Take time to be holy. Many began the year with an unshakable devotion to New Year’s resolutions, but that devotion will die by February. It is hard to teach a legless dog how to walk. Often, these resolutions ignore the real issue, sin. Working out will make you a healthy sinner. Getting organized turns you into a put together wretch. Saving more money makes you a rebel with a larger savings account. It is not unrighteous to set resolutions. But they often ignore the sin that lies beneath the behavior. In other words, they seek to change the fruit and not the root. I propose believers should pursue lifelong holiness and not periodical resolutions.
New Year, No Change
44% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions yet, only 8% fulfill them. “The reality is that few individuals have made immediate and significant life changes because of a dramatic New Year’s resolution,” says Paul Tripp. New Year’s resolutions may fuel behavior modification for a while, but they rarely alter our lives. Our flesh is too powerful. Our sin attacks every good intention. We can’t trust ourselves because we are deceitful and sick (Jeremiah 17:9). We don’t need to pursue a yearly commitment to behavioral modification. We need to pursue a lifelong commit to holiness.
Little Moment of Change
We have all heard the testimonies in church about when God dramatically delivers a person. The story begins with the person telling how they were strung out on drugs, addicted to alcohol, or lived in sexual immorality. Then God saved them and one day they were completely delivered from a particular sin. Praise God he still radically saves people! But these testimonies are the exceptions, not the rule.
Salvation happens in an instant but, sanctification takes a lifetime. Most Christians take small steps to crawl out of the grasp of particular sins, which takes years. The ideology behind New Year’s resolutions says, “You have 365 days to change” and if you can’t change in a year you are a failure. Sanctification is a long, hard road that is filled with failure. The recovering alcoholics fail to stay sober numerous days. It is the day-after-day small decisions not to drink that help them have sober days. The journey to human transformation consists of many little steps.
“The fact of the matter is that human transformation is more of a mundane process. Changes typically take place in ten thousand little moments, not one life-altering event.” Paul Tripp
Without holiness, no can please the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). The Lord has called us to be holy in all our conduct and to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). God has predestined us to be holy like him (Romans 8: 29). The pursuit of holiness requires diligence and effort. It is a lifelong task. God has commanded us to be holy but it seems like an impossible endeavor. How can we become holy throughout our life if we can’t change a sinful behavior in 365 days?
How can we become holy? It is through the wonderful work of the spirit of God and the Word of God called sanctification. The good news is the weight of becoming holy is not completely on us. We do have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), but we are not alone (Matt. 28:20). When we fail on our journey to holiness we can know we are under grace (Romans 6:14) and there is no more condemnation for us (Romans 8:1). The Christian journey is a marathon, not a sprint. It is not about how fast we complete our race but if we are running the race with endurance.
Beloved, let us put aside the pursuit to recreate ourselves in 365 days. Let us pursue the lifelong goal of holiness. If we wage war on our sin our habits will change. Slothfulness will be replaced by biblical productivity. Disorganization will be overcome by a desire to do everything decently and in order. The urge to spend frivolously will be overpowered by the longing to be a good steward of God’s gifts. Pursue holiness to attack the root and change the fruit.
Don’t cancel the gym membership or plan to eat healthier. You don’t have to cancel your plans of becoming more organized. Keep your resolutions but ponder how are they going to help you pursue holiness.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
William D. Longstaff
Bridges, Jerry. The Pursuit of Holiness. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1978.