A desire for self-improvement and positive change is the very reason why New Year’s has long been my favorite holiday. It’s been the time of year when I’ve been most willing and ready to embrace change. It’s a time when I pause to reflect on my growth and accomplishments to date—whether personal or professional—and then readily consider any areas that might require some adjustments. It’s during this time when I make those required adjustments plain by translating them into a list of resolutions so that, come January 1st, I can become the “new me.”
But, I’ve never gotten around to achieving all of my resolutions—most people don’t. In fact, studies show that only 8% of those who make New Year’s resolutions go on to achieve them.
That’s pretty disappointing.
But the good news is there is the Good News.
I finally began to study God’s Word and found that, as a Christian, I don’t have to wait until a new year to become the “new me” or even an “improved me,” and I certainly don’t have to tackle these changes on my own. The Word has matured me so much spiritually, and that has translated to my personal and professional growth this past year.
Here are three biblical resolutions that will help you, too, become the “new you” in the New Year:
In all your getting, get understanding.
I used to resolve to read more books or master a new language to become more cultured and learned, which isn’t a terrible goal. But meanwhile, I didn’t know much about the God to whom I claimed to devote my entire life.
There is no knowledge any of us can obtain that is more valuable than the knowledge of God. Knowing His will, voice, character, purposes, and promises give us the wisdom we need to navigate this life, and it girds our spirit to commune with Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
This wisdom also spills into our familial and romantic relationships and leads us toward wiser financial, career and business decisions. The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord, and knowledge of Him is understanding (Proverbs 9:10). So, in all our getting, we should certainly resolve to get that!
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
We might set out in search of a new career or even our life’s purpose in the new year. However, the benefit of first seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness is that you begin to learn that you already have purpose (to glorify God), a destiny (to abide with God in eternity as an heir with Christ), and a job (to make disciples).
Our inherent gifts and talents then indicate how we might best carry out this purpose. From there, we begin to operate in God’s perfect will for our lives. And by being in God’s will, any material resources or people we might need to help us fulfill that purpose will come—and we are guaranteed access to them through prayer (1 John 5:14–15).
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
One year I resolved to smile more, but I still lacked genuine joy and I continued to battle attitude problems, depression, and other sins of the flesh. But the Word of God gives us a renewed mind, which is the mind of Christ.
Through Him we have a new perspective on this life because in Him we find light, love, and truth. And knowing the truth sets us free (John 8:31). It is not enough to read self-help or leadership books for tips and tricks to tackle certain aspects of life. Some might offer helpful treatment. But healing is found in Jesus Christ.
There is so much transformative power in the pages of God’s Word. As you prayerfully study it, the Holy Spirit will do a work in you that puts your New Year’s list of “to- dos” to shame. Making resolutions is great! But filtering those resolutions through the Lord is profitable. This is the only way we will enjoy change that is lasting and accomplish goals that will matter this year and for years to come.
As summer temperatures kick into high gear, concern increases about women’s church attire. In fact, many churches are printing bulletins this very second kindly asking women to be mindful of their hemlines, necklines, and exposed shoulders. There’s certainly nothing wrong with desiring women to observe modest dress during warm weather. Paul’s appeal wasn’t for women to adorn themselves in modest apparel (unless temperatures exceed 70 degrees) (1 Timothy 2:9). But what concerns me is the limited concept most Christians have of “modesty.” Modesty is a virtue involving much more than women’s fashion choices.
Actually, church dress codes might not even be necessary if more grasped these four lessons in true modesty:
Modesty Begins in the Heart
Many often quote 1 Timothy 2:9–10 to tell women to “cover up.” But Paul’s appeal is actually deeper than that. He’s asking women to forsake gaudiness and vanity in favor of a spiritual posture that glorifies God, inside and out. Paul is essentially saying that what we profess should be reflected in how we dress, assuming what we profess is sincere. True and consistent outward modesty only springs forth when the heart desires to please God. One could certainly “cover up” for the sake of following man-made rules, but it is hypocritical to clean up our exterior to please man while our hearts remain impure before God (Matthew 23:25–26). When we make a decision to revere Him, modest behavior and dress become personal convictions.
Modesty is a Daily Practice
Most women know that dressing like Gomer just won’t cut it for worship service. From my observation, women in general, despite their church-going experience, are keenly aware of the need to cover up and be appropriately attired for church service—even in the dead heat of summer. But what about how we dress for ministry meetings and other events hosted by the church throughout the week? What about how we appear to the world outside of church? The level of care we take to maintain modest dress on Sunday doesn’t seem to translate Monday through Saturday. This may occur because the church often teaches “modesty” as an outward religious practice, rather than a way of life for those who are called to be sanctified and set apart as people of God. For many, Sunday service is where we “officially” meet God. But people of faith should revere God daily, and our hearts, public appearance, and behavior should reflect that.
