new years resolution

New Year’s is just a few days away, and many New Year’s resolutions will be made.  Have you started thinking about yours?  Will you aim to eat better?  Or exercise more?  Perhaps you will simplify your schedule or get more rest.  Many will aim to be more spiritual – praying more, meditating, reading the Bible daily, and the like.

But there are also many who refuse to set a resolution because they know they will break it.  I knew someone who struggled so much in school and discipline that he simply refused to set any goals.  The fear of failing to meet them was so great and the guilt associated with it led him to remain as he was, as a guy in his late twenties.  He said, “I would only be setting myself up for failure”.

It is true, any goal that is set is an opportunity for failure.  But it is also true that unless we set goals or make an effort, nothing will ever be accomplished.  It is true on the micro level:  if you do not make a plan for the day, you will forget to go to the grocery store after work, or bring your workout clothes to hit the gym.  But it is also true on the macro level:  you have to apply to college and start classes to earn a degree, you have to send out your resume to get a job, and start lessons to learn a skill.

But the reality is that our relationship with God is more than just a goal.  Our spirituality is more than just dedication.  Goals, however, can enhance a relationship and a Spirituality.  Even in the midst of our emotion-driven society that believes love should be easy and euphoric, most will ultimately admit that marriage is hard work, and relationships take effort to maintain.  They might be born in emotion and initially driven by passion, but after time that can fade and commitment must mark our choices in order to maintain intimacy and happiness.

In the same way, there are times that our Spiritual walk and relationship with God will be easy and natural.  But there are other times when we are distracted, too busy, frustrated, or over stimulated and pleased with our physical lives that we neglect our relationship with God, and it will take a conscious effort and decision to pray, read the Bible, meditate and listen to the Holy Spirit.  And the nature of having discipline or a goal does not take away from the authenticity of the relationships – quite the opposite, in fact.  It portrays our convictions and passions to intentionally set aside that time, even in the midst of everything else.  A wife feels loved and valued when a husband takes time out of his day to call, to stop for flowers or to take her on a date where they can talk deeply.  She actually feels more honored that he would value her enough to go through to effort of planning.

Not only is it not disrespectful or disingenuous to set aside a specific time to pray or have a quiet time every day, it is also not an expectation or sin for which God will condemn us if we fail.  If you have a standing phone date with a friend, and you forget once or twice, that friend will forgive you if it is not your habit to forget.  If you need to reschedule a lunch date with your wife, she will understand if you are not in the habit of blowing her off.  If you consistently forget or blow off your relationships, however, there will grow a distance between you and a very real problem is established.  The same is true with God.  You cannot have a relationship with God and be Spiritually healthy if you neglect Him.  If you oversleep one morning, however, or have a change of schedule and have your quiet time in the afternoon instead of the morning, He will not consider you a failure.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”

– John 15.4-6

Jesus commands us to abide in Him.  The term abide can be difficult to understand, as we rarely use it in day-to-day language.  The Greek term used translates as “to remain, to not depart” and also “to continue to be present, to continue to be held or kept”.  The implication is continual interaction and relationship.  Jesus explains Himself with the imagery of the vine.  A branch depends on the vine for sustenance and life.  A branch cannot survive, produce fruit or grow unless is draws sap from the vine.  So we, when we are Spiritually born, must draw our Spiritual life from Jesus.  We cannot live, grow or bear fruit unless we stay connected to Jesus.

So as the new year approaches, let’s be bold to set a goal to go deeper with Jesus.  He will not be mad at you if you miss a day or two, and will not consider you a failure.  Quite the opposite, in fact, the commitment to and any progress towards greater intimacy with Him is a beautiful reality that will strengthen your Spiritual walk, health and maturity.  Let us not put a weight on ourselves that He hasn’t put on us, but let us abide in Him and draw our life and strength from Him as our source, as our vine.

You will find that as you begin those habits, it will soon turn into a situation where you long for your time with the Lord and needing to reschedule from the morning to afternoon will leave you ready and excited for that time.  Or missing a morning will leave your day lacking.  Let’s change our attitudes about resolutions, not seeing it as an opportunity for failure but rather an opportunity to grow and change.  Let’s not beat ourselves up and give up if we miss a few days, but find commitment anew by the encouragement and strength we draw from the days we succeed!

