Is it pointless to make New Year’s resolutions?
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Listen to the 10 min audio
Read the transcript:
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, one thing’s for sure:We never run out of material on Today in Perspective as we try to give a commentary on the news through the lens of Scripture. Today, I’d like to look ahead to 2018 but, also, let’s focus on what about those New Year resolutions?
SHOULD WE MAKE RESOLUTIONS?
DR. REEDER: Of course, the accepted thing is to poo-poo resolutions, “Oh, that’s terrible,” – and, by the way, as a Christian, you ought to make a resolution every day to follow Jesus, absolutely – but I don’t have a problem with seasonal moments that you just build into your life to go back and evaluate, to consider, to make adjustments to move forward. I do this pretty regularly.
Every summer, I take a three-week sabbatical and do an evaluation of my life and my ministry. I create objectives for the coming year and, every five years, I have created five objectives for my life and ministry to govern me and direct me.
I just think, if you don’t establish goals, you don’t know how to score and you can’t score so take God’s Word, take the truth of the Gospel, take your love for Christ and just begin to work through things. “What do I need to put off? What do I need to put on?” I think those are valid things to do and I encourage people to do it.
Now, having said that, I also understand why people poo-poo this matter of resolutions. And I don’t know how scientific this is, but I just read a survey – do you know why January the 21st is important, Tom?
TOM LAMPRECHT: That’s probably how long the resolutions last?
DR. REEDER: Bingo. That’s what the sociologists that have done an analysis say, that 90 percent of resolutions do not last past January the 21st so that’s the shelf life of our yearly resolution. And this is the time of year that fitness and training industries, they love it, because they’ve got this deal for you – you come in and sign up, you pay them for the year and they know that they’re not even going to have to worry about you for about 11 months out of that year because this’ll last about until about January the 21st.
That may be true but I think, for a lot of people, this is a good time to do some self-analysis and some evaluation so let me just give some suggestions.
1. TAKE TIME TO REFLECT
No. 1, take some time, as you move into this new year, for a little bit of a prayer retreat. Even if you don’t go anywhere, just take some time, just sit down, and pray through and think through what’s happened this last year.
First of all, I’m going to count my blessings, see what things the Lord has done and praise His name. Secondly, where have I faltered? What weaknesses, what cracks have been exposed in my life? Are they foundational cracks? What do I need to take a look at in my life? It’s not simply what do I want to put off, but what do I want to put on?
2. LEARN THE SECRET TO RESISTING SIN
Tom, I have found in my Christian life, one of the great helps for me in my ability to consistently walk away from sin is to walk toward something else. If I can fix my eyes on Jesus and I don’t have my eyes on idols, if I can fill my life with that which is good and beautiful and true and following Christ, then there’s not so much room for Satan to get a toehold in my life and, when he gets a toehold, he gets a foothold, and the next thing you know, he’s got an armlock on me.
Early on, if I could fill my life up with a love for Christ and a love for my wife and a love for my children, that’s one of the best things to do to keep me faithful before the Lord in those things. And fill your life up with a love for God’s Word and those things pertaining to God’s Word. I think it takes about 30 days to make a good habit – I think it takes about three days to make a bad habit. I also think it takes about three days to break a good habit – it takes about 30 days to break a bad habit.
3. EMULATE 4 LIFE CATEGORIES JESUS “GREW IN”
May I encourage you to maybe use our Savior’s formation for your formation. Our Savior’s formation is given to us in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, Verse 52. It says that “Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man.”
He grew in wisdom – that’s your intellectual life affecting the way you live your life. He grew in stature – that’s your physical life. He grew in favor with God – that’s your spiritual life. He grew in favor with man – that’s your social, your relational life.
I take those four categories every year and work my way through them. What can I do this year that I can grow intellectually that will impact my life functionally?
