Our New Year’s Resolutions

Series: Window on the World

by Phil Ryken January 12, 1998

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions this year? I have never been a great believer in New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I cannot remember ever having made any. Like most things we do in our own strength, New Year’s resolutions tend not to last very long.

On Friday morning, the second day of the 1998, a member of the Tenth staff brought a box of pastries to work. They were labeled as “Resolution Busters.” Real life has a way of mocking good intentions, especially when real life is filled with jelly or covered with frosting.

Although I am not a great believer in New Year’s resolutions, I thought it would be good to suggest several resolutions this congregation ought to make.

The first is to be serious about church membership. Too many Christians these days treat church involvement as a disposable product. They only enter into the life of a congregation as far and as long as it suits them. They lack ecclesiastical discipline.

If you are a member of another church, I encourage you to remain committed to its ministry. When I get the chance, I usually try to discourage people from joining Tenth if they already belong to a Bible-teaching church in this area.

But if the Lord has called you to worship at Tenth, then take the membership class and join the church as a baptized, communicant member. The new year is a time when health club memberships soar because people have vowed to get more exercise. A health club is a good place to get in good physical shape because it has all the right equipment. In the same way, the church is the right place to get in spiritual shape. Church membership holds you accountable for your spiritual growth and it holds us accountable for your spiritual care.

I like to challenge younger people, especially couples, to make a long-term commitment to Tenth Presbyterian Church. Think of your investment in the life of your church as a major part of your life-work. Ask the Lord to prepare you to serve as a teacher, or deacon, or elder in this church.

Church membership is an excellent resolution to make if you lack direction in life. Maybe you have unresolved questions about your marital status, or your education or your career. You need be rooted somewhere, so why not begin by making a firm commitment to a church? The Lord will honor that commitment if you will, and very likely, the rest of the details of your life will fall into place.

A second resolution we ought to make as a congregation is to remain committed to the city of Philadelphia. For some, that commitment will include living in the city. But if the Lord has called you to live outside Philadelphia, get involved in one of the ministries that addresses urban needs, like ADVANCE tutoring or the ACTS Community Dinners. At the very least, make a financial contribution to these ministries so that your will have a personal stake in Tenth’s ministry to this city.

The best thing we could do for the welfare of this city is to start more Bible-teaching churches, which brings me to a third resolution. Let us resolve to seek the Lord about planting churches in the Philadelphia area. This is something I have been praying about since I came to Tenth in 1995. Our former Missions Chairman, Eugene Betts, challenged us to think about it at our annual meeting a year ago. It is a topic our elders and parish members are beginning to discuss. Let us resolve, therefore, to ask God to use us to plant a church in this city, or maybe more than one.

What other resolutions should we make? The three most popular New Year’s resolutions are to go on a diet, get more exercise, and stop smoking. In one way or another, they all have to do with physical fitness.

Well, what else do we need to improve our spiritual fitness? We are a bit flabbier than we ought to be in a number of places, but especially in two vital areas. One is prayer. I may be wrong about this, but I suspect that we are better Bible scholars than we are prayer warriors.

There are some encouraging signs. The group that meets on Fridays to prayer for the unconverted has received many answers to prayer. It is also good to read in the bulletin that a group is meeting to pray for the persecuted church.

But all is not well. I find it distressing that our weekly and annual meetings to pray for missions are so sparsely attended. It is a matter of consternation to me and to the other pastors that our Quarterly Day of Prayer does not receive the passionate involvement it deserves. Perhaps we are so diligent in private prayer that our public gatherings are almost superfluous. But isn’t the opposite much more likely to be true, that

Our last resolution is one we should make every year, and that is to commit ourselves to winning the lost for Jesus Christ. Keep on praying . If you don’t know how to share the gospel in a simple way, make sure you attend the evangelism class the deacons will offer in the spring.

And keep on inviting your friends to church. Our records show that most people who come to Tenth come at the invitation or recommendation of a friend. If you are a member of this church you are part of our marketing department. Invite a friend to one of our Friday Lunch Easter services. If your friend has spiritual questions, bring him or her to our question and answer time after the evening service. A number of singles and families from Tenth also make a point of hosting social events where their non-Christian friends can meet Christians in a friendly and intimate environment.

The point is that evangelism does not happen by accident. Sometimes we assume that it is up to people to find their way to God all by themselves. Occasionally they do, but usually they have friends who love them enough to help them along the way. Think of the banquet master in the parable who told his servants to go out into the highways and byways and compel the guests to come in (Matt. 22:9). That is the kind of urgency we need.

I realize it is somewhat meddlesome for me to make so many New Year’s resolutions on your behalf. So perhaps I should end by saying that wherever this church is weak it is partly my responsibility. I need to strengthen my commitment to the church, to the city, to prayer and to evangelism as much as anyone else, if not more so.

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