It’s January once again—the beginning of a fresh year, when slates are wiped clean and anything seems possible.
While everyone else is making resolutions and wondering if they’ll be one of the 8 percent of people who actually keep them, I’m here to suggest a different approach to New Year’s resolutions.
I have made resolutions in the past, but this year I’m shaking things up, because I know my tendency to be task-oriented and self-sufficient. That’s why I’m not resolving to do something that can be checked off a list.
Instead, God is teaching me to focus on who I need to be. So here’s my New Year’s resolution:
In 2019, I want to become more aware of God’s tremendous love for me. I want to truly know, believe, and experience His love and then to be a pipeline of His love to others.
A Precious Invitation
This idea first came to me after a friend confessed she was allowing her job and work assignments to define her. Ultimately, she’s not called to meet every deadline or perfectly execute each new project. She’s called first and foremost to love the Lord her God with all her heart, soul, and mind.
Immediately I saw in my own heart a similar case of misplaced identity. So I began exploring this verse found originally in Deuteronomy 6 and repeated again in the New Testament.
In the Gospel of Matthew, it shows up in the account of a first-century lawyer who wanted to know what the greatest commandment was. So he asked Jesus. (That’s always a good idea.) The response Jesus gave him is this:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matt. 22:37–40, CSB).
Whenever I read instructions in Scripture like this one, my legalistic-leaning heart immediately turns it into something I must make happen in order to prove my salvation. I turn it into something I can do to earn favor.
But that’s not the intent behind Jesus’ words. He didn’t tell us to love God first and then He’ll return our love. In fact, the opposite is true. We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It’s a love that isn’t earned by what we do; instead, it’s a love freely offered to us.
It’s helpful for me to think of Jesus’ words as a precious invitation. The God of the universe is greater than anything we can fathom and so holy no one can be in His presence and live (Isa. 6:1–5). Yet He chose to break that barrier caused by our sin by sacrificing His Son so that we can call Him “Daddy” and know what it’s like to be truly, fully, and unconditionally loved (Gal. 4:4–7)!
This is mindblowing! This is love.
We don’t earn God’s love, and we also can’t earn eternal life. That’s why Jesus came (it’s what we just celebrated at Christmas) and lived and died (that’s what Easter is all about) to perfectly fulfill the Law in our place so that we don’t have to (Rom. 8:1–4). This means I can expend energy soaking in what it means to be loved by God rather than striving to perfect myself in my own strength (Eph. 3:14–19).
This year, I want to know who I am in Jesus Christ instead of trying hard to do something in hopes of earning a better standing with Him.
This Year, Let’s Stop Performing
Of course, this doesn’t mean we no longer need to obey the Bible’s instructions. (The apostle Paul makes that clear in Romans 6.) We are created for good works, we’re just not saved by them (Eph. 2:8–10; Titus 3:8). These works should flow out of a heart that loves Jesus, not out of a fear of losing His love.
That’s why I’m giving my soul a break from all the to-do lists I’ve placed on myself. I need the constant reminder that I’m not defined by what I accomplish or how well I behave every day. I’m not created to just complete the day’s to-do list, to perform. And you’re not called to ace every test, meet every goal, or achieve perfection. We are called to love the Lord our God. And we must first know and experience His love in order to do that. (His love that’s lavished on us without pretense!)
So will you join me in making this your New Year’s resolution? The goal is Christlikeness. Friendship with God rather than self-improvement.
How do we gain a deeper understanding of God’s love for us? We saturate our minds with God’s Word.
Spend quality time with God every day, and know that when you close your Bible, He’s still with you. He’s always with you—when you begin your day, when you walk the halls at school, while you wash dishes, or babysit the neighbor kids. His love for you never ceases, even if you’re rocking your resolutions or if you fail on January 3. When we live in that reality, everything changes.
- Do you know that you are loved by God?
- How does this change the way you view Him?
- How does it change the way you interact with others?
Ask Jesus to show you how much you’re loved rather than asking yourself how well you did today. May His loving-kindness surprise you this year.