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Don’t Begin the Year with Law

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Have you made your New Years’ resolutions?

What are you planning? Will you go to the gym regularly? Cut out carbs? Buckle down on learning that new language? Save more money? Drink more water and less alcohol? Read the Bible in a year?

Do you know what those resolutions are?


They’re little-“l” laws you impose upon yourself (as if the world didn’t already have enough).

None of those goals are bad. They’re all admirable. They’d probably even do you good. But has that law-and-resolution approach—that legalistic set-up for the New Year—ever made you a better person? Have laws ever motivated you to fulfill them or given you the strength to do them?


If a law could provide you with life, Jesus would not have had to come to give His life for you (cf. Gal 3:21-22).

Be honest. You’ll likely break whatever resolutions you set before January 19th (see here), and then you’ll feel guilty and condemned all over again. That’s all the law can do for you—condemn you. Laws can’t save you, change you, or make you holier.

What’s the alternative?

Instead of a resolution, here’s a prayer that Paul prayed for Philemon:

And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective in the knowledge of every good thing that belongs to us in Christ (Philemon 6, MOUNCE).

Paul wanted Philemon’s faith to be more effective. He might have been thinking of Philemon’s ministry as a house church leader (v 2), his generosity to other saints, or the situation with Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave. But whatever practical ministry Paul had in mind, it would become more effective through Philemon’s knowing something, namely, every good thing that already belonged to him in Christ.

Growth doesn’t come through law but through knowing Christ better.

If you have Jesus, do you know how rich you are? How blessed you are? Do you know every good thing you have in Christ?

That’s a theological vein I’ve barely begun to mine. But my prayer and goal are for you to know Christ better and to help you increasingly make Jesus the center of your life. Instead of being occupied with legalistic New Year’s resolutions, let’s become fully occupied with Christ.

Heavenly Father, this next year is hanging over our heads. The newspapers are predicting hard times. The problems seem impossibly large. Help us to see that Christ is infinitely larger and more than enough for us. Help us grow in our knowledge of Jesus, so instead of focusing on what the New Year might lack, we can know all the good things that belong to us in Christ. Amen.


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