How will you commit to the Lord this year?


Resolved VII

I have come today to reflect on the last of Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions.  Oh to be a person of such conviction!  When I was in High School, I was often accused (mostly by myself) of being too serious, incapable of relating well to most of the other students, except – of course – for the philosophicals and thinkers of my class.  I distinctly remember sitting with a group of friends one day – who claimed to be Christians – and thinking to myself as they were quoting movies and acting like fools, “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Eph 5.4).  I still wrestle with this balance, as I do believe God gave us creation and humor to enjoy.  So what exactly is the prohibition against silly talk?

Jonathan Edwards apparently had no problem with this balance, and his first resolution here (and all following) is exceptionally convicting:

61.  Resolved, That I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it—that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, &c. May 21, and July 13, 1723.
62.  Resolved, Never to do any thing but my duty, and then, according to Eph. vi. 6-8. to do it willingly and cheerfully, as unto the Lord, and not to man: knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall be receive of the Lord. June 25, and July 13, 1723.
63.  On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true lustre, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan. 14, and July 13, 1723.
64.  Resolved, When I find those ”groanings which cannot be uttered,“ of which the apostle speaks, and those ”breathings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the psalmist speaks, Psalm cxix. 20. that I will promote them to the utmost of my power; and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavouring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and Aug. 10, 1723.
65.  Resolved, Very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness of which I am capable, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him, all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance, according to Dr. Manton’s Sermon on the 119th Psalm,. July 26, and Aug. 10, 1723.
66.  Resolved, That I will endeavour always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking, in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.
67.  Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them; and, what I might have got by them.
68.  Resolved, To confess frankly to myself, all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.
69.  Resolved, Always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.
70.  Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak. Aug. 17, 1723.

Resolved VI

A few months ago, I began chewing on small sections of Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions that he made at the beginning of his ministry.  He reflected on all seventy of his life’s resolutions at least once a week, and lived an exemplary life – the type which I seek to emulate.  I have listed here links to the first fifty resolutions:

This section of resolutions look much to the fullness of life and living without regret.  He does not want to get to the end of his life and think, “I wasted it” or to think that there is something he could have done differently or more to the glory and honor of God.

51.  Resolved, That I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.
52.  I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.
53.  Resolved, To improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.
54.  Resolved, Whenever I hear anything spoken in commendation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, that I will endeavour to imitate it. July 8, 1723.
55.  Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, so to act, as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven and hell torments. July 8, 1723.
56.  Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
57.  Resolved, When I fear misfortunes and adversity, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it and let the event be just as Providence orders it. I will, as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13, 1723.
58.  Resolved, Not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness, and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.
59.  Resolved, When I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.
60.  Resolved, Whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4 and 13, 1723.


Resolved V

I have come back to the fifth set of Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions for encouragement today.  I like to chew on them in bite-sized pieces to best impact my heart.  Here are the first four sections:

This section is varied, as are they all, but Edwards reflects much on his foundational commitment to God and to those in his immediate family here.  I have to daily preach the gospel to myself.  And live knowing that I am not my own.  He uses the term “Religion” in his writings to represent his relationship with Jesus Christ.  The word did not yet have the negative connotation which we affix to it when he lived.

Let us resolve to know, love and honor God.

41.  Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.
42.  Resolved, Frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism, which I solemnly renewed when I was received into the communion of the church, and which I have solemnly re-made this 12th day of January, 1723.
43.  Resolved, Never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s; agreeably to what is to be found in Saturday, Jan. 12th. Jan. 12, 1723.
44.  Resolved, That no other end but religion shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan. 12, 1723.
45.  Resolved, Never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan. 12 and 13, 1723.
46.  Resolved, Never to allow the least measure of any fretting or uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved, to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye; and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.
47.  Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving, and sincere, temper; and to do, at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have so done. Sabbath morning, May 5, 1723.
48.  Resolved, Constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.
49.  Resolved, That this never shall be, if I can help it.
50.  Resolved, That I will act so, as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.


