Assemblies of God Theological SeminaryJanuary 2015
G. K. Chesterton, T. D. Jakes, and
New Year's Resolutions


This is the season of New Year's resolutions. Health clubs offer attractive discounts to assuage the guilt caused by the glut of holiday indulgences. Facebook posts are filled with words and mottos for the New Year with the well-intended high-mindedness that 2015 will be "amazing." I understand the necessity of focus as we start a new year and I admire all the energy that strategically attempts to focus human effort on greater effectiveness, but I do wonder if this is merely an annual ritual that is a bit overrated. Maybe I'm just allowing the spirit of Christmas' Ebenezer Scrooge to morph into a New Year's version that substitutes "bah-hum bug" for "nice try, but fat chance-blah-blah-blah." I just get the feeling we may need to press beyond the "annual ritual" phase.  


The other day I read a blog of a fellow seminary president that seriously critiqued my somewhat cynical thinking. He referred to a portion of G. K. Chesterton's book entitled, Heretics. Chesterton notes that "vigorous organisms talk not about their processes, but about their aims." In other words, the best proof of a vital person or organization is their talk about a journey toward a destination that seems beyond the current realm of possibility. Timidity fails to accomplish much. It is so easy to get stuck in our own self-regard and self-interests that fail to take us beyond the mundane drudgery of the moment. All of us need to acknowledge and activate the deep human need to belong to something that matters and reaches beyond our current existence.


New Year's resolutions tap a deep-rooted need to re-calibrate our lives toward greater purpose and the sense that we are more than the accomplishment of daily routines. However, this annualized ritual needs to be more than finding a cause to pour our human energies toward. Despite the well-intended commitment to work harder, never give up, and a renewal of passion toward becoming a winner, a follower of Jesus needs to realize that such vigorous activity is not what distinguishes us from all other New Year's "resolvers." If we have any distinguishing mark, it is that we understand our best efforts to humanly strive towards excellence are just that-human efforts. With that realization comes a radical commitment to acknowledging our identification with Jesus Christ who has revealed God fully. This is the God who pursues us when we live as if we are the center of our own universe and wallow aimlessly in the deceptive depths of self-aggrandizement. This is the God who forgives us regardless of the self-destructive decisions we have made for ourselves and willingly foisted on those around us. 


Vigorous New Year's resolutions for followers of Jesus need less of the rhetoric of "hype' and more of the deep awareness that our humanity has limitations. No amount of positivity, commitment to excellence, or any other well-intended human efforts can counteract a simple fact stated so eloquently by T. D. Jakes, "God is and you ain't!"  So, amid all your best human efforts at starting a New Year with a more strategic focus, listen to the words of Jesus:


I am the true vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown in the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. This is my Father's glory that you bear much fruit showing yourselves to be my disciples.(John 15:5-8, NIV)


Maybe G. K. Chesterton was reading John's Gospel as he wrote Heretics over a century ago. Striving for meaning in life is reaching for a "north star" beyond our current existence. Add a bit of the insightful rhetoric by T. D. Jakes and we realize that it is more than just a commitment to new levels of excellence, but a growing realization that we, the branches, only bear fruit when we are willingly and vigorously linked to the Vine.


Byron D. Klaus





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