At this time of year, many set pen to paper and write down all the things they resolve to do to make sure the new year turns out better than the year just concluded. Some want to lose weight. Some want to get out of debt. Some resolve to give more to ministry; others want to save more. Still others want a happier home life.
So . . . what is it for you? What are you resolving to do this year that will make 2011 better than 2010? Let me suggest one thing above all else:
PREACH THE GOSPEL TO YOURSELF EVERY DAY!
No matter what we resolve to do, resolution will not make this year better than last year. Never has a life been made better by resolution in the long run. Sure, we can change behavior for a season and see measurable change in our lives. We can be less slothful and more disciplined. We can be less impatient and more forgiving. But inevitably, if our resolution is not accompanied by transformation through the power of the Gospel, we will find ourselves in pretty much the same place at the end of this year as we were last year. And that is a place no child of God should be! We have been commanded to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), not to remain mired in inertia!
Resolutions become reality when we keep the Gospel before us. When the eyes of our faith stay fixed on the Gospel—virgin birth, sinless life, atoning death, triumphant resurrection, and glorious ascension—cold hearts thaw, hard hearts soften, and distant hearts draw near to Jesus. It is only by trusting in Christ’s promise to finish what He started in us (Philippians 1:6) that we are empowered to keep getting up every time we fall.
Growing in grace means more than growing in Christian character, as important as that is. To grow in grace is to grow in the awareness of our spiritual bankruptcy and the knowledge of the yawning chasm that lies between sinful man and a holy God that was bridged by Jesus Christ.
When I speak of a man growing in grace, I mean simply this: that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual mindedness more marked — J. C. Ryle
Resolution becomes reality as our understanding of God’s astonishing, unmerited favor becomes more real to us. Deep down, we know we are great sinners, both by nature and habit, and yet we are loved by an even greater Savior who laid down His life for us. Scripture emphatically assures us that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). You are loved in spite of your past failings and you are loved in spite of your future failings!
The truth of the Gospel is the only power that can remove the merit-oriented mindset we bring into our faith and turn our resolutions into reality.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!