Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 31, 2000
Today is the last day of this year, this century and this millennium. I realize that many, if not
most people, celebrated this marking of time last year, but they were one year early. Our calendar does
not start with the year Zero A.D., but with 1 A.D. I only mention this because of a quirk in my
personality that if possible, I like things to be accurate, and that according to the calendar system we
follow here in the United States, the twenty-first century, the third millennium, does not start until
While I like to be accurate as reasonably possible, I also know that these markings of the passing
of time are somewhat arbitrary. Since man has not keep an exact record of time passed from his creation,
we cannot set an absolute marking of time since Adam first walked this Earth. Since Jesus’ exact day
and year of birth were not recorded, we can only make estimated guesses at the number of years that
have passed since He, the infinite One, became finite and entered into time and space from eternity.
If we were truly wise people, we would seek to do as Moses states in Psalm 90:12 and number
our days that we might present to God a heart of wisdom. We would do what Paul says in Ephesians
5:16 and make the most of our time, because the days are evil. We should be mindful to do this each and
every day of our lives. Every day should be a day to resolve to be better today than we were yesterday.
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
challenge you to reflect on your own life and consider how well you are following God’s will and prod
you on to resolve to be more diligent in doing so.
New Year’s Resolutions
I don’t find that New Year’s resolutions carry much importance in our society any longer except
at the receiving end of a joke such as the following definition, “A New Year’s resolution is something
that goes in one year and out the other.” Another fellow quipped, “May your troubles in the coming
New Year be as short-lived as your resolutions.” Many people seem cynical that there is any 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 “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 Christians’ desire.
Resolving to be Different
Man’s Ability to Change
Some would 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 in the technology that has developed over the last few hundred years. It
is evident in the political systems that have developed that have given people more basic freedoms than
have existed in the past under feudal systems and kings. It is evident in humanitarian efforts that are
made by even non-Christians in some societies and systems of law that do 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 most
Now I am not saying in any way that man can change and 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 is simply that man, even the heathen, can change and there should be an expectation that
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. If changing into a
better person was optional, then we would have to question the reason for God to set forth His
commands to us in the Scriptures. What possible good would it do for the Holy Spirit to convict us of
our sins? What benefit in the present would there be for Jesus to have died as the payment of our sins if
sin’s bondage was not broken? Yes, the law is a schoolmaster and the Spirit’s conviction would bring
about feelings of horrible guilt and need for forgiveness, but Jesus did not just remove sin’s penalty, he
broke the bondage of sin over us (Romans 6). 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
Over the last couple of months we have taken a break from our study in the gospel of John so
that I could stress the practical aspects of living in holiness as a Christian. 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 commands to Christians and every one of them, and the principles that flow out of
them, are vivid proof that God expects the Christian to change and become more conformed to the image
of His son 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 not 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 Christians do sin, but we are expected to walk in the light
and confess our sins when we do (1 John 1:6-10). The purpose of church discipline is to correct and
restore erring brothers and sisters while disfellowshiping those that will not repent (Matt. 18; Gal. 6).
How then do you change? It starts with recognizing the problem. You will not fix what you don’t
think is broken. Then you must push on and both 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 should be 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 seeing the
need to spend 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 paper is not a sin, but
if you are doing that and neglecting your Bible, then perhaps it is. Watching TV may not be a sin, but if
you are doing that and neglecting 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.” He set his course to seek the good of others and not just what pleased himself (vs.
24). Paul added in 1 Cor. 6:12 that he would not allow himself to become mastered or subjected to
anything. In other words, just because it is not a sin and you can do something doesn’t mean it is
something that you should do. We should seek the best, not just what is acceptable. We need to ask
ourselves if what we are doing is profitable for us or does it build up others? Maybe it is something that
is okay for a Christian to do, but you have let it become a master to you. Hobbies are one area that is a
danger to all of us in this way. It may be a fine activity, but if you become obsessed with it, then it may
actually have become 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 in control.
After you recognize the area that needs to be changed, 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, make a plan to
change, and even if all you can do at the present time is the very first step, which may simply be to stop
your current practice, 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 key to success in breaking an old habit is coming under conviction that it is a habit that
needs to be broken whether it is a direct sin or just something that is not the best. If you are not
convinced of that, then you will not change or you will resent the change forced upon you by others.
Establishing New Habits:
It is not enough to break an old habit. You must replace it with a new habit. Otherwise, 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 stop listening to music and watching TV that tears 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? By first stopping the old habit and then practicing the new one
with great diligence. At first it usually takes conscious effort to do so, but as you continue doing it, it
will be done with little effort and then become your normal practice. For example, how do you start
getting up earlier in the morning so that you can have a time of prayer and Bible reading before starting
the day’s activities? 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. Then, make sure it will produce a very annoying sound. This forces you
to have 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 be 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 will be your habit of life. You will find that if you then 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 years.
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. They should be the result of 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 doing what is right and good. 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? I have sought to address them over the last couple of months,
but let me list some of them out for you clearly here.
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!” It was the purpose in Christ coming that we might know the only true God
(John 17:3). It is still the quest of the Christian to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord (1 Peter
2) The quest to truly worship God in righteousness. 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 just as the Jewish religious leaders did 2,000 years ago. That is also false worship. Jesus
told the woman at the well in John 4 that “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in
spirit and truth.” That is a fundamental pursuit of the true Christian. We fulfill it with the true sacrifices
that God desires – 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). The true Christian wants to be cleansed by God and have a clean heart before Him (Ps
51:2,10). We 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 from the good deeds he
does even down to what and how eats and drinks are to glorify God (Matt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 10:31).
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
become more effective in the task of discipleship including teaching obedience to Christ (Eph. 4:11-16;
1 Cor. 12).
6) The result of all of these is that your life is lived for God instead of yourself because you are
walking in submission to the Spirit in a manner worthy of your calling.
The fundamental issues come down to two particular commands. Jesus states them in Matthew
22 when questioned by a lawyer about which is the great commandment in the Law. Jesus said, “‘You
shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38
“This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor
as yourself.’ 40 “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 issues and all the particular issues will 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 see
areas in which you need to make some resolutions to improve.
Let me just ask some questions. They will be in two major categories – loving God and loving
your neighbor. I hope they will spark some inward reflection on your part.
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?
I think you all get the idea that there are areas each of us can improve. The question that remains
is “will we?” We will do what is needed to change. Will we 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.
We however cannot let that stop us for asking for help from the rest of the body. 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 what the body of Christ is for.
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 prayed about.
Let’s all be more serious living for Christ and help 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.” Selected
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” is used. 2) Discuss with your parents how you can be a better person in the coming 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 expect 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? Who will you ask to pray for you and hold you accountable in
making those changes?
Sermon Notes – 12/31/2000 A.M.
Resolutions For A New Millennium – 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
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. If you want to remain anonymous, but want prayer, then 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 resolutions:
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 time.
Bible Based Resolutions for a New Millennium
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 enticements.
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