Bible Based New Year’s Resolutions, Pt 1
It is that time of year again. The holidays are over and you may be feeling like one of those animals in my little boy’s room-STUFFED!!! Though the holidays can be enjoyable, perhaps many of you are glad for things to be back to business as usual. Maybe you are also, as many are at this time, thinking about goals for 2012 you would like to accomplish in the various spheres of your life. Of course, there are the proverbial New Year’s resolutions. Things you are resolved to do in the year ahead. You start off determined, ready and raring to go. You are dead serious that this year is the year that you are going to……..no matter how much rootin,’ tootin’ and shootin’ that has to be done. Making such resolutions is not wrong in and of itself. God having made us in His image, has designed us to be goal oriented, and to enjoy a sense of satisfaction when those goals are reached. However, for the Christian, his most important goals are focused upon his relationship to Christ and his growth in grace. When Jonathan Edwards was 22 years old he wrote several things he resolved to do with respect to his life as a Christian man. I am going to be posting a series of articles listing several of those resolutions. But before we get started, I want to set out three perspectives that should be the framework in which Christians should make similar resolutions.
The Security of Justification
The first place for the believer to start when facing a long list of what he resolves to do in the year ahead is to resolve, first of all, to keep before him an extremely important truth-his secure justified state in Christ. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NAS). That means two complimentary things: 1) The one who is union with Christ is no longer under the wrath and judgment of God 2) The one who is union with Christ has been forgiven of all sin and has His perfect righteousness imputed (credited) to him. Take careful note that the verse says that is so now. That literally means, at this present time. The believer in union with Christ is not waiting to get into this state. He is presently in it and should feel secure in it. If you are in Christ you are as secure in your right standing before God right now as you will be after millions of ions in eternity. Think about it! When you are in eternity with your sinless spirit in a glorified body you will be no more justified in the sight of God. Justification is a once and for all deal. Why is it important for a believer to keep this before him as he ventures out to fulfill his resolutions. Well, Paul made this wonderful declaration on the heels of revealing his own intense struggle with remaining sin (Rom 7:14-25). As long as you remain in this life you will continue to struggle with remaining sin and fail in many ways. If you do not keep this before you, then without even realizing it, you can begin to see your acceptance with God as being based upon your performance. Let me be plain about it! Your growth in holiness or lack thereof in 2012 will not contribute or take away from your right standing with God in the least degree (Rom 8:31-35). Can you hear the objector? He is protesting that if you tell people that then they will use that as an excuse not to press forward to grow in holiness. That is the not case with the genuine believer.
The Necessity of Sanctification
Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all men and the sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord” (NAS). We are being told in no uncertain terms that a part from a life of holiness none of us will see the Lord. That is, we will not see him in the way of final and complete salvation. All will see Him when he comes in clouds and with his angels (Rev 1:7). For some the sight of Him will bring horror and condemnation, and for others it will bring the joy of salvation (1 Jo 3:3-4; 1 Peter 1:9). No one will be made instantaneously perfect holy on that day who did not pursue greater measures of it in this life. Pursue is a standard word in the Greek translated the in New Testament as persecute. The pursuit of holiness for the believer is to be as intense as a persecutor tracking down his prey. The genuine believer does not use his justified state as an excuse for a shoddy life. He longs (some times to a greater or lesser degree) for greater progress in Christ-likeness. Here is where we have to be very careful. It is true that we will never attain to perfection on this life. However, justification by faith alone in Christ alone does not let us off the hook from pursuing after it until the day we are raised to glory and experience it for the first time . The Apostle Paul who trusted in Christ alone and had received His perfect righteousness saw it as his stable rock upon which he pursued after perfection (Phil 3:9-15). No christian constantly finds comfort in the well known comment, “No one is perfect”. It has been said that fact is “a pillow for the hypocrite and a bed of nails for the Christian”. The only ones who will be raised to perfection on that day are those who keep reaching after it. The reality of his irreversible justified state fills the Christian with hope, which in turn causes him to hunger for more practical righteousness (Rom 8:12-14). So, it is a good thing for us to set goals along the way as we are reaching after perfect holiness.
The Certainty of Glorification
When you hold to the biblical teaching concerning salvation in proper balance it will at times seem contradictory. It may sound like out of one side of my mouth I am saying that it is impossible for a Christian to fall from a state of grace. Out of the other side I am saying that he can fool around, twiddle his thumbs too much and miss eternal glory. No! No! No! Here is the way it goes. The truly justified person must pursue a life of holiness, and he will. He must, and he will. It is certain that he will for two reasons. First, his God has purposed and planned it from all eternity. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among man brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Rom 8:29-30 NAS). Second, his God is at work in him producing the fruits of righteousness. “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13). There is a beautiful balance in those verse between personal effort and trust in God. So, as you face a new year of pursuing growth in grace, face it with confidence, knowing that no matter the successes and failures, your God has decreed and will bring to pass your final salvation.
A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with thy righteousness on,
My person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Saviour’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.
The work which his goodness began,
The arm of his strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Nor all things below or above,
Can make him his purpose forgo,
Or sever my soul from his love.
My name from the palms of his hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on his heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heav’n.
Happy New Year!