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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 2, 2005
Resolving to Live Better
With the start of a new year, I think it would be good for each of us to be
challenged to make firm resolutions and adopt plans by which we can implement
the Biblical commands, principles and precepts we have learned over the last
year. It is too easy for us to agree with a point and yet continue in our daily
habits without making the needed changes. There must come a time when actually
make the changes that are needed in our lives.
We learned many things in our study of Philippians last year, but the two
most important are the necessity of humility in the Christian life (out of which
arises our ability to be unified based on God’s word), and how to rejoice in the
Lord in always. Both of these principles are seen in the example of Paul’s life.
Though he was imprisoned and there were other Christians that were purposely
trying to cause him distress, he found many reasons to praise the Lord because
he was humble and sought to understand things from God’s eternal perspective.
His goal in life was to see the Lord’s will be done. He rejoiced that the gospel
was going forward and impacting others even if it was through the means of his
own uncomfortable situation.
Paul viewed his own life as so bound up in the Lord that to live was Christ
and to die was gain (1:21). His desire was for believers to also conduct
themselves worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27). This is done by being humble
and regarding others as more important than yourself instead of doing things out
of selfishness (2:3,4). Paul calls us to have the attitude of Jesus. He set
aside the glories of heaven to become a man and then willingly died in our place
on the cross as the sacrificial payment for our sins (2:5-8). Such a humble
attitude in the believer is simply the fruit of salvation being worked out in
their own lives. It results in a changed attitude towards others and life.
Instead of grumbling and disputing, we are to hold fast to the word of life and
be in unity because of our care for one another (2:1-16). We must not be bogged
down in the past, whether it was good or bad, but we must instead press on
toward the future and the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ
Jesus (3:12-14). Because we are citizens of heaven (3:20), we can stand firm in
the Lord and resolve our differences (4:1-3). We can rejoice in the Lord always
(4:4). We can experience the peace of God through proper prayer (4:6,7) and
thinking correctly (4:8,9). We can learn, as Paul did, to be content in all
circumstances because Christ empowers us to respond in godliness in all
circumstances (4:11-13). All these things, and more, must not be left as
intellectual acknowledgments, but must be put into practice.
If we are truly wise people, we will seek to do as Moses said in Psalm 90:12
and number our days that we might present to God a heart of wisdom. We will do
what Paul says in Ephesians 5:16 and make the most of our time, because the
days are evil. Every day should be a day to resolve to be better than we
were the day before. Yet, there is something special about the marking of the
passing of a year that causes us to pause and reflect. How has our life been
going? Were we able to accomplish what we really wanted to accomplish? Have we
changed and become a better person over the course of time? My quest this
morning is to stimulate you to reflect on your own life and consider how well
you are following God’s will, and then prod you on to resolve to be more
diligent in doing so with a plan that will accomplish those goals.
I do not find that resolutions, especially New Year’s resolutions, carry much
importance in our society any longer except at the receiving end of a joke, such
as the this humorous definition, "A New Year’s resolution is something that
goes in one year and out the other," or the fellow who quipped, "May your
troubles in the coming New Year be as short-lived as your resolutions." Some
people are cynical about an hope for change, such as the fellow who said,
"The New Year gives people a fresh start on their old habits," and another
who said, "Serious trouble comes when the New Year’s resolutions collide with
the old year’s habits." Others’ reveal the evil in their own heart in their
resistance to make any resolution to be a better person, such as the one who
said, "A New Year’s resolution is a promise to stop doing everything you
enjoy the most."
At one time it was the common desire of American society to change as
individuals into better people. Benjamin Franklin wrote down this common thought
this way, "Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let
every new year find you a better man." What many people now consider to be
what they "enjoy the most" used to be commonly considered vices that a mature
individual would have set aside, or at lest they would recognize them as vices
and not something to be proud of or promoted. Character mattered. But regardless
of what our society may or may not advocate, the Christian is one whose hope is
bound up in changing into someone more godly than they were the year before.
