"Not happy yet? Try a New Year’s resolution!"
Our consumeristic culture knows this holiday cycle well. Media surrounds us with visual reminders to move from the Christmas shopping list to our New Year’s resolution list. It seems as if the holiday humdrum is anticipated and we are given the solution in the form of a better life, promises for ourselves. If I am feeling sluggish from junk, sugar and lack of sleep, the easy solution, my resolution would be to eat healthy, establish an exercise routine, and get more sleep—right?
Surveying Your Behavior
Societal pressure to survey our lives and find something that needs changed, we look and always find something we don’t like. Frustrated with ourselves, we’ve created the popular resolutions: drink less alcohol, get a better education, get a better job, get out of debt, eat healthier, lose weight, or have less stress. We behave a certain way all year and the tendency is to eagerly attack at least one of our unhealthy behaviors with inspired yet unattainable vows, rules, or promises: I won’t eat sugar. I will work out five times a week. I won’t use my credit card
. Etc. We embrace the lie, "if this one thing changes, it will make me a "better" person." With the average New Year’s resolution lasting two weeks, the busyness of life soon takes over those empty promises revealing the shallowness of those decisions. Christians who pledge to read the Bible in the year, fizzle out by February. Debt reduction plans stop when we are enamored with yet another unwise purchase.
But change in behavior barely gets beneath the surface to our heart, forgetting that behavior is the product of what’s in our hearts. It’s a massive set-up for failure. Motivation to change our lives is great, as long as we look deeper.
Searching Your Heart
The deeper look is the heart. Our fad diets fade because we haven’t searched our hearts and found sin. Pull back the outer layer of behavior and you will find sin. The problem that needs changing isn’t just negative choices, bad spending, unhealthy eating, it is sin in our hearts, that tempts us to make godless choices. God searches our hearts and lovingly and gently shows us what we need to see:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!"
It is good to survey our behavior and find what is broken. But more than attempting to fix our broken selves with resolutions, we need God’s help to see our hearts that are broken and need redeemed by Jesus.
We need to repent, we get to
repent, of sin that God shows us. Then, because of his grace, we can respond with resolutions. Resolutions are redeemed when we make choices because our great God is changing our hearts. Resolutions borne out of heart change reveal repentance. If I join the gym in January because God has searched my heart and showed me my lack of health stewardship, a decision to exercise regularly in 2012 is a repentance-empowered resolution that brings redemption. God changes my heart and my behavior, making exercise worshipful by his grace.
Repentance, Resolution, Redemption
This can only happen with the work of Christ on our behalf. Jesus at Christmas reminds us that he is the God-Man. He came as a baby into human history with a plan to die for our sin, taking the punishment that we deserve. He nailed our sinful behavior to the cross. Jesus has loved us with perfect, heart cleaning love. New Year’s resolutions can be a response to this amazing grace, because he first loved us. As God shows us what is broken in our lives, he leads us to himself, and we respond in worship.
Take some time to reflect in prayer what God is showing you about your life. What needs change? Pray for wisdom from God and discernment. Pray that Jesus will give you the grace to see and the heart to worship him.
Trisha Wilkerson is a deacon at Mars Hill Church Ballard, where her husband, Mike, leads the Redemption Groups ministry.