I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions.
While I understand the desire for fresh starts and new beginnings, none of us has the power to reinvent ourselves simply because the calendar has flipped over to a new year.
But since the gospel of Jesus Christ carries with it a message of fresh starts and new beginnings - because of the forgiving and transforming power of God's grace - looking forward at the year to come does give us an opportunity to give ourselves anew to practical, daily-life commitments that are rooted in the gospel.
Let me suggest seven commitments that all of us have been empowered, and should be excited, to make.
1. Be honest about your struggles.
Denial of your daily struggles with temptation and sin is never a pathway to change. The work of Jesus frees all of us to be honest about our weaknesses and failures without fear of God's judgment.
The gospel welcomes us in our weakness to run to God and not away from him. The doorway to personal change begins with humbly admitting your need for the help that only God can give.
2. Rest in God's presence and strength.
Refuse to load your personal potential and welfare on your small shoulders. Remember the Jesus is with you, in you and for you, and because he is, your welfare rests on his infinitely huge shoulders.
When you measure your potential, don't forget that your life has been invaded by his power and grace. You could argue that Jesus is your potential.
3. Don't look horizontally for what can only be found vertically.
Don't allow yourself to be seduced into believing that life can be found in the people, possessions, situations, locations and experiences of everyday life.
Remember, the role of created things is not to give you life, but to point you to the One who is the Way, the Truth and Life. Refuse to try to satisfy your heart with things that will never offer you the satisfaction that you seek.
4. Deepen your relationship to the body of Christ.
You and I were never hardwired by God to walk with him on our own. God's plan for us is deeply relational. We're wired to be connected and dependent, not isolated and independent.
Live close to God's people, inviting those around you to intrude on your private world and to function as God's tools of comfort, encouragement, confrontation, growth and change.
Remember, sin makes it hard for us to see ourselves objectively and accurately. Personal spiritual insight and growth really is the result of community.
5. Argue with your own heart.
It's a theme of my ministry that I will continue to repeat: no one has more influence in your life than you do because no one talks to your more than you do.
Don't give way to self-talk that is marked by fear, despondency, futility, hopelessness or discouragement. Preach the gospel of God's love, grace, presence, promises and power to yourself multiple times a day. Commit to carrying on a gospel conversation with yourself that never stops.
6. Work to assure that praise replaces complaint.
It's sad, but true, that the default language of every sinner is complaint. Because sin causes me to think that life is all about me, it also causes me to constantly find reasons for being dissatisfied.
But when you and I are living for something bigger than our own pleasure and comfort, and when we're committed to counting our blessings more than we count our complaints, praise will fill our hearts and punctuate our conversations.
How about committing yourself to beginning every day by counting the many, many ways God has showered you with blessings you could have never earned or deserved on your own?
7. Rest in the complete work of Jesus Christ.
You have reason for rest, because even though the calendar has flipped to a new year, your Savior still greets you with new mercies every morning, he still will not send you without going with you or call you to a job without giving you what you need to do it, and he still reigns over all things for your sake.
You can rest because you are in the good hands of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
So, as the new year unfolds, don't fool yourself with grandiose resolutions that none of us has the power to keep. Rather, celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ and it's huge catalog of graces.
Re-commit yourself to living every day in light of what you have been given in and through your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Happy New Year!