‘Tis the season to make promises, that you may or may not keep. We call them New Year’s Resolutions. These are traditions in which people resolve to change an undesired trait or behavior in order to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their lives.
A quick internet search reveals the top percentages for 2018 New Year’s resolutions included 53% of respondents resolved to save more money, 45% resolved to lose weight, 24% resolved to travel more, 23% resolved to read more, 22% resolved to learn a new hobby, 16% resolved to quit smoking and 15% resolved to find love. If you are anything like me, you probably noticed that people either made multiple resolutions or we have many more than 100% of respondents. Regardless, it is interesting that in the face of all of these resolutions we conversely find that personal debt, obesity, lack of reading and the like continue to expand.
Another “study” shows that 46% of people keep their resolution past February (it’s hard to say no to those Valentine’s Day chocolates!) and 26% keep their resolutions until June. For what it’s worth, I have been on a personal winning streak for more than 10 years keeping my annual resolution to not make any resolutions.
The point is this: “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus said those words when He asked His disciples to wait and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. Like the disciples then, we disciples of Christ now desire to do what the Master bids, but we fail, over and over again. We try for a season, but we fall back into the habits of the old and sinful self. We fail over and over again to tame the sin in our hearts, to guard the doors of our lips and to act like the children of God.
We fail over and over again to tame the sin in our hearts, to guard the doors of our lips and to act like the children of God.
I have a couple of go-to Bible passages I frequently turn to for sermons and my writing. The first of these is Hebrews 12:1-3:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
In this passage, we learn the only way we will ever win is by giving up on ourselves and fixing our eyes, our attention, our hope and promise on the One who has done all things needed for our salvation. Our friends in twelve-step programs figured this out as they freely confess they are powerless over their addiction and they need God to deliver them.
The other passage is the one that I use to dismiss each table at the Lord’s Supper, “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts…” (1 John 3:20a).
As we face our feeble attempts to keep our promises in this New Year, I encourage you to ponder these passages and so many others like them.
Jesus Christ is the only true Promise Keeper. He alone is the one who has lived the perfection that we seek. Christ alone has won the victory over the unholy trinity of this world: sin, death and the devil. He alone was able to purchase us from the penalty of our constant broken resolutions to God, one another and even to ourselves.
Only when we stop pretending we are better than we are will we stop looking to our own works, efforts, or merits and instead look to the one who credits all of His perfection to our bankrupt accounts. Only when we despair of our own goodness will we ever find rest in the goodness of our Savior who calls us to relax, to lay down our burdens, and to rest in His arms; the arms stretched out on a cross in order to pay for our falling short of His perfection.
We are given a Sabbath rest in the Lord God of Sabaoth who sends His armies of angels to watch over us as we rest in Him.
It’s in the words of absolution where we are finally able to take our eyes off of ourselves and live in gratitude to our Savior.
By all means, may each of us find better personal and financial health. May we all find a deeper love for one another and companionship for the lonely. May we read more and become smarter. But in the end, these things will pass away. There is only one sure thing that will last forever and that one thing is your Savior’s love, mercy, and grace for you.
There is only one sure thing that will last forever and that one thing is your Savior’s love, mercy, and grace for you.
Be it resolved, our Savior will never leave us nor forsake us, He will never disown us even when we disown Him with our sin. “He is faithful and just and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9.)
Happy New Year, you are forgiven – forever!