That is why it is good for us to take note of the passing of time and give
consideration to what we will be like in the future.
Resolutions are good for us because thoughtful change is good for us, and
resolutions require that. You may not need to go through the formality off
writing down all the "wherefores" and "therefores," though that may be a good
and helpful exercise, but we should take the time to examine our lives and
consider the "whats", "wheres" and "whys" we have failed or lack and then make
definite plans on how to change and overcome them. This should be the
Resolving to be Different
Man’s Ability to Change
Some seem to question if man can change. The fact is that not only can man
change, but he is expected to change. God created man in His image and included
in that image is reason and volition. These are the ability to think through
things and make choices. The evidence of man’s ability to change is evident all
around us. It is in the technology that has been developed. It is in the
political systems that have developed that have given people more basic freedoms
than existed in the past under feudal systems and kings. It is evident in
humanitarian efforts that are made by even non-Christians, and in the systems of
law that distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong. Even the
unregenerate recognize these truths, and that is why they advocate education so
strongly. They see it as a means to produce change when people are young and
Now I am not saying in any way that man can change to become good enough to
meet God’s standards of holiness, nor can man change to the point that he can
overcome his basic sin nature. Man is in slavery to his sin, and his bondage to
his sin nature can only be broken by the regeneration that comes with faith in
Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5, Rom. 6, 1 Cor. 5:17). He can meet God’s standard of
holiness only when the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to him resulting
in his justification (Phil 3:9; Gal. 2:16). My point here is simply that all men
can change, and there should be an expectation that they do.
If the non-Christian can make resolutions and behave better next year than
they have this year, then even more so should the Christian change for the
better with the passing of time. The stated purpose of our salvation in Romans
8:29 is to be conformed into the image of His Son. There is no doubt that
God expects the Christian to change.
God’s Charge to Change
It is only reasonable that we live in holiness as living sacrifices to God in
view of what He has done for us through Jesus Christ in saving us from sin. God
expects us to resist the pressure of the world to conform us into its mold .
He calls on us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1,2).
Making resolutions to change in specific areas is simply an aspect of being
transformed by the renewing of our minds, for it is making up our minds about
what needs to change and setting plans for doing so.
God has given His commands, and every one of them and the principles that
flow out of them prove that God expects the Christian to change by being
obedient to Him. We are to set aside the old life with its sinful habits and put
on the new life (Col. 3). We are to no longer let sin be our master because we
are to be slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6). If a professing Christian does not
change and continues to live sinfully, then there is legitimate reason to call
into question their profession. They should be properly challenged to examine
themselves to see if they are indeed in the faith (2 Cor. 13). This does not
mean the Christian will not sin, for the Bible makes it clear that all
Christians do sin, but we are expected to walk in the light, and when we do sin,
we are expected to confess them (1 John 1:6-10). The purpose of church
discipline is to correct and restore erring brothers and sisters while
disfellowshiping those that refuse to repent and follow Christ (Matt. 18; Gal.
How then do you change?
It starts with recognizing the problem. You will not fix what you don’t
think is broken. You must then push on and correct the problem while
establishing a new pattern of living to replace the old one. In short, you have
to break old habits and develop new ones.
Developing New Habits
Breaking the Old Habits.
After you recognize an area that needs to change, you need to confess to the
Lord whatever sin may be involved. Take care that even if the activity itself
may not be sinful, there still may be sin involved. This may take some serious
Bible study to know the mind of God on a matter as well as thoughtful meditation
to see how it applies specifically in your life.
For example. It is easy to spot the sin in habits such as lying, having a
foul mouth or failing to meet with other Christians. There are direct commands
concerning each of these. We are not to lie (Col. 3:8,9). We are not to let any
unwholesome word proceed from our mouths (Eph. 4:29). And we are not to neglect
meeting with other believers (Heb. 10:25). But what about something like
spending more time in prayer and Bible Study? You may have to think through your
use of time. Perhaps there is nothing sinful in itself in what you are doing
with your time, but over all there may be a failure in making the most of it to
fulfill God’s priorities (Eph. 5:16). Reading the newspaper is not a sin, but if
you do that while neglecting your Bible, then perhaps it is. Watching TV may not
be a sin, but if you are doing that and yet neglect to pray, then perhaps it is.
