OK, OK, I know it is not exactly the new year, but well into the month of January. And I was not planning to write about resolutions anyway. But a very brief bullet point list I presented elsewhere seemed to be well-received, so I thought I would run with it here, expanding each point along the way.
We dare not remain inert and stagnant in our Christian walk, but press on each year to bigger and better things in Christ and for Christ. We must challenge ourselves and spur each other on. So here are seven resolutions which I hope all of you might consider taking on board, or at least something along these lines.
1. Resolve to read the Bible every day (maybe for the first time in your life!)
I am staggered at the fact that so many Christians have never read their entire Bible – ever. I am staggered at the fact that so many Christians do not read Scripture every day – or every week, or every month. As has been said, the Bible consists of God’s love letters to his people.
How can we not be reading them? How can we claim to be disciples of Christ and yet ignore his Word? Why do we take such a valuable gift and treat it with such contempt? As I have said time and time again, if you read a mere three chapters a day (3.25 to be exact), you will be through the Bible in a year.
Thus if you started with Genesis 1 on January 1, you should be up to Gen 36 by now. That takes you just ten minutes a day. That is the bare minimum. We all should read and study and meditate on his Word daily. Use some helps, such as a study Bible (eg., the ESV Study Bible) to help you through the tough bits. But get reading for heaven’s sake!
How many hours a day do we waste on mindless, immoral TV programs, or fruitless Facebook games? If we can waste so much time on such trivial pursuits, then surely we can find some time each day to read the most important book there is. We really have no excuses here.
2. Resolve to pray more for the Kingdom
What was said about Bible reading is equally true about prayer. We are to be a people of prayer; it is one of our greatest gifts – and weapons. Are we using it? Are we praying? And is our prayer more than just the usual laundry list of requests?
One good prayer help is found in the acronym ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. This involves what prayer is really supposed to be about. But we all can resolve to pray more, on a more regular basis. It needs to become a priority in our lives.
3. Resolve to work more for the Kingdom
As I have said so often, without prayer we will get nowhere. But without putting feet to our prayers, we will also not get very far. Prayer and action always must go together. We need to not only be praying a whole lot more, but we need to become much more active in promoting the Kingdom.
There are a zillion things we can do for Christ and the Kingdom, but the question is, are we doing anything? Too many believers are doing nothing. Too many believers are sitting in their holy huddles, having a real nice bless-me club experience. But they are having almost no impact whatsoever on the world around them.
The early church turned their world upside down, as we read in Acts 17:6. We can use some activist believers who will do the same today. Too many believers are sitting on the premises instead of standing on the promises. And those promises include doing great things for the Kingdom if we will step out of our comfort zones, trust God, and be men and women of action.
4. Resolve to work harder to protect marriage as an institution, and in your own life
There are so many things we can do as I mentioned in the point above. Simply resolving to share our faith and be more willing to be a Christian witness in every area of life would keep us fully occupied. Here (and in the next point) let me single out two specific areas which I think we really do need some strong and firm resolutions on.
The war on God’s institutions of marriage and family is at fever pitch right now all over the Western world. Yet most believers either seem to be unaware of this or unconcerned about it. How dare anyone who names the name of Christ be disinterested and apathetic about these utterly vital Christian institutions?
Whatever God values and champions is what we should value and champion. When his will is being blatantly and flagrantly attacked, we should snap out of our slumber and come to arms. There is a war going on here over marriage and family, and none of us can just sit back and allow these great social and spiritual goods to be destroyed. So please, get involved in this battle.
And one of the most important ways in which we can stand up for marriage is to make sure our own marriage is in good shape. In many respects that will be the greatest way to defend marriage – by showing what a real godly marriage is all about to a world that knows nothing of such matters.
5. Resolve to do more to protect the unborn
The other great moral battle of our time is of course the war on the unborn. With 45-50 million babies slaughtered each year around the world, no believer can dare sit back and remain aloof, cold and uninvolved in this. The killing of the innocent is something which lies heavily on the heart of God, and it should on ours as well.
Sure, there are all sorts of issues the believer should be passionately concerned about, but sometimes some prioritising is necessary. There is no question that the defence of the unborn has to be at the top of our lists. The quote attributed to Martin Luther is appropriate here:
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle front besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
So please, resolve to take a stand for the unborn this year. There are plenty of ways you can get involved. Perhaps for some of you, the first step will be to ask God to break your hearts with what breaks his heart. He grieves deeply over the massacre of innocent babies. Do you?
6. Resolve to worry less about what people think and say, and resolve to get some Holy Ghost backbone
All of us should resolve to break out of our overwhelming timidity, cowardliness and lack of backbone. There are so many spineless wonders in our churches today. We have entire congregations full of evangellyfish who never open their mouths to share their faith or speak biblical truth into a needy and dying culture.
As Weary Dunlop is reported to have said, “The problem with Australia is that we have wimps in the pulpits and cowards in the pews”. Whether he said it or not, I love that line. It is so true. It is time to cast off the fear of man and concerns about rocking the boat and offending people. We fear man far too much. And the only real antidote to that is to fear God instead.
An ounce of the fear of God would dispel a tonne of the fear of man. We need more than ever fearless men and women of God who will stand strong in 2014 and trumpet his Word, testify to his character, stand for his truth, and proclaim his Kingdom values. Will you be one of those courageous saints?
7. Actually my original list had seven points, and seven is always a good number, but I wanted to add one more. So I have deleted one from my earlier list and will offer this one instead as a closing remark. This is actually taken from the words of a dying pastor spoken to me many years ago, and they are well worth adding here. As he lay in his sickbed he said something like this to me: “Make sure you do not do anything to bring shame on our Lord”.
That was great advice then and great advice now. Do we make it our habit to resolve each day to only bring glory and honour to Christ? Do we have a great fear of bringing shame and disrepute to him and his name? Is it our desire to always please him, serve him, honour him, and represent him properly and accurately?
This new year is a time for all Christians to resolve to be more Christlike, to be less filled with sin and self, and to more faithfully serve and represent Christ to a needy and dying world. Will you join with me in such resolutions?