Since we made it through 2012, much to the chagrin of the Mayans, we look towards the beginning of a new year. It is difficult to believe that it will be 2013. I remember my grandmother telling me, “Son, time will really seem to fly by once you receive your driver’s license.” She was not joking. It does seem that time flies quicker the older I get.
As Christmas is now over, many will seek to make resolutions for 2013. A resolution is a promise to do something the next year. Before we look to the resolutions for next year, perhaps we need to examine the resolutions that we have made for 2012. Did we do the things that we sought to do this time last year?
Most resolutions deal with weight loss, financial security, furthering one’s education, or perhaps receiving that much needed promotion. While there is nothing wrong with making the afore mentioned resolutions, how many of us seek to make spiritual resolutions for the year ahead? For me, I too need to lose weight and seek financial security. God has blessed me to begin on my Master of Divinity degree in Theological Studies at Liberty University. This has been a life long dream, especially since entering the ministry. So, I will be making those physical resolutions. But, what of the spiritual resolutions? How would we go about making spiritual resolutions? In this post, I would like to make some suggestions for spiritual resolutions that you could make. I would like to offer seven possible spiritual resolutions to make for the upcoming new year.
1. A Stronger Prayer Life
How long would any relationship last if there was no communication? I thoroughly enjoy listening to Greg Koukl. He has a great show that comes on Sunday afternoons called “Stand to Reason.” He offers good sound advice. However, I occasionally find that I have strong disagreements with some of his beliefs. For one, he is a strong Calvinist, whereas I am more in line with Remonstrant or Arminian theology. For another, he stated on the Sunday, December 23rd show that he did not feel that God communicated with a person everyday. While I understand what he was saying, I find that I disagree with him. He claimed that you do not find this in Scripture. However, I feel that is not the case. I am reminded of what Paul stated when he said, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NKJV). Prayer is not one-dimensional. It is conversational. So, a strong prayer life is essential for a strong relationship with God.
By the way, even though I do have disagreements with Koukl on some issues, he is a great, steadfast theologian overall and I highly recommend his show and his ministry.
Prayer is also very healthy. Studies have shown that meditation and prayer are vitally important for health and wellness. Everyone is overwhelmed with technology and media. This may seem hypocritical since this is a media outlet using technology to get the word out. Nonetheless, a strong prayer life gives us the break we need from the world. I feel that we can find ourselves in the very presence of God if we allow ourselves to get away and spend time with God in prayer. If Jesus needed time to get away with His Father in prayer, how much more do we need to do so? A Saturday get away or a prayer retreat may do well. Also, check out Gary Hansen’s book “Kneeling with Giants” for more tips on how to pray.
2. Spend More Time in the Word
Biblical knowledge is at an all-time low. Many do not know Moses from David or Peter from Samson. This is especially evident when you read the comments from the New Atheists or anyone who is antagonistic to the faith. You begin to see real quickly that there is a great lack of biblical understanding. Many blogs and websites present verses from the Bible in such a way that the truth is warped or in such a way that the content is taken out of context. Unfortunately, the same is true for those who are in the church. The health and wellness gospel, a modern doctrine that posits that one’s financial and health status is in direct association to one’s faith, is just one example of a distortion of truth.
It is critical for the Christian to have a good, core knowledge of Scripture. The days of the uneducated pastor and uneducated Christian are over. Many claim that the pastor does not need an education. Just depend on the Holy Spirit. I think there is one thing being promoted in that philosophy and it is not faith; it is laziness. “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil” (Proverbs 15:28, NKJV). False doctrines have sunk into the depths of the church and many have lost confidence in evangelical Christianity because many church leaders have been ill-prepared to defend the case for Christianity and to preserve truth.
It may surprise some, but I would not suggest a one-year Bible reading. Many attempt to read through the Bible in one year, but most fail because they get bogged down in Numbers, especially around the “begots.” I would suggest a Bible reading plan that evenly distributes the Old Testament with the New Testament. One of the greatest Bible readings that I have found is in the “Book of Common Prayer.” You can pick up a copy from Amazon.com or look it up online. The plan is called “The Daily Office.” The Daily Office gives a daily reading in one of the Psalms, a reading from the Old Testament, a reading from New Testament, and a reading from the Gospels. This gives a great balance. I always look forward to the next day’s reading. Go to www.missionstclare.com for a monthly listing of the Daily Office. Even though the Episcopal Church puts out the Daily Office, Christians from all denominations can appreciate the Bible readings.
3. Build Stronger Relationships
Christ’s two great commandments are based upon two common denominators–love and relationships.
“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28–31, NKJV).
Notice that “love” is the core word used in both commands. The English term “love” has four Greek words associated with it. There is the word “eros” which indicates a sensual, or erotic, form of love. There is the term “storge’” which refers to a family form of love. The word “phileo” refers to “brotherly love.” But, in both commands, the highest form of the word “love” is used. The word “ἀγαπάω” (agape’) is used by Jesus to refer to the type of love that He expects us to use towards God and towards one another. “ἀγαπάω” represents “unconditional love.” It is a love of choice and not a love of emotion.
Suppose for a moment that everyone who claimed to be a Christian showed the love commanded by Jesus. Suppose everyone loved God in 2013 with all their heart unconditionally. What would happen? Suppose that we loved God with all our mind and allowed God to direct our paths. What would happen? God is love. Can you imagine if the true love of God filled every heart?
Now, let’s take this mental exercise in a different direction. Suppose for a moment that every person who claimed to be a Christian showed unconditional love for their fellow-man. What would happen? Would the poor go without food? Would the homeless be without shelter? Would we spend our time pointing fingers or more time sharing the gospel? Would we spend our time criticizing the illness or finding a cure? What would our society look like if everyone just kept the two great commandments? I think this is a resolution that we all should strive to keep.
These are the first three spiritual resolutions that I am suggesting for all to make. Stay tuned because I will four more suggestions for spiritual resolutions to make for the New Year.
God bless and we’ll see you on the next post,
Pastor Brian Chilton