Paul states in 1 Cor. 10:23 that for the Christian, "All things are
lawful," but "not all things are profitable" or "edify." Just because
you can do it does not mean it is good to do. He added in vs. 24 that we are to
not to seek our own good, but rather the good of our neighbor. We should seek
the best, not just what is lawful. So just because something is not a sin
doesn’t mean it is something that you should do. Back in 1 Cor. 6:12 Paul said
that he would not allow himself to become mastered or subjected to anything. So
we may even need to avoid a good thing if we become controlled by it. Hobbies
are one area that is a danger to us in this way. It may be a fine activity, but
if you become obsessed with it, then it becomes a habit for you that needs to be
broken. If you cannot easily set the activity aside, then perhaps it is
mastering you, and you need to set it aside for a time just so that you remain
So first, recognize the area that needs to be changed, and then confess
whatever sin may be involved (1 John 1:9). Next, ask God for wisdom (James 1:5)
to both understand His will and how to change. God is faithful and gives such
wisdom generously to those who ask. Finally, develop a plan to change, and make
the first step. That may simply be to stop your current practice, but make that
step trusting God to empower you to do so. Change for most people usually comes
one step at a time and not in great leaps.
The first key to success in breaking an old habit is coming under conviction
that it is a habit that needs to be broken. If you are not convinced of that,
then you will not change, or you will resent the change forced upon you by
Establishing New Habits:
The second key to success in breaking an old habit is replacing it with a new
habit. If that is not done, I can almost guarantee that you will go back to the
old habit. It is not enough to stop lying. You must also tell the truth. It is
not enough to stop stealing. You must also start giving. It is not enough to
stop receiving counsel from the ungodly. You have to develop friendships with
the godly and mediate on God’s word (Psalm 1). It is not enough to refrain from
music, TV, movies, and other entertainments that tear you down spiritually, you
must replace it with music and activities that fits the Biblical standard of
being true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and
praiseworthy (Phil. 4:6).
How do you create a new habit? Stop the old habit and practice the new habit
with great diligence. It usually takes conscious effort to do this at first, but
as you continue doing it, it will take less effort, and eventually it becomes
your normal way of life. For example, how do you start getting up earlier in the
morning so that you can have a time of prayer and Bible reading? First, set your
alarm clock at the time you want to get up and place it on the opposite side of
the room from your bed. Make sure it will produce a very annoying sound which
will force you to get up to turn it off. Next, do whatever you need to do to
make sure you are awake enough to read and pray and not fall back to sleep.
Exercise, take your shower, get a cup of coffee, etc. Then read your Bible and
pray. Do this for a few days and you will be tired enough to go to bed earlier
in the evening so that you can get up earlier in the morning. Repeat this
process for a few months, and you will start waking up before the alarm goes
off. Repeat this for a few years, and you won’t need an alarm clock. It is now
your habit of life. You will then find that if you miss your quiet time with God
in the morning, you will feel out of sorts all day long.
How do you change then? Stop the old habit and replace it with the new habit
you want to develop. Repeat this over and over for days, weeks, months and
What Needs to Change
Fundamental Issues: There are many things in our lives that probably need to
change. Most people consider a diet immediately after the holidays to get rid of
the extra girth they have added in all the feasting. Or they may consider some
particular vice they would like to stop (improper diet, smoking, drinking,
cursing, etc.) or something in particular they would like to begin (regular
exercise, healthier diet, Bible study, etc.). But in all honesty, those are side
issues that should be the result of a more fundamental change that should take
place in us. There should be a deeper examination of our lives and the
motivations behind our actions.
One of the reasons that people cannot change enough to match God’s standards
is simply because the outward actions are not enough to meet His standards. Lets
face it, there are many members of cults and even false religions that can out
perform the average Christian in meeting a set standard of doing good things.
