in life, is to be ours. The whole of life is to become like Christ in our speech, actions, attitudes, and character. It is why God saved us and what He is doing in us. So, if that it is to be our new year resolution, how does it become reality and not abandoned like earthly resolutions? Allow me to suggest four things which will keep us on track as we pursue Christlikeness in 2018.
First, commit to daily being in God’s Word. Don’t compromise this. Make this a non-negotiable habit. We must. We cannot grow in the likeness of Christ if we are not growing in our knowledge of what that likeness looks like. And that comes through His Word. Next, prayer. Pray consistently, earnestly, affectionately, devotionally, and with one goal in praying; to know the love of God in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:14-19). This is what fuels passion to be like Jesus. A third way to keep our spiritual resolution is be faithful to church. Don’t miss a Sunday unless it is an emergency. God honors faithfulness to His people and weekly gathering. Such faithfulness will be rewarded with spiritual growth in Christ. Finally, make obedience to God’s Word a daily practice, never compromising in any area. Obedience is the path to conformity to Christ.
New Year resolutions. A good one would be the spiritual resolve to be more like Christ. And God in His mercy, grace, love, and power will help us keep it. After all, it is His work already begun in us.
PRAYER: “Father, should you grant me another year of life, help me to make it centered on Your Son.”
QUOTE: “Resolve this year to get as close to the Lord Jesus as possible in Word, prayer, and obedience”