For as long as people celebrated the “New Year,” I’m fairly convinced that they have been making resolutions. Each first day of January millions of people resolve to quit this or to start that or to change something else. However, each year those same millions of people fail in their objective and never become better than they were the year before.
God’s people notoriously fall into this same habit of trying to make resolutions. With earnest appeal upon their determination, they pledge to draw closer to God or step into a more obedient walk with the Lord and just like the rest of the world, fail in the attempt, coming away more discouraged and disheartened. And some, a rare few, may even fall away from the Lord simply because they couldn’t change themselves.
Yet your Father in heaven wants you to conform to the image of Christ—even more than you! And where you are powerless, God has all the power needed to transform a life. However, He insists that you do things His way. To become what God wants requires more than just a New Year’s resolution, it demands a resolution for a lifetime.
To build this as a foundational reality in life, I invite you to cast your gaze upon Psalm 85. This is one of the singular greatest treatises on the cry for revival, renewal and a rededication to all that God has purposed. There are four truths unearthed for you and I to begin making our resolutions.
Remember God’s Redemption (verses 1-3)
“Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah. You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.”
Do you remember that time when God brought understanding to your mind and you received the mercy of Christ? There is a discipline in remembering that you have been born again. It seems to be lost fairly often in the life of the church today. There is every reason to look forward to the future, but you must not forget what has been done in the past. If you are going to make a resolution for a lifetime it must be built upon the redemption of God.
- Deuteronomy 15:15, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.”
- Ephesians 2:12, “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
- Revelation 3:3, “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”
Plead for God’s Restoration (verses 4-7)
“Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation”.
Why do people make resolutions? Is there something wrong in their life that needs to be corrected? I have never heard a person make a resolution to engage in promiscuity or to take up smoking or to begin gambling. No. Resolutions are made that are meant to change life for the better not the worse. But I think that New Year’s resolutions for the Christian would be better understood as a New Year’s repentance. Because, ultimately, it is not about trying to make yourself better, but of turning to God and pleading with Him in humble desperation that He would intervene and transform the life.
- Psalm 51:1, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”
- Joel 2:13, “And rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents from over disaster.”
- 2Corinthians 7:10, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
Listen for God’s Response (verses 8-9)
“Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.”
There are many who claim to hear from God and yet they contradict His word and even themselves! You must understand that only God can determine what needs to be said and if you are listening with preconceived notions you will fail to hear from God. Listen to what the Lord has to say. Let your ears be opened to God’s message. And there is only one determining factor that can be trusted concerning God’s voice: is it Biblical. God will not contradict His own word so everything that is “heard” is going to have to measure up to the Scripture.
- Ecclesiastes 5:1, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.”
- Matthew 13:16, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”
- Hebrews 1:1-2, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
Live by God’s Requirements (verses 10-13)
“Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.”
God’s response to your plea is always connected with a call to be obedient to Him. When God hears your cry and responds with mercy and forgiveness, there is only one thing that He desires: faithfulness. When God changes the life, He changes it to be able to serve Him. When God sends His love He expects to find faithfulness as a response. When God imparts righteousness, there is peace. Where does faithfulness spring? It springs from the earth—from you and me. Where does righteousness look down? It looks down from heaven—from God. In His imputing righteousness to sinful men, God requires faithfulness to be a byproduct.
- John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
- Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
- James 2:23, “And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God.”
As you approach the New Year, make this resolution for a lifetime. That you resolve, and that I resolve, to remember God’s redemption, to plead for God’s restoration, to listen to God’s response, and to live by God’s requirements. This is the only resolution that can ever or will ever bring real transformation.
Michael Duncan is a multi-published author, including From Vision to Victory and Shadow Remnant. He is co-host on the Alive in Christ radio network and serves as a pastor in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. He is a keynote speaker and conference presenter and can be contacted at: http://www.authormichaelduncan.com and you can follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/michaelduncanbooks.
All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Holy Bible.