Jimmy Humphrey makes a bold prediction for 2020: 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February and yours will too. He says it’s because people don’t understand human nature. I believe the desire to make resolutions stems from the same thing that makes religion popular. We feel the desire to do something. We know something is wrong; all humanity pretty much universally recognizes that things are not right. Genesis 3 tell us about the fall and the curse. Nothing in world God created has been exactly right since. Every world religion makes an effort to fix what is wrong. Many have a list of rules to follow or rituals to perform. Hindus bathe in the Ganges River, one of the most polluted in the world, because their ancient religion teaches them it will make them clean. Not physically but inwardly, washing away what is wrong. Isaiah 1 is about all the things the Hebrews were doing routinely but that didn’t affect change in their daily lives. God was frustrated they trampled the courts of his temple, made sacrifices, lifted their hands and said many prayers yet their hands and hearts were unclean. They were going through the motions or as we might say they were playing church.
The failure of all religion is that the focus is on what we do. The young ruler asked Jesus “What must I do to be saved?” Christianity can be as bad as any other if we make it a list of things we do to fix our problems. Religion is about what we do and we can never do enough. That’s why God gave commandments in the Old Testament. If he just said “You can never do enough” people would not have believed him. It was an object lesson. The 10 Commandments are kind of like a measuring stick to see how far we fall short. The Gospel is about what God has already done. Jesus showed up (thank you Christmas) and does all the things. He received the penalty for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5) and in exchange we get the credit for his righteousness. The good news of the gospel message is that we can never do enough nor do we have to.
Resolutions come from the same place that all religious motivations do. The temptation is to believe we can fix our own problems, that we can get better, and that we can do it on our own. It happens when we rely on our own strength and understanding (see Proverbs 3:5). Yes, there are people that have lost 50 pounds, quit smoking, or whatever it is you hope to accomplish this year. I lost 40 pounds back in 2017. And in 2018 I gained 50. I’m not telling anyone to not make any resolutions. The temptation is strong. But turning the page on a calendar and learning to write a new year number when we sign and date things will probably not give us the motion we need to affect real change. Go back up to the cartoon. If you fail next week or next month, don’t wait until December 31st to give your problems to Jesus. He asks that we cast all our cares upon him. You can’t do it alone and he does not want us to. Happy New Year.
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