I have a love-hate relationship with New Year’s Resolutions. It's usually the fault of gift cards for Cheesecake Factory or a friend's new venture in selling clever handmade products on Etsy, but, really, the bottom line is I don’t like feeling compelled to make promises I can’t be sure I am able to keep. This especially goes for resolutions where I resolve to lose XX amount of pounds, or to embrace a minimalist lifestyle, or to spend XX number of hours per week off the internet. Things happen, and while sometimes those things might legitimately interfere with the keeping of a resolution, I know myself too well and anticipate happily taking advantage of a good excuse to ditch the resolution -- like a gift card or an insane challenge to write post an article a day for a month.
Let's be honest, though -- it’s really a hate-hate relationship. There's nothing I love about changing habits or behavior. The “good ideas” resolutions aren't the only ones that stir up feelings of rebellion in me. Not only do I refuse to resolve to drop some weight or alter my social media habits, I resist committing to resolutions that are simply paraphrases of Jesus’s commands to us in His Word. That is sin.
In truth, every directive by Christ should be followed by a “Yes! I will!” Each exhortation or call to holiness or command to put on Christ should elicit a "Yes! Lord, I want to be obedient!" Another way of looking at resolutions is planning to rightly respond to God’s call to sanctification, to be holy, to live as one whose heart has been made new by the atoning work of Jesus and able to obey by the supernatural ministrations of the Spirit. I have two choices. I can do nothing and feel rather self-righteous and authentic and above it all. Or I can resolve to put on Christ (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 3:12).
So perhaps I should say that I resolve to resolve, and then I resolve to keep those resolutions, by God’s mercy and grace. And I resolve to include my children in the process. Why?
1. By making resolutions as a family, I have an opportunity to discuss with my children the tension between God’s preservation of our faith and our persevering response in obedience. If we don’t help little hearts apprehend this tension, New Year’s Resolutions may result in nothing more than a cycle of moralistic intentions and bitter disappointments. If those intentions are wrongly skewed as a righteousness based on works, children can struggle with a false understanding of salvation. Reviewing Jesus’s commands with them provides the framework where we can show that He Himself is the means by which the commands are kept.
2. Kings give orders. Subjects obey. Grateful, adoring subjects obey happily and willingly. Resolutions are declarations that we subjects will happily and willingly honor our king. Happy and willing are the key attitude words to discuss with children here, as Philippians 2:14 admonishes all of us, “Do all things without grumbling or complaining.” It also allows us to help our children probe their hearts about whether there is any thing in them that can stir happiness and willingness that would please the Lord, or -- and here is the most important part of the discussion -- if a divine work has been done in them that makes that possible. Gospel-talk, parents!
3. Making resolutions that align with Scripture help us meet that goal of bringing all areas of life into a thoughtful, disciplined submission to God. The general, “I’ll do better next year” catch-all resolution, as we all know, is usually forgotten after the first 24 hours. Lists of external self-improvements are subject to changing winds that follow our internal, variable moods. On the other hand, the Word never changes. The commands are good, are right and are undeniably divine. And we have access to the Spirit’s generous graces and mercies in keeping them. They adorn the New Testament from the earliest commands in the Sermon on the Mount – “Let your light shine”, “Do not be angry with your brother”, “Let what you say be simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’”, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” – to the final words of the Revelation of John – “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price”, “Do not add to the words of this book”.
4. There is nothing more in the world that I want than for my children to know the Lord. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. ~ 3 John 1:4
If I persevere to live according to the Scriptures, teaching them doctrine and songs of praise and memory verses, going to the Word on my knees with every challenge, joining with other believers in worship to give the Lord honor and praise and to hear His truths preached, discussing difficulties and obstacles and failures with my children, and showing them how I love Jesus and endeavor to make Him Lord of my life –- difficulties and obstacles and failures and all, then they will see what it means to walk in the truth. So, I resolve I will depend wholly on the Lord for my strength, because that’s the best I can do for them.
Oh, my bad, there is one resolution you’ll have to make on your own: Read Scripture with your children. Regular times of Bible reading with the family will set the stage for those discussions about God’s commands and what we should resolve to do and how the Spirit helps us do it. Pray for strength. Pray for mercy. You’ll need it.
This post was redrafted from its first appearance at surprisedtobeaguest (December 31, 2013).
Laura Miller aka mrsdkmiller
Looking for a list of articles published around the web?
Looking for posts written in response to 5-Minute Friday prompts? Click here:
Her March Isn't Over
Across the River
When God Pries My Fingers Off My Children
Life's Defining Moments
To the Christian Wife Who Berated Her Husband in Front of My Daughter
Zeal and Grace in France
An Unconventional Love Story
Seeing What's in Front of Our Eyes
Remembering Why I Called You Hannah
Love Your Sister.
Because He Came Home
Go Valiantly! A Prayer for New Homeschooling Moms
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