4. READ THE BIBLE
How about a quiet time – do you have a quiet time? Hey, I’ve got a couple of ideas. At Briarwood, we’ve got a little booklet that we can make available to you through our webstore, a one year reading through the Bible. I encourage you to do that – read through the Bible in a year. Through expositional preaching, we look at the leaves on the tree but, when you read through the Bible, you get to step back and look at the forest. I think, about every five years, you ought to read through the Bible in a year. Now, we actually have a little booklet that gives you three different one-year Bible reading plans. I would encourage you take a look at that.
5. DO DEVOTIONAL READINGS
My favorite devotional is called “Morning Exercises” by William Jay, if you can get ahold of that. We’ve got some at our bookstore. They’re hard to find, but they are great. And then I would really encourage you to consider “Table Talk.” R.C. Sproul is home with the Lord, but “Table Talk” is continuing and you cannot know what a great personal or family dynamic to use.
Then, dare I say, either in place of all of the above or augmenting all of the above is a five-minute devotional put out by In Perspective called “Fresh Bread.” You just get our app and, every day for five minutes, we’ll take you through a passage of Scripture with some interesting insights and thoughts. We call it “Fresh Bread” – that’s something I have the privilege to provide – five-minute devotional, “Fresh Bread.”
And you might also include “Today in Perspective.” I actually do both of those – “Here’s my ‘Fresh Bread,’ here’s ‘Today in Perspective.’” And there’s about 15 minutes, in the car, on my way to work, coming home or wherever, get it on the app and that would be a great step forward.
Make sure you’re consistently under the preaching of God’s Word and assembling with God’s people so that you can grow in wisdom and you can grow in favor with God and favor with man. Try to put together a 5 to 15-minute devotional time for your family. Yes, the family that prays together, stays together – it does help to spend time in God’s Word together.
6. CHOOSE (AND STAY WITH) A CHURCH HOME
And then bring your family into the church and bring the church into your family. Unite your family with a solid church. Let me just quote R.C. Sproul if I can: “When you start looking for a church, the No. 1 thing you want to look for is what do they do with God’s Word?” Do they have a high view of God’s Word? Is their pastoral expository preaching each week that will give you a steady diet of God’s Word? Are there small group discipleship opportunities that you can be involved in? And is the church committed to the Great Commission and living out the Great Commandment? That’s what you want to look for in a spirit-filled, God-honoring, Christ-exalting church. Don’t play “drive-by church” if you’ve got time for church. Prioritize your life and your family to be engaged in the life and ministry of a church.
7. SHARE CHRIST WITH OTHERS
And then make a commitment this year to sharing Christ with other people. At Briarwood this year, we’re actually making that a commitment – we’re calling it “LEAD: Lifestyle of Evangelism And Disciple-making.” That’s what we’re encouraging people to consider this coming year. How can you make this a lifestyle?
8. DON’T NEGLECT PHYSICAL HEALTH
And, by the way, don’t forget the physical. The spiritual affects the physical and the physical affects the spiritual, so I don’t want to live to eat; I want to eat to live for Jesus. “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I don’t want to live to drink; I want to drink to live for Jesus. That you bring every appetite under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to lubricate life with food and drink – our life can be oiled and lubricated by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We don’t want to be drunk with wine; we want to be drunk with the Spirit and we want to live for Him with all of our desire to honor Him.
HOW TO CHOOSE WHAT TO IMPROVE
Just spend some time in prayer: What are those things you want to put to death? Let’s put off the old mantle. What are those things that you want to put on? Have yourself anywhere from five to ten objectives this year, get some insight from other people on where they think you can make improvements in putting off and putting on. And then, by the way, get yourself some models for your life, get yourself some mentors for your life and get yourself a band of brothers or a circle of sisters to get around you that you can pray with, and hold each other accountable, be transparent and be engaged in each others’ lives.
There’s my encouragement for the coming new year, but let’s take this year. This is 2018, the year of our Lord. Let’s make it a year for the Lord and, Dear Jesus, make this the last year – come quickly.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.