This past Sunday, I preached on the subject of “resolutions”. What follows here are the notes from that message. It was more of a pep talk than a sermon. It certainly wasn’t expositional but it was I trust true and beneficial. Making resolutions is a necessary and biblical concept that needs to be a constant part of the Christian’s life and the life of the church. I hope you find it helpful.
Philip. 3:8-16 – Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
1. New Year’s resolutions. Who makes them anymore? They only last for a couple of weeks and then we are right back where we started. Better not to make the stupid things in the first place. Such an attitude may be acceptable to a certain degree in relation to resolutions regarding some things, but in the Christian life there is no place whatsoever for defeatism. Giving up on fighting against sin in our lives and fighting to be more righteous and using all the tools that God gives us to become more like Jesus Christ, is a sign of not being a believer at all (I John. 2:19; Hebrews 6:9)
II Resolutions are Biblical
1. Not New Year’s resolutions for sure. We do not find new year’s resolutions in the Scriptures. (Although the feast of unleavened bread and Passover was observed in the first month. The Jews started their year with thanksgiving for being released out of captivity. The Egyptian captivity is a symbol of slavery to sin in the Scriptures and the Passover is a celebration of the death of a lamb that led to their freedom. What a great way God gave them to start the new year.)
2. But the whole matter of resolving to be obedient and faithful and holy … is found throughout all of the Bible. Resolving to stop sinning and start serving God is most certainly a biblical principle.
a. Daniel 1:8
b. Philippians 3:12-13
c. Zacchaeus – Luke 19:8-9
III Resolutions Result from Self Examination
1. One cannot make a decision to make changes in his life if he has not looked into his own life and heart and seen things that need improving or change.
a. The smoker finally realizes that the horrifying picture of the cancerous lung on the cigarette package could really be his lung and he resolves to do something about it. The believer finally realizes that the commandments to the people of God are to him/her personally and looks inside and finds out that sure enough, his heart is just like the Bible says. The lost person finally recognizes that what the Bible says about a life outside of Christ is describing him and he runs to Jesus for forgiveness. All resolutions start by seeing truth about oneself that needs to be improved.
i. Lamentations 3:40 – Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!
ii. Psalm 119:59 – When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;
iii. Haggai 1:7 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.
iv. 2 Cor. 13:5 – Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
v. 1 Cor. 11:27-28 – Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
b. Self examination can be treacherous territory. Many people think they are examining themselves while all they are doing is affirming themselves and examining others to see if they measure up. We are called to self- examination, not other examination
i. Matthew 7:3-5 – Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
c. Self examination means admitting sin/error/needed improvement. In short, it means being honest with oneself. And honesty with oneself is the hardest type of honesty there is.
i. A London newspaper in the early 1920s asked people to write in with an answer to the question “What’s wrong with the world?” What would you say in answer to that? There are many things and a lot of what we would say would no doubt be accurate. But I believe that the answer written in by G.K. Chesterton was by far the most honest and the most biblical. “Dear sirs”, he wrote. “I am”. What’s wrong with the world? I am. And we all smile and think wonderful things about G.K. Chesterton – but would we say what he said? This is what resolutions are about.
d. Self examination in light of the Scriptures. We go to the Bible to see ourselves.
i. How do we fare against texts such as I Cor. 13:4-8, Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:21, I Cor. 12:22 … … … … . The list is very long.
IV Resolutions Come from a Repentant Heart
1. Perhaps this is why so many of them fail. We want to do better, which is a good start. But we lack the will or desire or power to really turn around. We need the power of God – but we’ll deal with that in a minute.
2. In order to do better we need to admit that we have not done as well as we should have or could have.
a. The prodigal son. The prodigal son – “I will arise …” Luke 15:17-21. Note that the actions the son takes with his father are precisely what he said he would do. “I will say” … and he did.
3. The person who wants to quit smoking must come to the point where he admits to himself and those around him that his smoking is wrong, not a good idea … . That he has made a mistake in taking up the habit in the first place.
4. The believer must see his sin and be cut that he has offended a holy God with his sin. He needs to see that this is not just a mistake. This is rebellion and it needs to stop. “I will arise and go to my Father …”.
V Resolutions Come from a Hopeful Heart
1. If we did not believe that this was possible we wouldn’t be resolving to do it. This is why so many resolutions fail. The hope for success is in themselves. Christians ought to be leading the pack in making and keeping good resolutions because we do not make them or keep them in our own strength.
a. I Corinthians 10:13
b. 1 Thess. 5:23-24 – Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
2. Dear believer – we are not like those who have no hope. We have the promises of God to help us. We have the communion of the saints to help us. We have the presence of the Holy Spirit to help us. Let the world fail in its attempts to better itself. Maybe their failures will awaken some of them to the fact taht they need a power in them greater than what they can muster up from within. We do not look wihin for our victories. We look up.
a. Eg. Bruce Almighty – “Too much looking up”.
3. The first place to start in God pleasing resolutions is to make sure you have a Father in heaven to help you. Do you have the Son of God as your Saviour. If not your resolutions will fail. I hope they do. Some may succeed. But this one will not. Resolve to be a better person, acceptable to God without coming to the Son for salvation will always fail.
VI Resolutions Need the Power of God in Order to be Kept
1. John 15:1-5 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
2. We can bear no spiritual fruit at all without Jesus. Christianity, dear ones, is not a self improvement society. It is the sanctifying power of God at work in the hearts and lives of repentant sinners. It is no more or less than that.
VII Resolutions Have the Power of God
1. There is no reason why a follower of Jesus Christ should fail in his resolutions, except that we are in a constant struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil (I John 2:16).
2. We need to use what He has given us
a. II Peter 1:3
b. Philippians 4:13
c. II Corinthians 12:9-10
VIII Some Resolutions
1. Stop delaying coming to Jesus
a. 2 Cor. 6:2 – For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
2. Do the Bible readings from the Pastor’s Christmas letter
3. Get into a Bible reading programme and see it through.
a. Let’s address our – yours and mine – biblical ignorance. Let us stop assuming that we know our Bibles. Elders – we need to grow in our understanding of the Scriptures. Deacons – you need to grow in your understanding of the Scriptures. Trustees … . Ministry leaders … . It is dangerous and sinful and counter-productive to our purposes to assume that we know the Scriptures and that the problems we face are because THEY don’t get it. WE don’t get it and WE need to do something about it.
4. Accountability partner regarding my walk with Jesus
a. Do you need someone to discuss spiritual matters with? Can we help you find someone? Can we help you know how such meetings ought to take place? Eg. What should the meeting consist of? What should be talked about?
b. Meet at least once per month.
c. Pray together
d. Brutal honesty
e. Share from the Scriptures
5. Pray scripturally
a. Study the prayers of the Bible and see there how to pray.
i. The Lord’s prayer
ii. Paul’s prayers for his readers
iii. The Psalms
6. Pray with others
a. A private prayer life is crucial, but it is not enough.
b. with your spouse (if he/she is converted)
c. with your ministry workers
i. Ministry leaders – get your workers together to pray
d. with a prayer group
7. To be at odds with no one with whom I worship on a regular basis
a. Ephesians 4:1-3
b. John 13:35
c. Psalm 133