Keeping Resolutions

Keeping Resolutions

A son called his parents to wish them a happy new year. When his Dad answered the phone, he asked,” Well Dad, what’s your new year’s resolution? His dad replied, "To make your mother as happy as I can," When his mom got on the phone, he asked her the same question. His mom replied, "To see that your dad keeps his New Year’s resolution."

Why do we find it difficult to keep our resolutions? We know we need to improve our life, and we are determined to do it, but it’s not long before we fail. We will look into the Word for a couple weeks to find a few reasons we might be failing and how to change and keep our resolutions and promises to God.

1.  We fail because we don’t ask God. We must take this important first step. Otherwise, we don’t have God’s support.  The resolution is more about what we want to do than what God wants to do in us.

Jesus prayed in Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

If you are working contrary to God’s will in your life, you will be frustrated.  Your goal may be noble and seem spiritual, but it may not be what God wants to do right now.  Take some time and examine yourself to see what God would have you do. Sometimes we know what He wants, but we have failed so many times, we don’t want to try again. We want to take a short cuts toward self-improvement; whereas, God wants free us through obedience to His Word and the Holy Spirit.

2.  Maybe you fail because you’re trying to keep your resolution in your own strength. Apart from the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing except fail! The flesh is weak. It needs to be put to death. Instead of obeying our flesh, we need to obey the Holy Spirit. However, we can’t obey Him if we are not filled with Him and listening to Him. Too often, we just live without considering the Holy Spirit and God’s will at all. Don’t ignore this very important factor. The Holy Spirit is essential to our success and victory over temptation.

Galatians 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

3.  Maybe you fail because you’re too intent on perfection and give up when you falter. The Christian life is a life of constantly overcoming sin and struggling against the flesh, the devil, and temptation. 

For us to think that we will be perfect on this earth is arrogant and misunderstands the nature of sin.  The sin I work on today may be a sin that I will struggle against (though with increasing victory) for the rest of my life.

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

4.  Maybe you fail because you are in a negative environment. For instance:

•It is nearly impossible to eat healthy all of the time if you are constantly surrounded by unhealthy food.

•It is nearly impossible to remain righteous all of the time if you are constantly surrounded by unrighteous people.

1Cor 15:33 Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."

To keep our resolutions, we must be performing them in an environment that is designed to make them succeed. For example, it is nearly impossible to focus on a single task and reduce stress if we are constantly bombarded with text messages, notifications, emails, questions, and other digital distractions.

Here is the current situation: Every morning, the alarm on your phone goes off. You pick up the phone, turn off the alarm, and immediately start checking email and social media. Before you have even made it out of bed, you are already thinking about a half dozen new emails. Maybe you’ve already responded to a few. You also browsed the latest updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so those messages are swimming around in your mind too. Then there is the weather and the headline news that you need to know before you start your day. You haven’t even dressed yet, but your mind is already distracted and stressed. You haven’t prayed, read your Bible, and now you have to hurry to get to work on time.

If this scene sounds familiar and you want to reduce stress, then the easiest way to do it is to change your environment. Don’t keep your phone in your room. Buy a regular alarm clock and charge your phone in another room. The phone is a temptation that you give into and causes the stress, so change the environment.

You can change the digital environment on the phone, too. Turn off all notifications on your phone. You can even remove your email and social media apps from the home screen and hide them somewhere else on the phone. Better yet, if you delete all of your apps from your phone for a month, you will find the peace and quiet you desire. Also, you will probably discover that you don’t miss anything that is really important by not having them on your phone.

You may think that sounds drastic; however, if your environment doesn’t change, you probably won’t either. If you can’t do what seems drastic to keep your resolution, then you have a controlling habit. Controlling habits are those things that we really don't like; we know that they are detrimental to us, but they have a hold on us and we won’t give them up. (I didn’t say can’t; we can, but we won’t)

Some controlling habits fall into these categories: 1. Procrastination 2. Overeating 3. Laziness 4. Overspending 5. Lack of Cleanliness 6. Self-centeredness 7. Lack of communication 8. Irresponsibility 9. Addictions (food, drink, drugs, sex, etc.) 10. Temperaments or moods

5.  Some of our habits are obvious, and we excuse them as “that’s just the way I am.” Others are embarrassing, and we keep them hidden from other people. Some of us may be completely oblivious to our own controlling habit; but most likely it is a glaring fault to those around us. In any case, we must get serious about it. The first step to overcoming a bad habit is to admit we have one. Anything that controls us besides the Holy Spirit is an idol. Idolatry is a sin.

