“What is your New Year’s resolution?”
While I once, indeed, looked skeptically on these annual “to do” lists, I have amended my ways. While I was once concerned with making lists of aspirations that I could do anytime, not just at the start of a new year, I believe, now, that there is a “theology of time” that recognizes and appreciates the cycles of life. And that includes the idea of a fresh start. It is actually quite Biblical, isn’t it?
So, what do we do? First, and this is the concern in this article, recognize that resolving to follow God more closely is a good thing. It is a good thing because it is a biblical thing. In fact, I would say that it is “vital.” Resolving to follow God (at the first of the year or anytime) is good for the soul (and the heart and the mind). Your resolutions should aim to increase the spiritual blood flow to the main organs of your spiritual life in Christ. What are they? From three places in Scripture, consider what a godly resolution must include:
1. A Revival of the Heart
This is the prayer of David after he fell in sin:
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10).
A resolution without a revival in our hearts—the source of our wills—is of no use and will have no eternal value. A resolution without heart will wither into a brittle act of compulsiveness. The heart provides needed “blood flow” to the rest of our spiritual organs. God does not ignore the heart. Nor should we.
3. A Refitting of the Soul
When your heart is revived, your mind is renewed, you are ready for your soul to be refitted. How? As an outflow of God’s grace, through a deep, personal relationship with Jesus, constrained by His love, you dedicate yourself to spiritual disciplines.
We know this because Paul taught it to Pastor Timothy:
“Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
Here is the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases this wonderful passage:
“Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever” (1 Timothy 4:7-8 The Message).
2. A Renewal of the Mind
We must as God’s people recognize that it is not only the heart, the seat of emotions, but the mind, the seat of intellect, that controls our behavior. Thus, Paul calls for the Roman Christians to do intellectual inventory. Do your thoughts follow God’s thoughts revealed in His Word or the thoughts of the ungodly world?
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12.2 ESV).
The renewed heart pumps spiritual life to the mind. Thus, we are able to grow by reading good books, good articles, and conversations that nurture the life of the Christian mind. Resolving to “Think thoughts after God” leads to a strong, healthy mind, able to better discern matters of good from evil, better from best, and now or later. Solomon would ask, “Who is seeking wisdom?” You and I should resolve to answer, “I am.”
Wherever you are wanting to go in this new year, remember that God’s Word teaches us that our resolutions, if they are to have eternal significance, must include:
A Revival of the Heart;
A Renewal of the Mind;
A Refitting of the Soul.