Modesty is an Act of Love
Men are visual creatures and women definitely know this. To deny this fact is to either be utterly naïve or embarrassingly disingenuous. Genuine concern for our brothers should help us refrain from dressing or behaving in any way that could cause them to stumble. This point is not politically correct, but it is nonetheless legitimate for followers of Christ. We are called to love one another as ourselves and abide by God’s standards, not society’s (Matthew 22:33; Romans 12:2). Jesus makes it clear that any man who so much as looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her (Matthew 5:28). While we cannot be burdened by what men think when they see us, we can choose to honor God by not seeking to intentionally motivate lascivious thoughts and behavior.
Modesty Also Applies to Men
Women are often the burden bearers of modesty, but each point above also applies to men. Modesty is a Christian disposition, not a female characteristic. Men in Christ are also charged to observe decency and propriety and to revere God daily. And just as women should avoid intentionally enticing men with immodest dress or behavior, men must love their sisters in Christ enough to not take advantage of those they assume are “immodest.” Paul is clear that female and male believers must clothe themselves in Christ; walk properly and “don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” (Romans 13:14).
Dress codes and guidelines for attire may be helpful this summer, but such policies are only half the battle. True modesty is about physical and spiritual clothing. Churches truly seeking to ensure appropriate attire in the house of God must be equally vigilant in outfitting their female and male parishioners in the spirit of Christ Jesus.
How far is too far when it comes to appropriate clothing in the church? Weigh in below.
Yes, these are all great questions to ask anyone while dating. However, there are some key questions Christians often forget to ask. While not everyone desires marriage (Matthew 19:11-12; 1 Corinthians 7:7), marriage is often the ultimate goal for dating Christians (Genesis 2:24). Thus, our questions must be guided by our faith, wisdom and our intentions. So, in an effort to help you along your dating journey, we’ve included five important questions that we as Christians should be asking, but often overlook:
1) Is Jesus Christ your personal Lord and Savior?
This is a question that should be asked early on in the dating process. Believe it or not, many of us date non-believers or presume our potential mate’s salvation status more than we’d like to admit, instead of just asking. Putting this question out there helps us keep Christ at the center of our new friendships and relationships, forces us and our dates to truly examine our faith, and it shows our potential mates that faith is a priority in our life. Besides, asking this question immediately weeds out those with whom we would be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14).
2) Are we casually dating or are we “courting”?
Casual dating can be a fun way to meet new people, but it is riddled with ambiguity and emotional frustration. This can be a waste of time for those who truly desire marriage. Thus, courting is a Christian’s best bet. Courting allows you to focus solely on getting to know your date, pray for one another and to prayerfully seek God’s will for your relationship before marriage. After about three months of “hanging out,” it’s reasonable and fair to inquire about your potential mate’s long-term intentions. Are you two free to see other people, or are you two seeking God and a long-term relationship—together?
3) What are your physical boundaries?
We (should) know that sex and all related acts before marriage is a no go (Hebrews 13:14). Though it’s natural to desire to be affectionate toward your romantic interest, wisdom precludes any arousing physical contact – this can include kisses and hugs. Understanding your date’s physical boundaries (beyond sex) keeps you both accountable, honors personal convictions and, above all, honors God. Clarify each other’s boundaries up front and respect them.
4) What is your philosophy on debt and tithing?
Debt and tithing are only part of a larger discussion on money management, and this discussion should occur well before you and your bank accounts become one. Christians actually maintain varying degrees of convictions regarding tithing and debt. In fact, there are more views on tithing than we can count. While there are also Christians who view any form of debt – including mortgages – as a sin, while others believe some debt is warranted as long as it is repaid. However, having varying convictions about finances doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker (Romans 14), but these variances will require lots of conversation, and will greatly impact financial decisions and lifestyle choices in a marriage.
5) Who Comes First? Wife, Parent or Kids?
They say that how a man treats his mother is how he’ll treat his wife. This is a great adage to consider while dating. But God said – and Jesus Christ reiterated – that a marrying man must “leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5). Yet, some husbands not only put heir mothers ahead of their wives, they expect their wives to understand this arrangement. Meanwhile, some wives are guilty of putting their children before their husband, and they expect their husbands to just roll with it. These mindsets are clearly out of sync with scripture, as they can deal deathblows to the “one flesh” mandate. While dating, we often think of our needs or judge how our dates might fit into our world. But we must also assess our willingness to make them number one and our ability to be one with them – above all others.
Christian dating can be fun, but it shouldn’t be done haphazardly. Asking the right questions saves time, guards hearts and preserves godly intentions.
I seriously dated a brother in Christ last year who happened to be a divorcée. Before then, I never thought much about divorce–let alone remarriage. Frankly, I didn’t know what either of these meant from a faith-based perspective.
I honestly didn’t think it mattered.
Yet, as I began to pray, study God’s word and talk with Christian peers who have experienced divorce and remarriage, I came to realize that my courtship could not move toward matrimony.
Don’t get me wrong. Being divorced isn’t an automatic deal-breaker for me. But I do believe there are important spiritual and practical matters to consider when dating Christians who have been previously married.
