The beginning of the New Year brings a desire to change—it’s a kind of new start. But let’s not make changes that only last through the first week. Let us resolve to make lasting changes. Remember that resolutions determine attitudes; attitudes determine approach and approach determines the outcome.
It’s good to be with you again at the beginning of a new week and the end of an old year sharing with you Keys to Successful Living that God has placed in my hand through many years of personal experience and Christian ministry.
Let me begin by wishing each one of you, my radio listeners, a truly blessed New Year. I’ll sum up my good wishes for you in a beautiful verse in which the apostle John conveys his good wishes to a dear Christian friend. It’s found in the third epistle of John, verse 2:
“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” (NAS)
So, that’s my wish for every one of you. I pray that you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. Of course the decisive phrase is that last phrase, “just as your soul prospers.” Everything really turns on the prosperity of our souls.
Now the theme I’ve chosen for my talks this week and also on for the two following weeks is especially designed to equip you with an attitude and an outlook that will enable you to appropriate the fullness of God’s provision and God’s blessing in the year that lies ahead. You see, so much depends on these two things, your attitude and your outlook, as you move on into all that God has planned for you in this new year.
The title I’ve chosen for this series of talks is “Twelve Steps to a Good Year.” And the title for my introductory talk today is “Right Resolutions.”
The new year has been traditionally associated with resolutions. I think it’s not quite so fashionable perhaps today, but when I was a boy growing up, at the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year, everybody made their good resolutions for the new year and at the same time they usually laughed at themselves, knowing too well that their resolutions wouldn’t last long into the new year. However, I do believe at this time it is appropriate to make resolutions or to reaffirm those already made. You see, resolutions or decisions determine our attitude and our attitudes, in turn, determine our approach to any situation. And our approach to any situation determines the outcome. Let me just restate that sequence:
Resolutions determine Attitudes
Attitudes determine Approach
and Approach determines Outcome
The way you approach this new year will ultimately determine the outcome of this new year in your life. A wrong approach will lead to a wrong outcome. A right approach in God will lead to a right outcome. So your approach is going to be decisive. And your approach depends ultimately on your decisions, on your resolutions. So our resolutions at this time of year are important. If we haven’t made the right resolutions, we need to make them. And if we’ve made the right resolutions in the past, it is very helpful to reaffirm them at this time.
Now the epistle to the Hebrews provides us with twelve pattern resolutions, each introduced by the phrase “Let us” and that’s very interesting. In due course, I’m going to be quoting to you each of these significant sentences that begins with “Let us...” To me, it is very interesting that, as I’ve gone carefully through the epistle to the Hebrews in the original language, which is Greek, I’ve discovered that there are precisely twelve such “Let us” sentences in the epistle. And I believe these “Let us” sentences constitute twelve good resolutions for the New Year, or, as I prefer to call them, “Twelve Steps to a Good Year.”
I’m just going to list them in the order in which they occur in the epistle so as to give you an overall view of the material that we’re going to be covering this week and the next two weeks. Here are the twelve “Let us” sentences from Hebrews. I’ll not give you the references now; I’ll give them later.
Number 1. (Very surprising. You’d never guess if you didn’t know.)
Number 1. Let us fear.
Number 2. Let us be diligent.
Number 3. Let us hold fast our confession.
Number 4. Let us draw near to the throne of grace.
Number 5. Let us press on to maturity.
Number 6. Let us draw near to the most holy place.
Number 7. Let us hold fast, without wavering, our confession.
Number 8. Let us consider one another.
Number 9. Let us run with endurance the race set before us.
Number 10. Let us show gratitude.
Number 11. Let us go out to Him outside the camp.
Number 12. Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise.
There are one or two interesting points there. Two of those good resolutions begin with “Let us draw near.” The first, “to the throne of grace”; the second, “to the most holy place.” Also, “Let us hold fast our confession” occurs twice, but the second time a very significant phrase is added: “Let us hold fast our confession without wavering.”
So, those are the twelve resolutions, the twelve steps to a good year, and I’m going to be going through them in my subsequent talks in detail, trying to show you just how they apply to your life and your situation. And just how there really are steps to a good year.
For a little while now I want to dwell on the significance of the introductory phrase that’s used at the beginning of each one of those twelve resolutions. The phrase “Let us.” This phrase contains two aspects. First of all, it denotes a resolution, as I’ve already said; but secondly, every time, in the epistle to the Hebrews, the resolution is in the plural. It is never “Let me,” or “I will,” but it is always “Let us.” It is always in the plural. And that indicates not merely that we have to take certain resolutions, but that we have to take them together. I believe this is a fact which the Holy Spirit is emphasizing in a special way to God’s people at this time, that we are not independent, autonomous units, each one just going to make it through on our own regardless of our fellow believers, but in a very real sense, we are dependent on one another. And if we’re going to make it through to the fulfillment of God’s purpose, we are going to do it together. We will never do it separately as individuals.
Let me show you a couple of verses in Ephesians 4 that bring out this point. Paul says about the ministries that God or Christ has set in His church for various basic purposes, the building of the Body, the perfecting of the saints, and so on. In verse 13 Paul sums up the purposes of these ministries. He says:
“until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”(NIV)
And then, in the same connection, with reference to Christ, he says in verse 16:
“From Him [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grown and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (NIV)
You will notice the emphasis in both those verses on the collective, rather than the individual. Speaking about unity and the full knowledge of the Son of God and maturity, Paul uses the words “we all.” “Until we all reach unity... the knowledge of the Son of God. Until we all become mature. Until we all attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” The implication is clear. We’re not going to do it on our own. We’re dependent on our fellow believers. And so the resolution that we make is not just an individualistic, self-centered resolution as to what I’m going to do in this New Year, but it’s a resolution which includes our fellow believers. “Let us.”
And then again in that 16th verse Paul points out how much we are interdependent upon one another. The whole body is a unit, joined together by every supporting ligament, and it only grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work. In the natural human body, if one part malfunctions, it almost inevitably affects the other part. Take, for instance, the liver. If the liver malfunctions, it is going to affect many of the other main areas and systems of the human body. So all those other areas and systems are dependent on the liver. And in the same way, as Christians, we are dependent upon one another. The conclusion is this: we cannot attain to true maturity without our fellow believers. It is not enough to have an individual goal. We must also have a collective goal. The New Year confronts us with a need for resolution and decision, but that resolution is not just an individualistic resolution for each one of us alone, but it is a resolution that all of us as believers have to take together if we are going to attain to God’s goal for us.
Well, our time is up for today, but I’ll be back again with you tomorrow at this time. Tomorrow I’ll continue with this theme: “Twelve Steps to a Good Year.”