How many of you make New Year’s resolutions? The gyms will be full this week! What about spiritual resolutions for the New Year?
Not everyone likes the idea of setting spiritual resolutions. It sounds like legalism to some people. Goals must be the opposite of grace – grace is free-flowing, no restrictions, no motives that are controlled by anything that looks like law! Not true!
Do you know someone who has no goals in life? What does their life look like?
Although industrious people like us often look down on people who lack goals and purpose, we can often look just like that in the spiritual realm! Spiritual sluggards with no goals, no drive, no purpose, but really spiritual!
Often resolutions, or, determined goals, simply reflect of a person’s attempt at self-discipline, which according to the Bible is a good thing!
The idea of resolutions should be seen in terms of setting goals, with a determined commitment to keep them and achieve them.
A resolution is a goal that you are resolved to attain. It is a determination to act in a resolved manner to accomplish a goal.
2 Chronicles 19:11, Jehoshaphat charges the Levites, setting out their agenda and says, “Act resolutely and the Lord will be with the upright.”
Here are a couple biblical goal-setters
For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. Ezra 7:10
Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself yet to have apprehended: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, 14 I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3:12-14
“Goals are the causes and aspirations that direct our choices. We use our energy and skill to pursue them. . . The structure our lives” (Dan Doriani).
There are spiritual sluggards who have no spiritual goals; there are self-centered people who only have self-serving goals; and there are God-centered persons who have or want godly goals to direct their life. Which one are you?
The Root of all Godly Goals: a Relationship with Jesus Christ
This is not “Nike Christianity.” Goals need to grow out of our relationship with Christ, empowered by our relationship with Christ, through the Holy Spirit. If we know Christ we want to live lives to the glory of God. If we know Christ we want to live lives under His Lordship. Godly goals grow out that relationship and those desires.
The Purpose of Godly Goals: Growing in our Relationship with Jesus Christ, for His glory, our good and the good of others
Godly goals simply seek to magnify the glory of God in our lives, increase our obedience to Christ’s Lordship, enhance and deepen our relationship with Christ, and do good to those around us.
Guidelines in Setting Godly Goals
1. Avoid the “eyes are bigger than my stomach” syndrome:
“I will read my Bible through 7 times.”
“I will pray for 3 hours a day like Luther.”
Goals need to be realistic!
2. Understand the way that grace and discipline work together
Grace is our teacher and our empowerer – Titus 2:11-12
Discipline is grace in action (1 Tim. 4:7)(see Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace for an excellent exposition of this truth).
3. Keep the purpose of the goals in the forefront of your mind
I want to grow in my relationship with Christ.
4. Maintain a warfare mentality in the goals
(Eph. 6:10-13) If setting godly goals, or making godly resolutions are designed for a more obedient walk, then know that the devil will oppose them.
5. Develop accountability with another believer
Make your goals known to a trusted believing friend, who will ask!
Some Worthy Areas of Goal-Setting
1. Personal Devotional Life
a. Bible reading (we always make available a number of different reading plans)
2. Other disciplines: Memorization, meditation, fasting,
3. Family Devotions
Mark Twain, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot them.”
a. How do I choose what to read?
Honestly evaluate where you are in your own understanding and maturity level. (Rom. 12:3) Choose some books that will stretch you, that are a little beyond you.
Read both old and new. Set time limits that are reasonable
b. Read a book/books that deal with the inner-life
John Owen, Communion with God; Sin and Temptation; Ryle, Holiness; Piper, Desiring God, Pleasures of God, Future Grace; Packer, Knowing God
c. Read biographies (see Feelings and Faith, pages 213-214 for a biography bibliography).
d. Read doctrine/theology – There is no shortage of books available in the book room!
a. Giving: Can I increase my giving this year?
b. Serving: Is there an area of service I can be involved in?
c. Friendships, accountability: Are there relationships that need to be developed?
d. The Lord’s Day and other church services: Am I faithful in attending and participating in the services of the church and utilizing the means of grace? Where can I improve? Wednesday? Lord’s Day afternoons?
a. What sins need to mortified in 2011 that have the upper hand in my life?
b. What graces and fruits of the Spirit need to be cultivated that I am weak in?
a. Identify specific people
b. Be involved in some form of outreach
Making resolutions or setting godly goals for the New Year can be a great motivator for beginning new habits and growing in your faith.
But remember, the power comes not in the resolution or in the goal, but in the doing. The power comes when we hunger enough and are committed enough to follow through in becoming more disciplined for the purpose of godliness.