A New Year is upon us. We stand with our toes hanging over the edge in anticipation for a fresh new beginning.
Perhaps there are resolutions being thought up about the New Year ahead. We desire to do better at life, so we plan and dream about how we want to do things different. It’s a good impulse. We resolve to be more organized, more successful, to simplify life, lose a few pounds, choose happiness, be more positive or get healthy.
I see these things on Facebook statuses and in conversations with people. I see things like “this is gonna be my year” and “no drama in 2016“. If we just make these positive steps forward the new year must be better than the last. Right?
But resolutions never used to look like this. Jonathan Edwards lived in the 1700’s and is famous for a lot of things. One being the 70 Resolutions he constructed and implored himself to read over once a week. And he starts these resolutions by saying,
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.
The first thing he does is hold his own resolutions loosely. Admitting his own human weakness and placing them directly into the hands of God. Maybe he has James 4 in mind…you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life?…Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance.
These are wise words to heed while planning for the new year.
He then goes on to write resolution after resolution, encouraging himself to live a God-glorifying lifestyle. In them he is essentially mapping himself a path of embodying the fruits of the spirit and living a life of wisdom that scripture lays out for us.
His absolute main goal is to live for Christ and honor Him effectively. That’s it.
I know it is never encouraging to compare oneself to theologians of old. It’s usually a slam-dunk in favor of those long passed. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look back at their example humbly and willing to learn from the wisdom they have left for us.
The thing that is so interesting about these 7o resolutions is the fact that he perfectly balances his own desires of enjoyment with his desires of Christ and the Christian mission. Also he propositions himself to do things he knows he will likely not enjoy, but knows is right. For instance number 60 says,
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.
And in number 67 he says,
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.
How often do we think this way?
This is clearly a man earnestly seeking his own godliness by the grace of God. Regardless of his own feelings and knowledge of weakness, he is endeavouring to do better in a completely different fashion than we in the 21st century tend to.
He knows his greatest need is a spiritual one. And so his resolutions reflect that need. How many of us know what our greatest need is?
Most of us think loosing some weight will fix most of our greatest problems.
But Jonathan Edwards knew better. And before you write him off as just being pious, let me tell you that admitting our need for Christ and His redemptive work in our lives is far from that. It is far easier to decide to lose some weight and then even act on it (which most of us don’t even do), then it is to take responsibility for our weakening faith, and then do something about it. 2 Peter 1:3 says,
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.
When we are chosen by the Lord, we are granted a divine power. And this power is Christ. So it is through Christ that we are given all things pertaining to our lives and His godliness in us. Which means we must seek knowledge of Him in order to be brought into His own glory and excellence. But it is His work that grants godliness. His grace leads us there. Not merely our own might.
When we are driven by our own love for Him, He will grant us our needs.
What if our New Years Resolutions looked more like this. Yearning to seek Jesus more diligently. Expecting our failure in it and so relying on Christ’s work to move us forward.
Can we all at least admit our greatest need is for Him?
Take some time and read from a saint of old. It may be enlightening as you begin this baby fresh new year. You may find that instead of focusing on positivity or organization, your greatest desire will be for your own godliness in 2016.
All for His glory and for as long as He wills.
Happy New Year!