Col 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  

Yes, we need to get serious about these controlling habits, for Paul warned us, “that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”(Gal 5:21)

6.  Bring your controlling habit into the light. Find someone to be responsible to, who will commit to telling you the truth, keep what you share confidential, pray with you, love you, and hold you accountable.

Ga. 6:2 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

7.  God knows all about our shortcomings. Give it all up to Him, confess it as sin, and ask Him to forgive you and purify you. Ask Him for grace to overcome in these areas of your life. Without Him, we can do nothing.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

8.  Barring a miracle, controlling habits are usually broken, in the same way they were formed—a little at a time. They bind us slowly and securely. Very few people started smoking a pack of cigarettes a day from their first smoke. Therefore, we may have to reverse the process by putting off the old and putting on the new, little by little, day by day, until we replace the bad habit with a good habit.

Eph. 4:22-25 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 

For example, the pin oak tree (quercus palustris for you amateur dendrologists) provides a fitting metaphor. One feature of this tree is that it retains its leaves during the winter months. Though the leaves die in the fall, they remain attached to the branches until the new leaves appear in the spring and push the old ones off the branch.

You could, of course, remove these leaves by hand. But that is a time-consuming and pointless exercise. The leaves will come off on their own when the new growth appears in the spring.

Replacing a bad habit is similar. Focusing on its removal is pointless and only makes us desire it. Focus your attention on eliminating it by developing positive habits. As you do so, you will naturally—and more easily—remove the bad habit. For example, you could focus on:

•Eating tasty, fresh vegetables instead of junk food when you have the urge to please yourself with food.

•Complimenting your spouse instead of arguing when you are under stress.

•Reading more books instead surfing the Internet or watching TV when you are bored.

•Praying for what you need instead of worrying about what you don’t have.

You get the idea. The main point is to focus on building a good habit rather than focusing on a bad one. Because what you focus on is what you will do. That is why we are commanded to keep our eyes on Jesus, stay in His Word, and follow the Holy Spirit instead of our fleshly desires.

Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

Rom. 8:13-14 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 

I know Christians who whose lives were transformed when they came to Christ. They were delivered from alcohol, drugs, tobacco addiction, bad tempers, bad language, and various sins that flawed their lives. In view of this transforming experience, why then do many Christians still have areas of weakness after we have been delivered of other sins?

Well, when we receive Christ, we receive a new spiritual nature, born of the Holy Spirit. That’s what transforms our lives and gives us power over sin. However, we still have the same enemy who tempts us. We still have this fleshly body. So we still also have the old nature with us, which may assert itself or give into temptation after we become Christians. That is why we must put our fleshly nature to death daily and stay filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle Paul described this dilemma we all have: Romans 7:19-25 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.  

Paul found the secret of victory over sin by recognizing that he was a sinner like everyone else, and that only Jesus Christ could save him and give him a new heart.

9.  Complete victory over sin comes when we hate it as God hates it. We generally fail to keep our resolutions because we don’t hate the thing we say we are going to give up or change. We still have an affinity for it. We know we must give it up, but secretly, we wish we didn’t have to. Therefore, if we’ve been convicted of a certain sin or shortcoming in our lives, we need to ask for a hatred for that sin and turn from it in abhorrence. When we hate it, we will stay away from it and set our minds to obey the Holy Spirit instead of our fleshly desires.

Psalm 119:163 I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law.

10.  Christ came to set us free! We cannot overcome our habits and keep our resolutions unless we humbly admit we have a sin problem that we cannot resolve by ourselves.

So in order to have victory over our controlling habits, we not only need Jesus Christ as Savior, but also as our Lord – the One we follow faithfully and obediently. We need His grace to love God more than our habit. If we love God, we will want to obey Him rather than please ourselves.

Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

We need the Holy Spirit to renew our minds and empower us to gain victory over sin, temptation, and the devil. Are you ready to ask the Holy Spirit to direct your life and give you a hatred for your habit and an all-consuming love for Jesus Christ? We have not because we ask not.

These ten steps are not steps of self-improvement. They require the power of God. Unless you are a follower of Christ, they have no effect for you. To become a follower of Jesus Christ, believe that Jesus died on the cross to atone for your sin and rose again to give you a new life. It is a free gift, but your old sinful nature cannot contain it. Therefore, give your life to Jesus and die to your old nature through water baptism. You will be born again by the Holy Spirit and then you will have power to keep your resolutions.