Resolved IV

I am periodically coming back to Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions for reflection, a section at a time.

As I have noted before, I enjoy that they come in themes and thus make for progressive thought and application.  The section today focuses heavily on our interaction with and intentions towards other people – both believers and non believers.  Let us all strive to:

“Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.”

– Rom 12.9-10

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

– Phil 2.3-4

This is no small thing, to consider someone as more important than yourself.  But what a fun perspective Paul offers us, to be – in a sense – at competition with one another to see who can honor others more!

31.  Resolved, Never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of christian honour, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said any thing against any one, to bring it to, and try it strictly by, the test of this Resolution.
32.  Resolved, To be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Prov. xx. 6. ‘A faithful man, who can find?’ may not be partly fulfilled in me.
33.  Resolved, To do always what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without an overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722.
34.  Resolved, In narrations, never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.
35.  Resolved, Whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.
36.  Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it. Dec. 19, 1722.
37.  Resolved, To inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,—what sin I have committed,—and wherein I have denied myself;—also, at the end of every week, month, and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.
38.  Resolved, Never to utter any thing that is sportive, or matter of laughter, on a Lord’s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.
39.  Resolved, Never to do any thing, of which I so much question the lawfulness, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.
40.  Resolved, To inquire every night before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.


Resolved III

Jonathan Edwards, in his resolutions, establishes for himself outlines of how to live daily life.  I split them up into bite-sized pieces so as to meditate well on them, and have included resolutions 21-30 today.  Resolutions 1-10 are listed here, and 11-20 here.

I notice themes throughout the entirety of the list, but also in small sections.  In these resolutions today I see his determination to examine his heart and test his motives for both things good and things bad which he would commit.  Understanding the root of our service and the root of our sin will help us to comprehend that which drives us and assist us in submitting to God and living more purposefully for His glory and honor alone.  We might struggle with a particular sin, say, cheating on tests during school.  We might understand that as sin and thus discipline ourselves to refrain from cheating.  We might set boundaries for ourselves:  not sitting near to anyone so as to copy, not bringing cheat sheets and willfully choosing to not cheat one exam at a time.  This is a good thing.  However, we must test our hearts and chase the root of the sin:  pride, self-sufficiency, laziness in not preparing and/or lofty expectations of self, or any other number of heart issues.  If we do not fight the sin on the heart level, we might omit one particular outward expression of the sin but the inward problem remains and it will exemplify itself in other sins down the road.

Therefore, let us test our hearts.  Let us examine our motives.  Let us surrender to self and live for the glory of God.

21.  Resolved, Never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.
22.  Resolved, To endeavour to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigour, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.
23.  Resolved, Frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs, and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the fourth Resolution.
24.  Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
25.  Resolved, To examine carefully and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and so direct all my forces against it.
26.  Resolved, To cast away such things as I find do abate my assurance.
27.  Resolved, Never willfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.
28.  Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
29.  Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.
30.  Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.


Resolved II

On Wednesday I wrote about having a hero, and spoke to one of mine:  Jonathan Edwards.  I outlined the first ten of his resolutions for reflection, and today I am looking at the next ten:

11.  Resolved, When I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.
12.  Resolved, If I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
13.  Resolved, To be endeavouring to find out fit objects of liberality and charity.
14.  Resolved, Never to do any thing out of revenge.
15.  Resolved, Never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.
16.  Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
17.  Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
18.  Resolved, To live so, at all times, as I think is best in my most devout frames, and when I have the clearest notions of the things of the gospel, and another world.
19.  Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trump.
20.  Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

Edwards’ resolutions so differ from our culture at large.  Just last night I watched a movie of which the intended expectation of the audience was revenge.  And I found I wanted the main character to obtain his revenge.  We pull for bank robbers, rebels and evil doers in movies often.  We often live our lives vengefully and selfishly.  But the way Christ would have us to live is selflessly and surrendered to Him.

Resolution fifteen catches my attention here, to never get angry towards irrational beings.  Do you know anyone who is or can be irrational?  Do you keep your cool towards them for the sake of the Gospel?