But outward conformity to God’s laws is not enough. God looks at the heart and
weighs the motives (Jer. 17:10, 1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Chron. 28:9). God wants us to
change from the inside out. Our fundamental view of life and what is important
must change and not just our outward behaviors.
What are these fundamental issues? Here are some of them.
1) The quest to know God Himself and be in a personal relationship with Him.
This was the cry of Moses to God in Exod. 33:13 "let me know Thy ways, that I
may know Thee" and in verse 18 "I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!" John
17:3 tells us that Jesus came for the purpose that we might know the only true
God. The Christian is still to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord (1
Peter 3:18). Remember Paul’s example that he sought to know Jesus, and the power
of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His
death (Phil. 3:10).
2) The quest to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). The heathen
worship false gods, and many professing Christians try to worship the true God,
but they do so in accordance with their own desires and schemes instead of
according to God’s commands. That is also false worship. A fundamental pursuit
of the true Christian is the proper worship of God. We fulfill it with the true
sacrifices that God desires which are the sacrifices of praise that come from a
broken and contrite heart and spirit (Heb. 13:15; Psalm 51:17)
3) The quest for personal holiness. God’s command is that we are to be holy
as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). He saved us that we might be holy and blameless
before Him (Eph. 1:4). The true Christian wants to be cleansed by God and have a
clean heart before Him (Ps 51:2,10). We also want to live a life separated from
the world and unto God. (Rom. 12:2). A corollary to this is that we want to know
and do God’s will. That separates us from the world and its practices.
4) The quest to be used of God for His glory. All that a Christian does,
ranging from any good deeds to what and how he eats and drinks, are to glorify
God (Matt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 10:31). Paul was able to rejoice in his unpleasant
circumstances because he sought God’s glory (Phil. 1) and pressed on toward the
goal for prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13).
5) The desire to see others know Jesus and follow him. This is the motive for
fulfilling the great commission in making disciples of Jesus Christ (Matt.
28:19,20). We were saved for the purpose of proclaiming the excellencies of God
to the nations (1 Peter 2:9). This has a corollary in learning and using your
spiritual gifts, for as we know and use our spiritual gifts then the whole body
is built up and becomes more effective in the task of discipleship including
teaching obedience to Christ (Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Cor. 12).
The result of all of these is that your life is lived for God instead of
yourself because you are in submission to the Spirit and conducting yourself in
a manner worthy the gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:27).
The fundamental issues come down to two particular commands. Jesus states
them in Matthew 22:37-40, "’You shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ "This is the great and
foremost commandment. "The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as
yourself.’ "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind? How do you
demonstrate that in your daily life? Do you love your neighbor as yourself. How
do you demonstrate that in your daily life? All the rest of the fundamental
general issues, and all the particular issues, arise from these two
Particular Issues: There are many particular issues. I do not know which ones
you need to work on the most, but I do believe if you will seek the Lord and
give some thought to it, you will be able to recognize what you need to resolve
Let me ask some questions to stimulate your thinking.
Loving God: Do you really love God with all your heart, soul and mind? What
is more important to you than God? That would be an idol. How much time do you
spend in your own Bible study, prayer, meditation and personal worship? Are you
spending enough time in those activities that you are actually getting to know
God and His will better? How does the time spent in those activities compare to
time spent in your hobbies and being entertained? Do you know what your
spiritual gift(s) are? Are you using them? How much time do you spend in serving
the Lord? How does that compare to time spent in your hobbies and entertainment?
How about your finances? Do you give joyfully to the Lord’s work? How does your
giving to Him compare with spending on things that are for your own pleasure? Do
you ever use the Lord’s name in vain? Do you treat Him in any way as less than
the holy being that He is?
