Dec29TueDecember 29, 2015
2016 is nearly upon us so tis the season to take an inventory of how we lived in 2015 and think through some much needed changes for 2016. In other words, its time to make a list of New Year’s Resolutions. It is time to make some changes. For those who were too busy, its time to start enjoying life. For those who were too lazy, it is time to get organized and learn something new. And for those who were too self-indulgent, it is time to lose weight or get out of debt or help others.
Now those are some admirable goals but I believe there should be something more to the resolutions we make as Christians.
Because our purpose on earth is very different. From our allegiances to our actions we are totally different than the world around us…or at least we are supposed to be. That’s why Peter calls us, “aliens and strangers.”
So as Christians we shouldn’t be content with merely planning to drop a few pounds or save a few pennies. Instead, as believers we exist for Christ, to follow him and honor him and glorify him. He is to be the supreme object of our aims and affections. He is to be the one we are to praise and pursue. Everything else, in comparison, is nothing more than rubbish.
So put simply, our resolutions as Christians ought to be profoundly deeper and categorically different from the rest of the world.
So very simply I plan on talking about our one supreme goal we should all have as Christians.
Paul writes, “So we make it our goal to please him.”
Other translations have we “aspire” or “we make it our aim” or “we make it our ambition.” The TEV says, “more than anything else, we want.”
There is an ambition that is selfish and worldly. Jeremiah 45:5 says, “Should you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.” So the Bible forbids having ambition to please ourselves and in fact Jesus died on the cross to rescue us from selfish ambition. Indeed, the call to be a follower of Jesus is a call to die to selfish ambition. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
But there is also a holy ambition that honors the Lord and that should characterize all who believe (we). Paul writes in Romans 15:20, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known…” Paul had a legitimate ambition to preach the gospel and plant churches.
Of course he did not do this willy nilly. He had goals. He had plans. And He was right to do so. Planning is essential to a productive ministry (personal and corporate). Paul was the greatest church planter who ever lived. He accomplished more in his life for the spread of the gospel than any other person. So I think it is wise to take seriously his method and part of his method was planning.
I never cease to be amazed at how careless Christians are with their spiritual lives. We take time to plan our days, our budgets, our careers but we give little to no thought toward planning our spiritual lives. Why not? Why don’t we apply the same earnestness in planning to maximize our spiritual life as we do in planning to make a living? The Bible certainly teaches us to do so:
- Proverbs 6:6-11
- Proverbs 14:15
- Proverbs 15:22
- Proverbs 16:3
- Ephesians 1:9-10
- Luke 19:10 – “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
So God has a plan, Jesus had a plan, Paul had a plan – we are to have plans! It is good and right to have plans and ambitions and aspirations! It is so easy to be busy but it takes planning to be effective. Do you want to be an effective Christian? God wants you to plan for it! To aspire for it!
But it is not just about making plans. Pleasing Christ must be at the center of them.
Paul writes, So we make it our goal to please him.” We have as our highest goal to be pleasing to Christ. That same verb, “to be pleasing to him,” is used in Titus 2:9, “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them…” That is a fitting picture of Christ as Lord and the believer as his slave. We are to see ourselves as slaves of Christ whose one purpose, one ambition, one goal in life is to please Christ.
And we are to do this in life and death for Paul goes on to write, “whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”
So pleasing Christ must be the central aim of everything we do in life and death.
Philippians 1:21 – “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Romans 14:7, 8 – “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”
Colossians 1:10 - “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”
He is so committed to this that he writes in 1 Cor. 9 that he beats his body and makes it his slave so he will not be disqualified.
So Paul’s great aim in life and death is to magnify Christ!
How is that for a new year’s resolution – resolve to do everything you to do please Christ. Resolve to make much of Christ. Resolve to live to show how great Jesus is. Resolve to glorify Jesus in all things. To me and I hope to you that is the only resolution worthy of effort and focus and it is a resolution that will fuel all other secondary resolutions.
So let’s pause here and consider an all important question – What is the driving force of your new year resolutions? Are your resolutions centered on Christ? Is your desire to lose weight through exercise and good diet? Why do you desire that? Where does Christ figure into that? Is it so you can be a better steward of the body God has given you or to be in better shape to serve Christ or is it for vain reasons?
Is your resolution to do better with finances? Why? Is it so you can leverage more of it for Christ or so you can buy more worldly things?
What I am driving at is the fact that as Christians what makes your resolutions different from unbelievers? Unbelievers also want health, financial security, protection, happy marriages, healthy children, to break bad habits. Who doesn’t want those things? You don’t need the transforming work of the Holy Spirit to want any of these things. What then is the difference between your desire for these things, and theirs? The key difference must be that your deepest desire, that pervades all other desires, is that Christ be exalted.
