For as long as I can recall, I’ve never been one who is given to making New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t faulted those who do—but in my own personal experience, I saw them as relatively pointless. My sentiments behind this were simply that if you earnestly wanted to do these things, you should just do them, rather than make much ado about nothing. That’s not to say the goals in and of themselves are unimportant, but rather, what resolutions often seem to be is an exercise in futility, where people make lofty goals and aspirations, yet fail to follow through on them year after year. We all know there is an incredible spike in gym memberships and attendance this time of year—but give it a few weeks and things will settle back to “normal” and people will go back to eating cheeseburgers.
Where I failed in my understanding was that these goals are not supposed to be a sort of checklist to boast of our accomplishments, but rather, a series of benchmarks on what we aspire to be and do. Of course, these things can be good or bad, depending on the worldview one holds, yet it is likewise beholden to the motivations behind these goals. If our worldview is unbiblical, we may by common grace aspire to something good, but it will still be shrouded in vanity. Likewise, even those who hold Christian convictions can fall prey to faulty motivations on why they seek to do what they do, rather than take every aspect of our life captive, for the glory of God.
It was not until I started to read through the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards that I found myself drawn to the idea of making such personal resolutions. Here was a man who looked to the Scriptures and gave his earnest attention to obeying them by making the best use of his time on earth. His resolutions were thoroughly Biblical and practical and as we look back on his life, we can see the ways these things shaped his heart and mind. In other words, Edwards wasn’t merely a man who made much ado about nothing in his resolutions. He was a man that earnestly desired to glorify God in his life yet realized his own proclivity to fall short of that aim. I believe his resolutions were made for the purpose of refocusing his heart toward eternal things—to remind himself that he was bought with a price—that he is therefore a slave to righteousness, through the grace of Christ.
In light of that, my disposition toward resolutions have changed. Perhaps part of this is owing to the fact that I am entering a new season of life as a pastor, and it has forced me to realize the significance of what it means to be an example of godliness to the flock God has entrusted me with. Perhaps part of this is also owing to the fact that I am getting older. I no longer take for granted that the next day is guaranteed to me as I did in the days of my unbelieving youthfulness, and I desperately want to finish the race well. For me, then, resolutions appear to be a way to remind myself of these realities as the new year dawns.
My former sentiments still remain in some sense. Resolutions are only as good as one’s commitment to them; it is, after all, better to never make a vow than to break one (Ecc. 5:5). Our “yes” should be “yes,” and our “no” should remain a “no,” for anything more than this is from the evil one (Matt. 5:37). We are not to swear on anything, but rather, we are to simply be “doers,” lest we be like the man the apostle James describes as the “forgetful hearer” (Ja. 1:22-25). The remarkable thing is that the one who “does” finds blessing (Ja. 1:25). Yet the litmus for this is not simply that one “does” whatever he puts his mind to; his aspirations to obedience must be born out of Scripture and fidelity to Christ.
With that, here are thirteen resolutions in the spirit of Jonathan Edwards that I believe are fundamentally biblical, practical, and attainable through the grace of Christ.