Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Resolutions - A Monument To Moralism

January 1 has rolled around again as the perpetual reminder that our finite human existance marches on like sand through our fingers. It was the psalmist who wisely said "teach me Lord to number my days". In the light of eternity we can see the futility of pouring our energy into worldly pursuits. Even botox will not travel into the next life - which must be a shock to some!

But the line in the sand that happens on the first of January each year is also a timely reminder of the futility of moralism and a reminder that Calvin got it right with his doctrine of total depravity. New years resolutions have about as much going for them as Rick Warren's moralistic therapeutic sermons. Fallen men vow anew to change their fallen nature just like the church growth gurus who spend their time week in/week out trying to persuade goats to act like sheep.

The heart of the human problem remains the problem of the human heart. A professing Christian recently handed back a Gospel tract I gave him saying "I'm already a Christian so I don't need that". He would do well to heed the counsel of the Apostle Paul and examine himself to see whether he is "in the faith". We never outgrow our need for the Gospel either as a reminder of our total dependence on Christ or as a reminder of our desperate need for Him. Unless God breathes on our valley of dry bones then we remain but dust! I've never been one for new year's resolutions but I am a passionate advocate of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

Salvation is of the Lord. Without Him we can do nothing. If you must start the new year with a resolution, then meditate on those two thoughts.


McMurdo said...

I actually find that post a bit annoying and I’m left trying to work out why. It’s not because I think Christians should or should not have new years resolutions. I think it is the more subtle point being made here. Any hint of self-examination, any thought of changing our actions in the light of God’s leading seems to be written off as ‘moralism’. Maybe I’m reading too much into what you are saying, but this is how it comes across to me.

Are you saying that it’s futile to make serious attempts at (say) sorting out my finances, improving my conduct towards my family or planning the year ahead, provided that it is done before the Lord? I find a balance in scripture. For example, the epistles usually begin by between stating our position in Christ and his grace towards us and then ending with exhortations to live godly lives. The pastoral epistles are full of words like urge, exhort, command, teach, stress, ward, remind. All of these forms of speech are **appeals to the will**. Believers are actually encouraged to examine themselves (1Corinthians 11:28, 31)

I suspect that there a phobia among some Calvinists of anything that suggests we challenge someone’s will. Perhaps the problem here is that some people spend too much time on practical application (Rick Warren, perhaps), and others spend so much time in the theology that they forget to apply it.

Cameron Buettel said...

McMurdo, I was speaking of unregenerate people when it comes to personal change. Growing conformity to Christ should be the hallmark of a true believer and this will often take place through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and God's enabling grace to make changes in our life. And not because it is January 1 but because God is so worthy of our complete devotion and desire to obey Him in all things.

Also, good theology is always applied theology because where the Holy Spirit is in agreement, He is also at work.