Pastor Luke | Reject the False Gospel of Self-Improvement | Friday jan 6, 2023

I love making New Year's resolutions. If I had it my way, I’d make the start of every month January 1st. I love the idea of a fresh start, seeking to be my best self, and critically evaluating the routines in my life to see what I can optimize. I love the sense of optimism and hope that this next year could be better than the last if I just fixed my life, tried a bit harder and made the right choices each day. This type of thinking resonates with me, and you may be thinking some of the same things this year.

Maybe you want to make a change for your health with a new diet or exercise routine. Maybe you are thinking of adjusting your morning routine to spend more time in prayer and Bible study. Maybe you want to reign in your spending and save some money. Maybe there is a bad habit you would like to shake. Maybe there is a good habit you would like to adopt. Most of us would like a fresh start and work towards some level of self-improvement this new year.

The sad reality of the situation is that most people who make New Year’s resolutions fail to keep them. I know you’ve experienced this because I have as well. You set an intention, you make a commitment, but life gets in the way. You go back to your old routines and rhythms. Sure, something will stick, but at the end of the year you find yourself making similar resolutions as last year. How do we break this cycle?

Christians are very familiar with applying the concept of grace to the sin in their lives. The grace of God is that, through Christ, we don’t have to do anything to earn God’s favour and have a relationship with him, since Christ took the penalty of our sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). It is by the power of this grace Christians can turn from their sin, in repentance, and trust in the work of Christ on the cross for their sins, in faith (Ephesians 2:8). Rather than being stuck in a cycle of sin and guilt, Christians are motivated by grace to overcome sin in their lives in Jesus’ name (Galatians 2:20). But that is as far as grace will go in the lives of a lot of Christians. What if we applied this concept of grace and the Gospel to other areas of our lives? What if we took our identity in Christ seriously in every situation, every day? Let’s take this idea of New Years resolutions as an example.

The Gospel says that in Christ you are enough, you are loved, and you are accepted by God as his children. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Through Christ, there is nothing left to do to earn God’s love or favour. Then why do we have this need to be better, to do more, to be more, and make ourselves into something more, when God says that we are enough? It is this radical message of God’s grace that should be our starting point, not this internal feeling fed by external pressures telling us we aren’t good enough yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still making New Years resolutions. But if I’m going to see any sort of lasting change in my life, it is not going to come from motivations of guilt, shame, and comparison. Lasting change comes from knowing that you are enough by God’s grace through Christ. We can be motivated by that grace to honour God with our lives, stewarding our finances, taking care of our health, and working hard for God’s glory as co-workers and co-heirs with Christ.

This is my challenge to you, whether you are into making resolutions or not, make a resolution to adopt a weekly practice of nothing. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying you don’t have a New Year’s resolution, I’m saying your New Year’s resolution is to do nothing for a few minutes, an hour, an afternoon or even one day a week. Instead of trying to add something more into your life, consider adding more of nothing. Producing nothing. Doing nothing. Improving nothing. The Bible refers to this weekly practice as Sabbath, and its one of the ten commandments that most of us are consistently breaking:

Exodus 20:8-10 - “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…”

After Christ’s death and resurrection, Christian’s began taking their “Sabbath” on Sundays, or the Lord’s Day, since that was the day of the week Christ rose from the dead. Whether you feel called to take your Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday or another day of the week, the point is to find weekly rest in the Gospel of grace rather than in the false Gospel of self-improvement.

This ancient practice of Sabbath continues to be an oft neglected, counter-cultural game changer for those who take it seriously. In a culture that values people for what they do, choose to do nothing, intentionally. Rest in the fact that you are enough and that no amount of self-improvement books or habits are going to make you any more loveable to God. Reject the false Gospel of self-improvement and resolve to do nothing for a change.