I make it my aim to please Christ with the food I eat, with the body I have, with the money I have, with my marriage, with my kids and grandkids.
Resolving to please Christ is the supreme ambition!
If you are going to please Christ, you have to know what pleases Him. So it starts with knowing Scripture where God has revealed his will for us. Scripture teaches us what pleases God. So we study the Scriptures letting its truth permeate deep into our hearts, shaping our convictions and behavior and emotions.
Romans 12:2, “be transformed by the renewing your mind.”
Ephesians 4:22-24 says we put off the old self and put on the new self through the renewing of the mind.
Deep, transformational change happens as the Holy Spirit works in renewing your mind through the Holy Scriptures. What we choose to think on guides our actions and over time our actions become habits. If you want deep, biblical, Christ-honoring change it comes by saturating your mind with God’s Word. You must hunger after it, thirst after it, meditate upon it.
Remember in whose strength we do this. Not by our might or our power but by God’s Spirit.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 – “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that your God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- We are only effective if God’s power is working with in us. It is an affirmation of John 15:5 which says apart from Christ we can do nothing.
- And what is the point of this prayer? The glory of God in Christ Jesus!
Philippians 2:12-13 – “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
- He does not say, “work for your salvation.” We are saved by grace. Now we are to bring it to completion, to live out the fact that we have been saved.
- But this is not possible through human effort but because God who works in us.
Colossians 1:28-29 – “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”
Now everyone knows that making resolutions is easy. It is keeping them that is the hard part but what helps is when we have the proper goal – to please Christ. So don’t give up on resolutions that are godly and holy.
The Christian life is not easy. In 2 Timothy 2 Paul gives three illustrations of the Christian life: the soldier, athlete, hard-working farmer.
In 1 Timothy 4:7 Paul writes, “train yourselves to be godly.”
In 1 Timothy 6:12 Paul writes, “Fight the good fight of the faith.”
There is no place in the Christian life for complacency, laziness or excuse making.
2 Peter 1:5-10
So it is not enough to want to please Christ. We must passionately pursue it. We must work toward it happening. We can’t just talk about it. We must apply ourselves.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we should have a glorious ambition – to know and follow hard after Christ. However, be careful because we might be tempted to think that ambition is seen only in extraordinary accomplishments but I would argue that ambition is glorious in the ordinary.
1 Cor. 10:31
Nothing is more ordinary than eating and drinking. Nothing is more commonplace than eating and drinking.
But yet even in this we are to bring glory to God. True, heartfelt, deep change is always a process that takes places where you and I live everyday. You and I live in little moments and if God doesn’t rule our little moments and doesn’t work to recereate us in the middle of them, then there is little hope for us.
Quote Tripp article, “Trading One Dramatic Resolution for 10,000 Little Ones:
You see, the character of a life is not set in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments. The character that was formed in those little moments is what shapes how you respond to the big moments of life.
What leads to significant personal change?
And what makes all of this possible? Relentless, transforming, little-moment grace. You see, Jesus is Immanuel, not just because he came to earth, but because he makes you the place where he dwells. This means he is present and active in all the mundane moments of your daily life.
And what is he doing? In these small moments, he is delivering every redemptive promise he has made to you. In these unremarkable moments, he is working to rescue you from you and transform you into his likeness. By sovereign grace, he places you in daily, little moments that are designed to take you beyond your character, wisdom, and grace so that you will seek the help and hope that can only be found in him. In a lifelong process of change, he is undoing you and rebuilding you again — exactly what each one of us needs.
Yes, you and I need to be committed to change, but not in a way that hopes for a big event of transformation, but in a way that finds joy in and is faithful to a day-by-day, step-by-step process of insight, confession, repentance and faith.
Some general exhortations for planning would be:
More specifically, take some time to think through some of these things:
If so, then what?
If you love bass fishing, aren’t you going to learn as much as you can about it, hang out with the best bass fishermen, and go fish at Monster Bass lake every Saturday?
If you love your wife, then what? Doesn’t it make sense to learn as much as you can about her, hang out with her, spend weekends doing things with her?
If you love the Lord, doesn’t it make sense to learn as much as you can about him, hang out with him in prayer and fellowship with other Christians, and go tell others about him?
You see? If you love the Lord, how should you behave? How should it impact the various elements of your life?
If believers would put as much drive into Christian living and service as they do others things we would have a much greater impact on the world!
Followers of Jesus should have a glorious ambition – to please Christ – and this glorious ambition should be directed by the Scriptures, empowered by God, and fervently lived out in the exciting and mundane parts of life.