The beginning of each new year is often marked by resolutions. We’ve over-eaten during the holidays, so we resolve to lose weight. We’ve accumulated extra stuff during Christmas and now we resolve to get organized. We’ve spent so much of our time on preparation and celebration for the holidays that we’ve gotten behind in our normal responsibilities. So we resolve to complete projects. Marketing companies don’t fail to take advantage of our new resolve. Commercials continually proclaim and entice with slogans like “New Year, New You.”
We joke about how few people actually stick with their resolutions. Just a few months after the ball drops in Times Square, many of us have completely given up on resolutions made that first day in January. Often, discouragement settles in. We get frustrated because we didn’t stick with our plan.
This beginning of the new year resolve, followed by failure and then discouragement is a cycle often repeated in our Christian walk. I try to organize my time so I can be in the Word each day. I try to be more of a cheerful servant to my family. I develop a prayer plan. Yet, inevitably I fail. I stumble and can’t seem to get back on my feet. I try harder and then despair that my Christian growth isn’t progressing the way it should.
Isn’t that why Jesus came to die?
I can’t keep my resolutions. I can’t love and give the way I should. I can’t hold back depressive thoughts that at times immobilizes me. I can’t always be the Christian I know I am supposed to be.
Yet, Jesus came to live a perfect life because we couldn’t. He was always obedient to His Father, always loving, always connected to the Father in prayer–completely sinless. His perfect sinless life was given to us at the cross. God now looks at you and me and sees the righteous life of Jesus. This means He doesn’t frown at me because I can’t keep up my prayer plan. Rather, He looks on me with love and pleasure because of the gospel of grace.
Our Christian walk will continue to have its ups and downs because of the remaining sin in our lives. I can get discouraged when I stumble or I can be encouraged by what Christ has already done for me. I can try my hardest in my own strength to obey or I can rest in the strength of Christ who already lived perfectly for me. Rather than getting caught up in the resolve to discouragement cycle, I need to “preach the gospel” to myself each day, reminding myself that I am forgiven and loved more than I can imagine or comprehend. There is nothing I can ever do that will make God love me less. There’s also nothing I can do to make Him love me more.
We all know the importance of the gospel for salvation from sins. But do we realize how important the gospel is for our growth in holiness? Preaching the gospel to myself means that I not only have to remember the salvation that was secured for me by my Savior, but also the righteousness of Christ that was given to me. I am a new creation; my sins have been cast as far as the east is from the west. Jesus already lived the life I could not live.
Tullian Tchividjian says in Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Everything, “Christian growth, in other words, doesn’t happen by first behaving better, but by believing better–believing in bigger, deeper, brighter ways what Christ has already secured for sinners.” When I struggle with depression; when I am impatient with my children; when I fail to read my Bible; when I stumble in my growth in holiness, I am drawn again and again to the cross. Each time I begin to feel like a failure, I preach to myself the gospel of grace. I remember anew all that Christ has done for me. Inside my heart, love bubbles up and gratitude overflows. It produces change in me and propels me forward in my growth in Christ. It’s my love and gratitude for all that Christ has done for me that transforms and changes me.
Perhaps instead of making resolutions this year, we ought to start a “preach the gospel to yourself” revolution. A heart transforming revolution that keeps our eyes on the Savior and not on our failures. Soaking in the warm rays of the Savior’s love for us, drinking from the fountain of grace, and feeding on God’s Word, we can grow and be transformed. For we know the truth, that we don’t need a “New You” this year. We already are a new creation, transformed by the love and grace of the gospel and completely perfect in every way in our Father’s eyes.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4