Do you make New Years Resolutions? I don’t. For one thing, I’m like most people, breaking them well before the page of the calendar turns to February. Like the Mosaic Law, New Years Resolutions basically function as painful reminders of my total depravity. They confront me with the truth that I can’t even live up to my own standards, let alone God’s!
But also, I believe that Christians should make resolutions every time the Lord convicts us of sin. We call such resolutions “repentance.”
I practically hear you moaning, “Oh DebbieLynne, please don’t bring up repentance on a holiday weekend!” And I agree that the idea of New Years Resolutions is much more palatable than the thought of actual repentance.
New Years Resolutions, to be honest, generally deal with surface behaviors like smoking, overeating or not exercising enough. These are, of course, serious issues that have tremendous health implications, but even so, they usually only address outward symptoms. Okay, resolving to read the Bible daily or pray regularly for a loved one’s salvation is getting a little more spiritual, but those practices still can degenerate into legalism. In short, New Years Resolutions point to our achievements rather than than our obedience to the Lord.
Repentance, on the other hand, insists on aligning our hearts with God’s Word. We confess thoughts, attitudes and behaviors we have as violations of His righteous standards, accepting full responsibility for those violations. Further, we now regard those violations as ugly things that break the heart of God. Thus, we change our direction, running away from sin in order to pursue holiness.
Do we repent perfectly? Only in our dreams! But our repeated repentance continues melting our hearts into conformity with His heart, so that we honestly desire for Him to change us. In other words, Biblical repentance transforms our hearts instead of merely reforming our outward behaviors. To our frustration, the outward behaviors may die slowly, but our hatred of those behaviors shows the beginning of true repentance.
So then, repentance differs from New Years Resolutions because it goes beyond surface behaviors to change our hearts. Rather than pointing to our supposed good works, repentance draws attention back to the Lord as the One Who both motivates and facilitates our transformation as a work of His grace.
Some of you may enjoy the fun of making New Years Resolutions, and I celebrate your Christian liberty to do so. But I prefer daily repentance, trusting that the Lord uses it toward my sanctification. Whether you make New Years Resolutions or not, I encourage you to repent promptly and joyfully throughout the New Year for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.