“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37)
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. (Luke 14:28-32)
Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:3)
In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Got it? Is everybody clear on this?
Actually, if you read through all those scriptures, you should be thoroughly confused. I am. Following Christ is not always a clear path. It’s nothing like the yellow brick road. These passages all have to do with human plans and God’s direction and they do not always mesh.
Does anybody remember Bill Gothard’s Basic Youth Conflicts? That was a weekend training seminar popular in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. (It later became the Institute of Basic Life Principles from which Gothard resigned in 2014 amidst allegations of life-long issues of sexual harassment of female employees. Proof that knowing all the answers and doing them are two different things.) Actually, I’m one to believe there aren’t answers like that in the Bible. The Bible isn’t an answer book or a manual for life. It reveals God to us and how we can know Him, but it doesn’t have a principled answer for everything in life. That’s legalism, and laws are made to be broken. Just ask Bill Gothard. Live by the law; you die by the law.
Yes the Bible has laws and principles; it is also very clear that no one can live by them. If you could, you’d be doing pretty well. But the law is not a way to righteousness, it’s a way to Christ. The law leads us to the saving grace of Christ by reason of the fact that we can’t obey it. So to turn the Bible into a bunch of principles by which you can live a good and successful life is the most damaging thing you could do with the Bible. It nullifies its central message, the gospel of Jesus Christ for losers.
So what does any of this have to do with New Year’s resolutions? Plenty. It says you can make them, but know that you will break them. That’s why you must not take an oath or swear by heaven, earth or the hairs on your head that you will or won’t do something because you will break that oath, and once you do, the devil will have you in a guilt trap from which you cannot escape. Round and round you will go, vowing that “this time” you will not fall, but fall you will, even harder. And the devil (the “accuser of the brethren”) will say, “Gotcha.”
So make your resolutions (I’m making mine), just don’t trust in the resolutions or yourself. Trust only in the Lord. And make your plans and set goals, just be realistic, and let God guide your steps, and if He leads you somewhere other than your plans, then alter your plans to meet His.
Walk humbly, carry your cross (meaning give up yourself and everything you want) and claim the grace of God over all you are and do. And when you blow it, acknowledge it. Step into the light with the rest of us sinners and receive Christ’s forgiveness. Hopefully, Bill Gothard is doing that now.
A huge THANK YOU once again for everyone who participated in our year-end campaign. Your eager response was so encouraging. We are waiting for our Board of Directors and mail-in contributions to be counted and we will give a full report at that time. IN THE MEANTIME, YOU GUYS ARE TERRIFIC! To everyone listed below … WE SALUTE YOU!
AS YOU WISH!
Grace, Dallas, Texas
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John, Tecumseh, Kansas
Chris, Placentia, California
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Kristin, Chesterfield, Missouri
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Priscilla, Spencerport, New York
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William, Tucson, Arizona
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Tim, Wahpeton, Indiana
Bill, Seattle, Washington
Paula, Decatur, Alabama
Alan, Twyford Reading, U.K.
Kent, Bryan, Ohio