I like making resolutions. I have written before on the benefit of creating a list of goals for the new year and we are in good company when we do so. A young, nineteen-year-old Jonathan Edwards, who is considered the greatest American theologian, famously wrote 70 resolutions aimed at his joy and God’s glory. The best part about Edwards’ resolutions? He begins 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.” That is a beautiful example of what Jerry Bridges calls “Dependent Responsibility.” We are dependent on the grace of God to do anything, and yet we are responsible to act.
So with that in mind, here is one resolution you should make and keep for 2017: Resolve to be committed and consistent with your local church family.
Being Committed and Consistent Is A Command
I’m not an antinomian. I still believe when God tells us to do something (or not to do something) then we are responsible for obeying. In His wisdom, God does not issue commands to His children without good reason, so we know there is joy waiting for us in the instruction to consistently gather together as the church (Hebrews 10:24-25). Nevertheless, if there were nothing else to say concerning this resolution, this remains the only point we need to make. God said to do it, and because of the power of grace, we can.
Being Committed and Consistent is How We Develop Intimacy With One Another
The gospel of Jesus Christ provides two kinds of reconciliation; we are reconciled to God and we are reconciled to one another. The disastrous effect of sin has broken our intimacy with God and created enmity toward one another. It is no accident to read of Cain’s murderous jealousy against Abel in Genesis 4, one chapter after the curse of sin was unleashed on the earth. The gospel tears down this wall of contempt, but it requires a commitment to one another. Something beautiful begins to happen when Christians are committed and consistent to their church family – they begin to be real with one another. Putting on thinly disguised facades becomes a thing of the past because God uses consistency to create trust, and trust causes us to be open with our struggles, our pain, and our suffering. Then, the loneliness of our suffering dissipates into the comfort of learning how others are struggling right alongside with us. And what a joy it is to share one another’s burdens as we worship together, often through tears. But it will never happen without being committed and consistent.
Being Committed and Consistent is a Strong Attack Against Idolatry
John Calvin famously said that “man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols.” The prophet Jeremiah would have agreed. He wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?” No one is immune from the creation and worship of idols and the romanticized notion of “just follow your heart” is a recipe for disaster. I have noticed how our idols tend to grow, mature, and develop into objects of worship we would have initially never conceived as possible. None of us set out to construct a golden calf in its entirety. Instead, we form a leg and think it isn’t such a big deal. And then we form an ear. And then the tail. And after time, without realizing, we have a shiny, fully constructed calf in front of us that demands our time, attention, and worship. The greatest attack against this pattern of idol construction is committing you and your family to the ministry of the church.
Being Committed and Consistent Makes Up The Whole Body
God has graciously given each Christian gifts with which the church can be edified. This is pretty simple. If you are not committed and consistent to the church, then neither are your gifts. According to Paul, that’s not good. You make up the whole body and your presence is important.
Being Committed and Consistent Trains Our Children
Do you want your children to have an active faith in the Lord and consistent service to the church? They won’t if you don’t.
Being Committed and Consistent Keeps Us Accountable
The leadership of the local church has been established by God, in part, to help maintain accountability for its members (and there are structures in place to maintain accountability for the leadership). Becoming a member of an evangelical church will mean that you are willingly coming underneath the leadership of that church and acknowledging that your life needs accountability. Not in a stalking, invasion of privacy way, but in a biblical call to holiness way. Being committed and consistent allows pastors and other church members the opportunity to say, “hey, how are you doing?” in a safe and God-honoring environment.
Being Committed and Consistent Helps Us Grow
Sitting under the preaching of God’s Word, participating in a Sunday School class, attending a mission trip, volunteering at the local soup kitchen, and taking a sick family a meal are ways that God transforms lives in Jesus. A committed and consistent family will be more active in all these areas than an inconsistent family.
Being Committed and Consistent Helps Give Us Strength
The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and consistent worship with fellow Christians is the best way I know to experience joy in the Lord, which means it is an absolutely essential part of our strength.
Back to Jonathan Edwards…
Resolutions can become a means to guilt and self-condemnation when we slip up and fall off track. But the grace of God is bigger. We truly are unable to do anything without the grace of God enabling us, so the best place to start with your resolutions is the gospel. Through the gospel we have peace with God, peace with our fellow man, and power to grow in our spiritual lives. No matter how well you are doing with your commitment and consistency to your local church, the power of the gospel is the only means through which you can turn around and change. So do not allow this resolution or any others to become a source of frustration for you. Rather, let them be a reminder of the good news of what Christ has done in your life. Then, live in the power of the good news!
So, if you are a member of Graefenburg Baptist Church, I’ll see you on Sunday! If you are a member somewhere else, then your pastor will see you on Sunday. If you aren’t attending, then get to a church on Sunday. Grace and peace to you all in 2017.