Confession: I used to roll my eyes at the thought of making New Year’s resolutions. After all, how many people actually keep them? I wondered. But when Pastor Colin Smith preached a sermon a while back, called “Resolved! Life Commitments for a New Year,” it became clear to me that resolutions could not only be kept, they could be deeply biblical.
Christians are saved by grace through faith, not by works so that no one can boast. But the Bible uses active imagery to describe the Christian life, as a race, a fight, a pursuit, a war, and training in godliness. We strive for spiritual growth because we’ve been freed through the blood of Jesus from striving for worldly, selfish gain. Therefore, resolutions, when grounded in Scripture, can be tools for our spiritual growth!
Whether you journal your ideas, write them on a napkin, or talk through them with another person, here are a few biblical resolutions from Colossians 3 to help you think and pray through next year:
1. Resolve to live with eternity in mind.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (vv 1-2)
To “seek the things that are above” is to live in anticipation of eternity. Resolve to think often about the new heaven and new earth; the total defeat of sin and death, when every tear will be wiped from your eyes; and your completed joy in the presence of Christ. Doing this will renew your mind to see through God’s eternal perspective, will help you discern what is most important, and will make the trials of earth seem light and momentary in comparison to the great glory that is to come.
2. Resolve to kill sin.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. (vv 5-6)
Resolve next year to kill sin, showing it no mercy and devoting it to complete destruction. Identify the factors, people, and situations that trigger temptations and potential sin, and decide in your heart to flee from them. This resolution glorifies God, who spent his wrath upon his own Son so that you could be free from sin’s eternal grip and consequences.
3. Resolve to pursue holiness.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (vv 12-14)
The opposite of killing sin is the pursuit of holiness, motivated by our identity as God’s chosen children. As putting sin to death is active, so is the putting on of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the power to do so. Resolve this year to honor Christ and his transformative gospel by proving that you belong to God’s family (John 15:8). Choose to walk in love each day, through God’s power and the effectiveness of his Word. And when you fail, remember anew that your identity as God’s beloved child is sure and steadfast, that nothing can snatch you out of his hand.
4. Resolve to be thankful.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (v. 15)
The fruit of a life of holiness is the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts! There is no better way to live than under the good protection of God’s Word and ways, and there is no truer “you” than to be standing firmly in your identity as his child. The peace of Christ naturally pours over into an attitude of thankfulness, as we realize that we’ve been given much more than we deserve, by God’s grace in the gospel. Resolve to be thankful this year for earthly blessings and spiritual ones, for both come from God’s endless store of goodness and wisdom.
5. Resolve to read and meditate on the Scriptures.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…. (v. 16)
How can we know what sin is, who we are as God’s beloved children, or what the fruit of the Holy Spirit is if we do not read and meditate on God’s revealed Word to us? The Scriptures illuminate spiritual realities and light our paths to walk in the truth of Christ’s gospel (Psalm 119:105). All of the Word of God is sufficient for salvation and relevant for our daily lives. Resolve to soak in your Bible every day, in order that it becomes an unbreakable habit, knowing that, by doing so, you are hearing God speak his will into your life and are growing closer to him.
6. Resolve to commit to a local church.
...teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom… (v. 16)
This year, if you have not yet landed at a local church, resolve to do so! The local church is called the body of Christ for a reason: It is a living, breathing demonstration of the grace of Christ to the world, who takes note of our love for one another and for putting Christ’s glory on display through our varied gifts and service and our commitment to the Word of Christ.
Believers who remain isolated from the local church are missing out on a great and glorious gift! In the safety and structure of the God-ordained local church, believers teach the gospel, receive the gospel, and spur one another on in gospel-centered living with accountability to God-fearing leadership (Ephesians 3:14-19). Outside of this structure, there is a greater risk for straying from the true gospel and for letting spiritual gifts of service go unexercised. So commit to a local church this year!
7. Resolve to worship God through song.
...singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (v. 16)
While it is not uncommon to hear a brother or sister in Christ sing off-key during the worship service, it is quite common to hear other believers say, “I don’t like to sing” or “I don’t have a good voice.” Notice here that singing is a command from Scripture, and no command of God stands apart from his divine purpose for your good and his glory.
Singing is one of the ways in which the Word of Christ dwells richly in us. Singing not only glorifies our Father, who is deserving of all our worship and praise, but it completes our joy in him, as we express his awesomeness and set our eyes on things above. So sing, Christian! Sing with all the strength your vocal chords can muster!
8. Resolve to aim for the glory of Christ.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (v. 17)
This might be the hardest resolution there is out of the eight in this passage of Scripture. This is because our sinful hearts are prone to set ourselves on the throne of our own lives, idolizing self-glory, self-worship, and selfish pursuits. How is it possible then for us to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus”? How is it possible for us to follow through on any of the above resolutions?
Here is our means and our motivation:
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (vv 3-4)
Not by our own desire will we resolve to pursue Christ this year and certainly not by our own strength. Only by the gift of God’s grace poured out through the gospel of Christ can we do anything of eternal value or effectiveness. Only by the help, guidance, and power of the Holy Spirit can we put on love, be thankful, delight in our Bibles, kill sin, and commit to a local church body.
Only by the very life of Christ can we die to our own, take up our crosses, and follow him, this year and every year until he appears in fullness of glory.