Loving your neighbors: Do you love your neighbors as yourself? Do you honor
your parents? Children, do you obey your parents? Is there anyone you hate? Do
you have a grudge against anyone? Do you refrain from adulterous glances and
thoughts? What do you allow yourself to see? hear? think about? Do you steal? Do
you give your employer a full day’s work? Do you cheat on your taxes? Do you lie
about anything even if it seems innocent to you? Do you gossip? Are you
discontent and want what your neighbor has? Do you rejoice in your neighbor’s
Godliness or Wordliness: Do you love the world and the things in the world or
God? Is your mind set on things above or the things of this earth? (Col. 3:2).
Have you considered the members of your earthly body dead to immorality,
impurity, passion, evil desire and greed? (Col. 3:5). Have you put aside anger,
wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech from your mouth? (Col. 3:8; Eph.4:31).
Have you put on the new self (Eph. 4:24f). Is your mind set to think on what is
true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praise worthy?
(Phil. 4:8). Is your life marked by walking in the flesh with its idolatry,
heresies, enmities, strife, jealousy, disputes, envying, drunkenness and
carousing? (Gal. 5:19,-21). Or by walking in the Spirit with His fruit of love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and
self-control? (Gal. 5:22,23).
There are areas each of us can improve. The question that remains is "will
you?" Will you do what is needed to change? Will you break the bad habits and
replace them with new ones? We are not left on our own to do this. It is a
matter of obedience to God to step out in faith to do it, and we can rely on the
Holy Spirit to help us. But there is one other source of help that God does want
us to take advantage of, and that is one another.
The body of Christ is to grow together. Too often we are afraid to share our
areas of weakness lest someone judge us for it. Yes, there will be people who
will do that, and when they do, they are in sin. However, we cannot let that
stop us from asking for help from other Christians. We need to let others know
the areas we are struggling with and working on so they can pray for us,
encourage us and hold us accountable. That is one of the functions of the body
In the bulletin this morning I have put in an insert to encourage you to do
that. You can fill it out with your resolutions and then give it to someone you
would like to help you. Ask them to pray for you and hold you accountable. If
you want to remain anonymous, but want prayer, then put your request down and
leave your name off, or put your name down and put "unspoken" on the resolution
line and give it to me, or put it in the faith box, and the matter will be
Let’s all be more serious about living for Christ and helping one another.
Don’t put it off any longer. We should be ready to do this at anytime, but the
transition from one year to the next is a good time to make resolutions and make
the changes needed in one’s life.
Dear Master for this coming year,
Just one request I bring:
I do not pray for happiness,
or any earthly thing –
I do not ask to understand,
The way Thou leadest me,
But this I ask: teach me to do,
The thing that pleaseth Thee.
I want to know Thy guiding voice,
to walk with Thee each day.
Dear Master make me swift to hear,
And ready to obey.
And thus the year I now begin,
A happy year will be –
If I am seeking just to do,
The thing that pleaseth Thee."
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you
hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch.
Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times
the word "resolution" or a related word is used. 2) Discuss with your parents
the changes you need to make to be a better in the New Year.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is your
thoughts about New Year’s resolutions? What are the difficulties with them? What
are their benefits? Can a person change for the better? Why or why not? Can a
man change enough to meet God’s standards? Why or why not? What did Jesus’ death
accomplish for those who believe in Him? What evidence is there that God expects
Christians to change for the better? What is the first step in changing? Why is
it difficult to know the sin that might be involved in a habit that needs to be
changed? What principles guide the Christian in their use of liberty? What do
you need to do after you identify any sin problem? What is needed in addition to
breaking old bad habits? How do you create a new habit? Give an example from
your own life. What are the fundamental issues to consider when thinking about
changes that may need to be made in your life? What are the two foundational
laws God has given us? In what areas do you see these principles operating in
your life? What specific areas do you see changes that need to be made in your
life? In loving God? In loving your neighbor? In increasing godliness and
reducing worldiness? What are your specific plans for making these changes? Who
will you ask to pray for you and hold you accountable in making those changes?
