Are New Year’s resolutions biblical? | faith and religion

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Background text: Proverbs 16:9

Devotional text: Colossians 3:9-17

Today we look at New Year’s resolutions, but first we have to ask ourselves, “What is a resolution?”

The dictionary tells us it means making a solid decision to do something or not to do something. When we think of New Year’s resolutions, we think of those things in our lives that we want to improve, as well as those that we want to stop doing.

Our resolutions can include self-improvement like exercising, cleaning up the mess, becoming wiser about managing our money, and taking care of our health issues.

They can also include activities we want to eliminate from our lives, such as smoking, stopping the harmful things we say and do, getting help for addiction, and turning away from temptations.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making a list of resolutions as the New Year rolls on. We have to remember, though, to commit to those items on our list, to really go through them instead of just writing something like a wish.

Often we revisit our resolutions at the end of the year to see how we did. Then we can continue our list for the next new year, revise it, or add different goals.

The fact is, people have been making New Year’s resolutions for at least 4,000 years.

Historically speaking, we start with the ancient Babylonians who held festivals to bring in their new year. They also made promises, as harbingers of a resolution, to pay off debts and forgive each other. Their belief was that they would receive blessings in the new year from the pagan gods they worshiped if they were honorable in fulfilling their promises.

Next, we look at the Romans. At the time of Julius Caesar in 46 BC. J.-C., the 1st of January became the celebration of the new year. The month of January, named after a Roman god Janus, has become the center of the new year.

Janus was a two-faced god – on one side he faced backwards, on the other he faced forwards, allowing him to look back into the past and into the future. People believed that if they touched his sculpted face, he would give them good fortune.

The Romans would make sacrifices to Janus with promises (resolutions) to live a good life in the new year.

What does the Bible say?

Although the Bible says nothing about making New Year’s resolutions, it does give us wise advice on how to make our lists.

In 1740, the Englishman who founded the Methodist movement, John Wesley (along with his brother Charles), started a New Year’s Eve service at the church called the Covenant Renewal Service. He developed this service, which included Bible readings, hymn-singing, prayers, and seeking scriptural promises, for the new year.

It became a spiritual alternative to the rowdy and wild New Year’s Eve parties. It was also called Watch Night. Although the service was held on New Year’s Eve, it can also be held on New Year’s Day. There are a few churches that continue this tradition today.

As we ask ourselves, “What would God want us to do?”

Let’s see what the Scripture has to say.

Proverbs 16:9 gives us this truth: “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord plans his steps.”

Here, Proverbs tells us that as we grow and discover our talents and gifts, we make plans that we hope will come true for us in the future. However, the author of Proverbs (Solomon) reminds us that it is only God who sees our future and knows what will be best for us. Therefore, as we search for our future, we recognize that if we rely on God, He will show us the way.

This proverb reminds us of Colossians 3:9-17, reading in part, “Put off the old self…put on compassion, kindness, humility…patience, bear one another; as the Lord has forgiven you, you must also forgive, … above all, put on love, which binds everything in perfect harmony … let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts …. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

As we read this scripture, we realize that as believers in Jesus Christ we have a new and better life ahead of us. We can put the past aside and surrender to the life God has planned for us – a life of goodness, justice, peace and patience.

Let’s look at some other encouraging passages that tell us about God’s love for us.

Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (that of God)”.

Next, let’s read Paul’s words to Ephesians 4:21-23, “As the truth is in Jesus, put away your old self, which is of your old way of life and corrupted with deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirits of your spirit, to put on the new self, created in the image of God in true righteousness and holiness.

With each new year, we reflect on the past year, its problems, its tragedies and its blessings. As we grow in Christ, it is not uncommon to remember his mercy and faithfulness to us. Maybe it was something small that we thought would never happen, or maybe it was something big that impressed us. If we look to our past and our present, we will find God with us.

So, my friends, make your New Year’s resolutions if you wish. Pray for them. Ask God for help, and He will direct your paths in the way that suits you.

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