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What Luther Says

The Only New Year's Resolution That Matters For Christians

I want to take a moment to thank the Lord for each and every one of you who have visited this blog, commented on posts, prayed for me, called me, challenged me, emailed me, held me accountable, listened to the old podcasts, and/or shared the information found here with family, friends, and strangers throughout the past year.

Your fellowship (even if it's only been virtual for the most part) has meant so much to me.

While none of this is ever about me, you should know that your continued encouragement and support has meant so much to me in the past 12 months so thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.

As we embark upon another New Year together, I pray that God uses me and this forum (that He uses all of us) as we faithfully follow Him and simply serve our neighbor through our various God-given vocations.

May we all continue to plant the seeds of faith, seeds of hope, for the "Master Gardener" to cultivate on His own, in His own perfect timing, and in His own perfect way.

1 Corinthians 3:7 (ESV) So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

You know, in the past, and before I was a Lutheran, I've written some really bad things for my annual New Year's Resolution posts. I mean, REALLY bad too!

Lord, have mercy on me and please forgive me!

For instance, I once shared a lengthy list that Jonathan Edwards (the preacher not the disgraced U.S. politician from several years ago) once wrote back in the 1700s for Christians to prayerfully consider at the start of each New Year. The list was 70 instructions of Law, Law, and more Law and very little Gospel or grace!

Here's what I once wrote about him and it back at the start of 2012...

Jonathan Edwards' 70 New Year's Resolutions 
Beginning at the tender age of nineteen and continuing over the course of about a year from 1722-1723 Jonathan Edwards penned his now famous “Resolutions” which are as fresh and challenging today as they were when he first wrote them some 288 years ago. How many nineteen-year olds are writing material like this today? Twenty-nine year olds? Forty-nine year olds? Eighty-nine year olds? And according to legend Jonathan Edwards did, in fact, read through his resolutions as a sort of altimeter in order to gauge his spiritual trajectory and altitude at least once per week. I wasn’t aware of this work by him until last year, and I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read through it again since writing about it at the start of 2011, but thank God that He continues to lead me back to it. I am certain that you will be both challenged and edified by reading through Edwards’ Resolutions as much as I was.

I think it's best to remind ourselves on a day like today that any "resolutions" we set in our hearts and minds to keep are ultimately up to God’s will anyway (Proverbs 16:9).

That's not to say that if we fail, if we sin, it's somehow God's fault and that He's to blame. May it never be so! I just mean that we need to take the proper perspective of resolutions as Christians.

Far too often, we say we're going to do this and we're going to do that in the New Year, and we say it with such eagerness and enthusiasm, which is great, but let's not ignore the fact that it is also the kind of eagerness and enthusiasm born by a spirit of independence and self-reliance, and not humility and submission to the Lord like they should be.

It's funny when you think about it like that, because we're then surprised when we invariably fail in "our goals and plans for ourselves" in the New Year since we either fail to accept God’s sovereignty and will for our lives, we leave Him out of the process entirely, or both.

With all of that in mind, here's something from a distinctly Lutheran perspective that should help us to properly understand how believers should approach the New Year and any resolutions we might fail to keep in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Should the Christian stand all day long at the grave of all joys which he enjoyed in past years? Through Holy Baptism a great stream of joy has been conducted in his heart, which does not drain away, but streams forward with his life until its waves carry him into the sea of a blessed eternity. Should the Christian be reminded all day long that the flowers of his youth fall more and more? He stands planted by God in the water of his Baptism as a palm tree which becomes greener and greener and whose leaves never wither. Yes, his Baptism makes death for him like a short winter's nap, out of which an eternal spring -- an eternal youth -- follows. 
For Baptism is a bath that washed me not only once when I received it -- washed me pure with Christ's blood -- but it continuously washes me clean even daily for as long as I hold it in faith. For just as that same water of the flood drowned the sinners, but Noah with his relatives were brought to salvation and carried to Mount Ararat, so also did the water of my Baptism drown my sins, but my soul was brought to the eternal mountain of divine grace. And just as once those same waves of the Red Sea, which swallowed up Pharaoh and his army, were a protective wall for Israel, so also has my baptismal water swallowed up all of my damnation and is for me a sure wall before God's wrath and punishment. ... 
Now then, all of you who believe in God's Word, let your watchword for entering the new year be this: "I am baptized!" Although the world may laugh at this comfort, the enthusiasts vex its confidence ... nevertheless, abandon any other dearly held pledges and speak only throughout the entire year to come, in all terrors of conscience and necessity through sin and death: "I am baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!" And you shall prevail! In every time of need, you will find comfort in your Baptism; on account of it Satan will flee from your faith and confession; and in death you will see heaven opened and will finally come into the joy of your Lord to celebrate a great year of jubilee, a year of praise, with all the angels forever and ever. Amen! 
-- C.F.W. Walther (from Treasury of Daily Prayer for January 1st)

This is most certainly true.

See, this is why it's imperative that faith comes first and that faith in Christ remains the most important thing in our Christian lives.

In other words, faith is much more essential than works.

Of course, it's true that we should do good works and respect the importance of them. But we should be careful that we don't elevate good works to such an extent that faith and Christ become secondary. If we esteem them too highly, good works can become the greatest idolatry. This has occurred both inside and outside of Christianity. Some people value good works so much that they overlook faith in Christ. They preach about and praise their own works instead of God's works. Faith should be first. After faith is preached, then we should teach about good works. It is faith -- WITHOUT good works and PRIOR to good works -- that takes us to heaven. We come to God through faith alone. 
-- Martin Luther (from "By Faith Alone: 365 Devotional Readings Updated In Today's Language" for January 1st)

God's work of saving us through Holy Baptism is the point here today.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, the only New Year's Resolution that matters for Christians is for us to simply remember our Baptism as we live a life of daily repentance throughout the year.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just your average everyday Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to "Confessional Lutheranism" and one who recently escaped an American-Evangelical-Non-Denominational mindset a little more than 4 years ago now despite being a Christian my whole life. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way back into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the whole truth myself. With that in mind, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavily influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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