This week at Phelan Acres we spent some time talking about the value of making New Year’s resolutions. Most of my adult life I have not been big on making them because I’ve always been of the mindset that if something is worth doing, it’s worth starting now. But studies do show that those who make resolutions are much more likely to achieve their goals than those who do not. So it would seem that there is some real merit to the practice after all!

The most popular resolutions (no surprise) have to do with self-improvement: eat more healthfully, exercise more, save more money…all worthy endeavors! But while these are useful resolutions in their own right, they all focus on this temporary existence here on earth. We should be a people who do good things in the here and now that are of eternal, Kingdom value!

In short, I offered a few ways we could refocus in 2019. Here are the resolutions that I thought every Christian could afford to (and should) make:

  1. Get back to the basics. In Acts 2:42, we read “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Nothing fancy here. They first of all devoted themselves to what the Apostles were teaching – both accepting those things as true and also acting on them! There is no real belief apart from action. We could broaden this category from “the Apostles’ teaching” to the whole of the Bible in our day since we are now blessed to have a completed canon of Scripture to devote ourselves to. They also devoted themselves to fellowship and the breaking of bread. Their idea of fellowship was much more than a few minutes of chatting between or after services. They did life together! And a natural part of doing life together was sharing meals regularly. This would often include observing what we now call communion, but one need not occur without the other and often, they were one and the same. Finally, the early church devoted themselves to prayer. We are powerless apart from the power given us through the Spirit. And that comes to us through the vehicle of prayer. It is not innate in us. It doesn’t come from within! We cannot conjure it up by sheer willpower. As a church recognizes that, they are left no option but to get serious about prayer, knowing that they can accomplish nothing on their own. Let’s as a church get back to the basics in 2019!
  2. Become Intentional Disciples of Jesus. It’s so important that we not assume too much about our devotion to Jesus – especially if our faith life and our spiritual life has been stagnant. But devotion doesn’t just happen on its own. We have got to be intentional about our obedience in following Christ. And that might mean a number of things, but first of all, it means to count the cost of following Christ. And after counting the cost and realizing how great it might be, decide to follow him anyway! A true, intentional disciple has done this – continues to do this as they follow Christ. And that will mean that Jesus will interfere with your life. In fact, it means that your life is not even yours to begin with! (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We cannot become satisfied with the status quo. The idea of devotion to Christ in the West has set the bar so low that it isn’t even a fitting measurement! We have got to want more – more of Christ and thus, more of the Spirit. But that also means less of us and less control over us.
  3. Be Doers of the Word. You know the passage from James 1:22 – “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” It’s so easy to content ourselves with our morning devotions. And that’s a great way to start your day! But being a Christian doesn’t just mean reading God’s Word, but doing it! We said it earlier – there is no such thing as true belief apart from actions that correspond to that belief. As James would say later in his epistle “you show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works!” [emphases mine]. The world is tired of our walk not measuring up to our talk! And so am I! We lose our audience when we show ourselves to be hypocrites – saying this, but doing that. And we can’t afford to lose our audience because those are the people we have been called to reach. So resolves this year to be doers of the word and not just hearers!

These three things are easy enough to say, but will prove much harder to do…especially as time wears on and 2019 presents us new challenges we were not prepared for or had no idea we would be up against. But even if we fail – and we will! – we need to make these resolutions (or something similar). And when we fail, we need to resolve to get back up and recommit ourselves to the things we identified as worthy of making resolutions about in the first place! It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Join us in this worthy pursuit and have a blessed 2019!