Bible Based Resolutions for Living Better
I will, like Paul, forget those things which are behind and press
forward; like David, lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh
my help; like Abraham, trust implicitly in my God; like Enoch, walk
in daily fellowship with my heavenly Father; like Jehoshaphat, prepare my
heart to seek God like Moses, choose rather to suffer than to enjoy the
pleasures of sin for a season; like Daniel, commune with my God at all
times; like Job, be patient under all circumstances; like Caleb and
Joshua, refuse to be discouraged because of superior numbers; like
Joseph, turn my back to all seductive advances; like Gideon advance
even though my friends be few; like Aaron and Hur, uphold the hands of my
spiritual leaders; like Isaiah, consecrate myself to do God’s work; like
Andrew, strive to lead my brother into a closer walk with Christ; like
John, lean upon the bosom of the Master and imbibe of His Spirit; like
Stephen, manifest a forgiving spirit toward all who seek my hurt; like
Timothy, study the Word of God; like the heavenly host, proclaim
the message of peace on Earth and good will toward all men; and like my Lord
Himself, overcome all earthly allurements by refusing to succumb to their
Realizing that I cannot hope to achieve these objectives by my own strength,
I will rely upon Christ, for "I can do all things thorough Christ which
strengtheneth me." George Burger
Sermon Notes – 1/2/2004
Resolving to Live Better – Selected Scriptures
New Year’s Resolutions
Resolving to be Different
Man’s Ability to Change
God’s Charge to Change
Developing New Habits
Breaking the Old
Establishing the New
What Needs to Change
To Know God and be in a personal relationship with Him (Ex. 33:13; 1 Pet.
Being used for God’s glory (Matt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 10:31)
Loving God with all your heart, soul and mind (Matt. 22:17)
Loving your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39)
Loving God – Do you really love God with all your heart, soul
and mind? What is more important to you than God? That would be an idol. How
much time do you spend in your own Bible study, prayer, meditation and personal
worship? Are you spending enough time in those activities that you are actually
getting to know God and His will better? How does the time spent in those
activities compare to time spent in your hobbies and being entertained? Do you
know what your spiritual gift(s) are? Are you using them? How much time to you
spend in serving the Lord? How does that compare to time spent in your hobbies
and entertainment? How about your finances? Do you give joyfully to the Lord’s
work? How does your giving to Him compare with spending on things that are for
your own pleasure? Do you ever use the Lord’s name in vain? Do you treat Him in
any way as less than the holy being that He is?
Loving your neighbors – Do you love your neighbors as yourself? Do you honor
your parents? Children, do you obey your parents? Is there anyone you hate? Do
you have a grudge against anyone? Do you refrain from adulterous glances and
thoughts? What do you allow your eyes to see? Your ears to hear? Your mind to
dwell on? Do you steal? Do you give your employer a full day’s work? Do you
cheat on your taxes? Do you lie about anything even if it seems innocent to you?
Do you gossip? Are you discontent and want what your neighbor has? Do you
rejoice in your neighbor’s success?
General – Do you love the world and the things in the world or God? Is your
mind set on things above or on the things of this earth? Have you considered the
members of your earthly body dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire
and greed? Have you put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech
from your mouth? Is your mind set to think on what is true, honest, just, pure,
lovely, of good report, virtuous and praise worthy? Is your life marked by
walking in the flesh with its idolatry, heresies, enmities, strife, jealousy,
disputes, envying, drunkenness and carousing? Or is it marked by walking in the
Spirit with His fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
Making Resolutions, Getting Help
Fill out this form with your resolutions and then give it to someone you
would like to help you. Ask them to pray for you and hold you accountable. You
may also write down your request and leave your name off or put your name down
and put "unspoken" on the resolution line and put it in the faith box. You or
the matter will be prayed about.
Understanding and agreeing that I need to make changes in my life in order to
be more like my Savior Jesus Christ and bring Him greater honor and glory,
and/or demonstrate a greater love to other people, I make the following
Phone Number: _________________________________________
By sharing my resolution(s) with you, I am asking that you diligently pray
for me in these areas and hold me accountable in implementing these changes. You
have the right to ask me about how I am doing in these areas at any appropriate