This time of the year provides a predictable offering of blog material for evangelical Christians. We are certain to hear about the works-righteousness effects of Santa Claus and the anti-christian nature of New Year’s resolutions. For a perfect example of the latter, you can read this.
To be certain, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has once and for all accomplished what we never could. Christ has perfectly kept the law and his sacrifice on the cross is accepted by the Father as our substitute precisely because Jesus is the perfect, spotless lamb. The glorious result is that we who have been saved by Jesus through faith are now dead to the law because we have been made alive with Christ and, in fact, experience a union with Christ whereby his life is our life. Thus, his righteousness is our righteousness. When he perfectly kept the law, we perfectly kept the law. I know, it sounds too good to be true. But it is.
In light of this, any New Year’s resolution that attempts to find favor with God through performing is clearly anti-gospel. I just don’t know of a single Christian who does such a thing. And if they do, then it isn’t the New Year’s resolution that is the problem, but rather a deep rooted misunderstanding of the gospel that attempts to earn God’s love and acceptance through performance. That heart issue will show up every day of the year, not just January 1.
From my experience with church members, resolutions are a way for Christians to say, “I’m not happy with where I am.” Not because they think God doesn’t love them enough, but because they know God loves them so much. It is in light of the gratitude and sheer awe of Christ’s gospel that we strive to pursue holiness with everything we have, and setting goals is an appropriate way of doing that. Most of us will fail at our resolutions. So what? Making resolutions is not about perfectly keeping them, but reminding ourselves of the majestic glory of God who is worthy to pursue with a greater tenacity than the year before.
I think we are in good company here. I see Paul describing this reality in Philippians 3:12. In that one verse we have Paul’s acknowledgement that Christ has already made him His own. Paul’s righteousness is found and bound by the righteousness of Jesus. But Paul’s attitude in light of this is not, “hey, now I’m free to fail!” but rather “hey, now I’m free to set a goal and press on toward it!”
Andi and I wrote and and discussed our resolutions last night. We love doing that each year. The first thing we did was go back to our 2014 resolutions and giggle when we noticed how far short we fell. Which did nothing but make us thank God for his abounding grace to keep us and protect us in spite of our shortcomings. Then, with excitement, we discussed our 2015 goals and how Christ is worthy to pursue with excellence. All to the glory of God!