KNOW WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT DIVORCE
God tells us in no uncertain terms that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). God’s perfect will is that divorce never occurs because husband and wife are ONE flesh in His eyes (Matthew 19:3-6). It is His intention that marriage be for life and that no man separate what He has joined together. Ultimately, the law of marriage is a bond that should only be broken by death (1 Corinthians 7:39; Romans 7:2).
CONSIDER THE STATISTICS
Statistics show that remarriages have a higher fail rate. While 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, the number rises to 67 percent for second marriages (and 73 percent for third marriages). These increases are due to remarriages entered into on the rebound, spousal comparisons, children, and individuals not being fully healed from their previous unions.
These stats don’t mean a remarriage can’t succeed. But you must know what you’re up against so that you can watch for the stumbling blocks; then proceed with wisdom, caution, and lots of prayer.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO
Marriage is a blessing, but as my friend Trish admits, “It’s hard.” This is especially the case with remarriages involving young children, she says. In fact, she finds the experience of her second marriage to be more challenging than her first. “No matter how bad a [first] marriage is–yes, even with adultery–when children are involved, it is best to forgive and reconcile [with your first spouse] than to remarry and try to blend a family in a new marriage,” Trish says when thinking of her own situation.
My friend Kathy, on the other hand, shares that her second marriage has been restorative. “My first marriage was a nightmare,” she recalls. Kathy’s first husband was unfaithful, abusive and manipulative. She was extremely reluctant to remarry after him.
When she met the man who would become her second husband, she thoroughly examined his character and was eventually won over by his faith in Christ and kind spirit.“He took to my children like they were his own, and my family loved him,” she says. “I fought remarriage until they wore me out.”
And after he proposed? “The ring stayed in the box for six months until God told me to stop acting silly.”
Yes, Christians should date with the intention to marry. Nevertheless, marriage isn’t possible if your intended belongs to another in God’s eyes. As we date those who have been previously married, ask questions to learn where they stand with Christ and in their previous marriages. Then, seek the Lord to determine if you would be permitted and willing to stand with them in holy matrimony—until death.
E.Y.S., or “Explain Your Singleness,” is a social epidemic that largely plagues Christian singles. However, it most aggressively attacks all singles during the holiday season.
According to my non-scientific opinion, an estimated 99.9%* of single men and women are forced to explain their relationship status to at least one well-meaning family member each year during the holidays. Of this number, 83.6%* of singles are mercilessly interrogated about their love lives during family functions.
E.Y.S. often strikes without warning, and it can present a stressful scenario for unsuspecting singles who only want to enjoy time with loved ones and maybe even collect a couple of “to-go” plates.
If E.Y.S. has plagued your existence every holiday season, you may be pleased to know that there is a solution to the madness: Tell the truth. And, by “Truth” I mean the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yes, that is correct. The symptoms of E.Y.S. can be overcome with retorts encompassing the Truth of Jesus Christ. As they inquire about your relationship status with another individual, use these opportunities to inquire about their relationship status with Jesus. It’s only fair, and it’s a win-win scenario, right?
At best, your entire family gets saved. At worst, no one will care to bother you about your relationship status ever again!
To help you prepare, a few sample questions and responses are provided below:
So, when are you getting married?
Technically, as a Christian, I am already married. Did you know that the institution of marriage is a natural model for the spiritual union between Christ and the Church? All who wish to be part of this union are welcome if they confess and accept Jesus Christ into their hearts as their Lord and Savior. Would you like to say, “I do” to Christ today?
Why are you still single?
Actually, I haven’t been “single” (use air quotes) since I became a Christian. As Christians, we are one body but have many members. Would you like to join us?
Have you tried Christian Mingle?
Why, yes! I do mingle with other Christians. We call it “fellowship.” We come together often to praise and worship God, study His word, pray together, socialize, eat…all of that good stuff. You should join me at our next “mingle.” Would you like to attend this week’s Bible study or worship service?
You’re not getting any younger. Aren’t you ready to settle down?
I know! I age by the day! But I’m grateful that, through Christ, I am renewed and have eternal life. As a believer, I have been born again and, when Christ returns, I will receive an incorruptible body that will never age. I also won’t be prone to sickness, disease or death and I will rule with Christ in His Millennial Kingdom and dwell with God forever. You can, too! Are you ready to repent and settle your faith in Christ?
Aren’t you afraid of dying alone?
I’m not afraid of dying under any circumstance. Absence from the body is to be present with the Lord. Knowing that I will be resurrected to eternal life with Christ is reassurance that death won’t be a permanent state for me as a believer. Are you afraid of dying? You don’t have to be if you give your life to Christ.
This piece was written in jest, but underscores a valid point. “E.Y.S.” unwittingly tempts singles to place more emphasis on finding a mate than nurturing a relationship with Christ. Such pressures prompt discontentment and anxiousness as we focus on more worldly cares than what we already have in Jesus.
As with all believers, Christian singles must be content in whatever state we’re in and be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:11; Matthew 6:31). We are in a blessed position to devote our undivided attention to the things of God (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). When we gain a spouse, our families will be the FIRST to know! But we are already in a fulfilling, committed relationship. So the more one cares to know our relationship status, the more they invite us to share Christ.