This time of year many people make New Year’s resolutions with lots of promises broken by the 5th of January! Of course, Jesus didn’t mention New Year’s resolutions by name but in His Sermon on the Mount He described making promises and oaths. Here’s what He said.
“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” (Matthew 5:33-37 – The Message)
The Sermon on the Mount is ALL about genuine heart and life change from the inside out—change only Jesus makes! Jesus is saying, “mean what you say and say what you mean.” But He is saying more than that. He is also saying, “don’t fake it!” Don’t tell people you will pray for them and certainly don’t make a big show of promises and commitments (even small ones) when you have no intention of keeping those promises! Jesus is saying that’s worse than just keeping our mouths shut and doing nothing! Jesus knows hypocrisy and legalism lead to bitterness and separation from God and others.
So, what would Jesus recommend about promises and New Year’s resolutions?
Matthew 6:33, another verse from The Sermon on the Mount, says it well, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (NLT) In the new Kingdom of God Jesus brings, seeking and following Jesus with all our heart and life, changes everything! Seeking Jesus Christ fully and surrendering to Him more completely is the resolution that transforms other resolutions and us! Through devotion to Jesus we seek God’s Kingdom and become more like Him as our lives are changed to become living example of what only God can do with a life through Jesus Christ!
While New Year’s resolutions aren’t necessarily bad, the real goal is greater devotion to Jesus! Seeking Jesus and His Kingdom first means God helps us become true promise or resolution-keepers by having His way with us and transforming who we are and who we’re becoming in Christ! This looks different for each one of us so here are some questions to ask and answer in this new year:
- What were the challenges I faced in 2019 and what would God want me to learn from them?
- What where the things I celebrated in 2019 that God wants me to continue?
- What things should I anticipate and plan for in 2019?
- Is there a specific sin or struggle in my life God wants me to recognize and repent from in 2020?
- Is there a broken relationship in my life I need to seek out and repair in 2020?
- How can I seek God and Jesus more in 2020? (Attend church regularly? Prayer? Time spent in quiet – “listening to God”? Reading Bible or daily devotional regularly?)
- In what ways can I trust God more in 2020?
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)