Resoluteness is Next to Godliness

Tim Challies never uses the word sanctification in connection with New Year’s resolutions, but why you would encourage Christians to pray about resolving to improve oneself (like walking more and talking less) is uncertain:

Do you want to make a resolution that sticks? Then here’s what you can do:

Make 1 resolution and make it a specific and realistic one—big enough to be meaningful, but small and defined enough to be attainable.

Decide what habits you will need to break and what habits you will need to form in order to succeed.

Create a plan that will train you in that new habit while replacing any negative habits.

Tell a friend about your plan and ask him to check in with you on a regular basis.

Plan in advance how you will meet with temptation and how you will deal with failure.

Pray consistently and persistently.

Some critics of white evangelicalism complain that the movement is too middle-class, that it baptizes habits that attend success in the business and economic world as fruit of the Spirit.

Again, Challies does not mention the s-word. But he has prepared sanctification spread sheets before. I’m beginning to wonder if the New Calvinists can tell the difference between Jonathan Edwards’ post-conversion resolutions and Ben Franklin’s advice for self-improvement. (In point of fact, I’m not sure I can.)


27 thoughts on “Resoluteness is Next to Godliness

  1. New Year’s resolution:

    Admit I’m a sinful beggar in need of forgiving grace and own it faithfully.

    But because I’m a sinner I’ll fail at even that resolution.

    God’s answer to all our failed resolution’s at self-improvement:
    Mercy and free pardon in Christ in whom we died along with all our self-improvement plans. Our old man is not all that well suited to reform. Better to hope in our death and resurrection in Christ. Already… not yet.

    Happy New Year to all you miserable failures!


  2. What’s the difference between Challies’ recommendations and a “spiritual” message on a Starbucks cup?

    No, really. I want to know, too.


  3. “Presciently, Franklin believed that exercise should be judged not by time or distance but by ‘the degree of warmth it produces in the body.’” Exchange ‘heart’ for ‘body’ and it sounds strangely close to how some speak of their sanctity today.


  4. Give me some tasty pellets and some electrical current and I’ll train a rat to keep its New Year’s resolutions. After that’s accomplished I’ll move on to a dog & modify its affections. There just aren’t enough ministries for animal sanctification.

    Eventually I’ll teach “every square inch” to the cockroaches.

    Happy New Year.


  5. JASitek, great point. There is no real difference in this given post. No gospel in either place. At least at Starbuck’s they ask you if you’d like room for cream.


  6. Brad, I think Rick Warren and maybe even Keller have made it to white-cup status.

    So, no mention of the other s-word (Sabbath), but somehow New Year’s is a holy time of purification? Okay, bruh.

    But this is not the time to wish upon a star and hope that you will magically change; it is the time to firmly resolve to change your life. Make sure that you are resolving, not wishing.


  7. The whole scheme takes a lot of planning and since I’m rather inept at detailed planning, does this mean resolution-making is lost on me?

    But what if I resolve to be a better planner? My head hurts


  8. Romans 6 explains that increasing sin does not increase grace. Decreasing sin also does not increase grace. Nor does decreasing sin decrease our need for grace.

    Romans 6 describes two legal states, one of which is “free from righteousness”. We tend to judge people (even ourselves) based on the evidence of something in us which wants to be better. We even like to think that it’s God in us causing us to want to be better. But the true God will not accept us into His presence based on something in us, not even based on something God has put in us. If we have not yet been legally justified by God, we are still in our sins.

    Romans 6 defines the “in Christ” in terms of legally being placed into the death of Christ. The “new man” (new creation) in Christ becomes that by God’s imputation of Christ’s death and God’s justification. When I think of the “old man”, do you think only of your remaining corruption (indwelling sin) and not of your original guilt? Whether we had Christian parents or not, we were born imputed with the guilt of Adam’s first sin.,

    II Corinthians 5:14 “one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sakes died and was raised….If anyone is in Christ, there is a NEW CREATION. The old has passed; the new has come.”


  9. “I firmly resolve?” Is that how it works? Hm? “I resolve, old Flesh!” “Overruled.” “No, no, no. I FIRMLY resolve.” “Oh! You firmly resolve. Then I guess I’ll cower back.”


  10. at least one thing the Lord’s exhortation to practice seems to do is inspire blog post practice mocking the idea of the practice of righteousness Rev 22:11


  11. Sir, I keep sinning although I don’t want to.


    But how?


    What does that even mean? I have a brain, I’m not into squishy-feelings stuff…


    (And then you find there is a True Reformed church, not just a fake one that goes halfway and won’t talk about sanctification…)


  12. And now we know that forming habits are part of Christian Living:

    Habits drive our behavior, which in turn forms our character. No one wakes up one day to find they’ve suddenly developed either an immoral or a godly character. It is through habits of rebelliousness against God that we become “slaves to sin” and through habits of obedience and obeying from our heart the “pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” that we become “slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:15-18).

    Our character is shaped by the responses we make to thousands of decisions over the course of our lives. Most of the time we respond without consciously thinking about how to act. We tell the truth because we’ve made a habit of truth-telling. Over time we become honest and trustworthy because the habit of truth-telling has become engrained in our character.

    Did Jesus say that adultery was a habit when he talked about lust of the heart? Weren’t the Pharisees pretty good a living habituated lives? What are the Allies thinking?


  13. (Sh)a(ne), the sarcasm-oh-meeter is strong around here. But so are self-righteous raydars, which tell us intentions are always mixed.


  14. Dr. Hart, I really liked the ‘sanctification spread-sheets’ metaphor. No doubt, they don’t help believers to ‘Excel’ either.


  15. Hi all– I noticed that Zrim refered to “a.” as “Shane”…. I always psot under my actual name “Shane” or “Shane A.” or “Shane Anderson” or something to that effect. So…. “a.” isn’t me. Thanks!

    Also if you want to interact with the real me: Twitter: @Shane _A7 or @reformation101

    I only read OL when I’m interested or irritated by the topic, and I rarely read the comments unless CW links to them.

    Love to all the OL clan…


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