Grace-Centered Resolutions


Supposedly, the largest spike in new gym memberships occurs at the beginning of the year. The assumption is that most of those people who get these new memberships will hype themselves into working out for a few weeks, and then fade off and not use them again for many months, if ever. I have no evidence to back up these assumptions, but regardless, this is what New Year’s Resolutions often look like for us.

I think most of our resolutions come from something we don’t like about ourselves.

We trick ourselves into thinking, “If I change this behavior, I will like myself more” or “I will get the love I need from others if I acted/looked a certain way.”

Fear-Centered Resolutions

A lot of our resolutions are fear-centered. Fear-centered resolutions look like this:

1. Fear. If I don’t change _____________, I will never be happy/find wholeness.

2. Hype. If I change _____________, I will be able to find happiness. We hype ourselves into the behavior change, letting the hope wholeness dangle in front of us like a carrot.

3. Burnout. After a certain period time, when we are not getting the results we want, we lose that energy to keep going.

There have been times in my life where I made behavioral changes based on a dislike of myself. In a specific season of my life, I invested a lot of time and energy into diet and exercise. I didn’t like how I looked and I thought that if I bulked up a bit and shaved off a few pounds I’d get the positive attention I wanted. And while pursuing good health is a positive thing, my motivation was in the wrong place. That motivation faded and I found myself right back where I started.

I think God has something better for us.

Grace-Centered Resolutions

What if we switched the source and motivation of our resolutions and behavior changes? What if, rather than trying to power up and push through, we went to the true Source of power? When we do that, we find that Jesus has already come to us and has been with us all this time.

1. Love. I am loved by God, right now, as I am. God is my wholeness. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

2. Receive. I don’t need to hype myself into a state of change. I can rest in who I am, right now, as God’s child. (Romans 8:15)

3. Overflow. My identity is secure because of God’s love for me. I let God’s love overflow to my work, my habits, and my relationships. (Luke 6:45)

This is quite a course correction, and it’s not easy. I battle fear on a daily basis, struggling to receive God’s love for me, while being tempted to hype myself up on adrenaline for ministry and relationships. But Jesus didn’t say that he would come to give the weary a shot of adrenaline; he said he would give us rest (Matthew 11:28). It’s in this rest, this not-doing, that we receive his love for us.

[I owe a lot of this line of thinking to a friend and colleague of mine, Chris McAlister. He’s got a pretty cool ministry going on called SightShift which is all about finding a secure identity in God’s love, not in the things we do or the relationships we have. You should check it out.]

3 responses to “Grace-Centered Resolutions”

  1. Tim says:

    Cool. Very cool.

  2. Todd Marquardt says:

    Doesn’t God want us to use the gifts and talents he has given us? If we’re not living up to our potential, doesn’t God want us to resolve to do better?

    • Nick says:

      Hey Todd, thanks for your questions. The think the answer is “yes” and “no.”

      Sometimes our desire to “use the gifts and talents” God has given us and “live up to our potential” is more about us feeling valued than it is about having a relationship with God. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus talks about how some people will come to him saying, “Hey, look at all this stuff we did in your name!” And he responds by saying, “I never knew you.”

      But the main idea is to separate our personhood from our performance. We can rest in our identity as God’s children. We don’t need to prove ourselves to God, or ourselves, or anyone else. His love preempts our sin and our virtue. And it’s Christ who truly makes us righteous.

      Once we are secure in that identity, we overflow God’s love to our actions and our relationships. We do the will of God, using our gifts, knowing that God loves us anyway, so our work is not to gain approval, but to empower others.

      I’m constantly wrestling with this. It’s not like I turn on some magical switch and suddenly I’m super confident and aware of God’s love for me and therefore all of my actions are divine and unselfish. If anything, I am MORE aware of the times where my decisions regarding work and relationships are super self-centered. But it’s in those times I can pray and ask God to help me receive from him what only he can give me.

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