I intended to have my new year’s resolution post up by now (yes, I’m aware that it is January 25th). It obviously hasn’t happened, nor will it happen for at least another week, the reason being, we leave tomorrow for our annual snow retreat. I’m teaching this year on Repentance: Seeing Sin for What It Is, so I’ve been preparing sermons for the last month and trying to coordinate the details of taking 125 people away for five days. All that to say, the Void will be void for at least another week. We did create a snow retreat Twitter if that suits your information fancy, and we certainly would appreciate any prayers you might remember to say on our behalf.
The making of New Year’s resolutions can be a complete waste of time. Some goals are cheap or petty, while goals that are worthwhile may be ruined by selfish motives. It seems like many don’t follow through on their commitments much past the first few weeks of January, if they make it that far.
Nevertheless, I make resolutions. At the end of 2006, I wrote:
While the making and breaking of New Year’s Resolutions can be the epitome of vanity and meaninglessness, and even though most resolutions are typically temporal and banal, I think there is something constructive for Christians in considering the progress of their faith and then making commitments to pursue Christ in specific ways.
Spiritual transformation and progress is essential–not optional–for Christ-followers. It is not only beneficial to consider our failures, weaknesses, and sin and address them, it is NEEDFUL! And it is needful not only on a yearly basis, but on a weekly basis, a daily basis, and even sometimes on a moment-by-moment basis. Examining our lives once a year is like examining our course from 30,000 feet–we get a good view but we’re too far away to change much. Of course, from the five foot view we can deal with a lot of things, but we can’t always recognize past patterns and potential pitfalls.
So I connect resolution-making with that 30,000 foot course evaluation, viewing a new year as another opportunity to consider personal growth in Christlikeness. Again, the new year is one possible time for this kind of examination, but certainly not the only time. This post, for example, comes more than a week into 2009, which I’m going say, only adds to my point.
As we prepared for the ’07 Snow Retreat, titled “Looking Only to Christ,” I listed four identifiers of Christlike resolutions. Then, while we were nearing the end of our study of Ecclesiastes in 2008, I suggested three ways to make Solomonic resolutions. I created these lists primarily to help shape my own pursuit of spiritual progress, and perhaps they’ve also been beneficial for helping some of the students and staff in our ministry.
This year we’ve started at the beginning of Genesis. In light of the massive implications of answering What is man? in Genesis 1:26-28, I’d like to propose two objectives of image-bearing resolutions.
1. Image-bearers make resolutions to maximize their calling.
God commanded men to subdue the earth and have dominion over the animals, thereby establishing divine cause to explore and to study the earth, and then to use that knowledge to develop it. In other words, God commissioned men to change the world.
To our shame, we have largely ignored our human calling to “to order, develop, and embellish God’s splendid creation, to realize the multifarious potentialities which were embedded within it.” (David Hageman, Ploughing in Hope, 29). Christian young people are often the worst culprits of laziness and low aspirations. I find that more pagan young people seem to have vision for achieving their goals, even though their motivation may be nothing but pride. Christians–in the OT, God-fearers–should be the most eager, motivated, and well-educated workers. We recognize that changing the world isn’t a burden; it’s a privilege. We should train and be the best teachers, the best scientists, the best artists, the best widget-makers because we have the proper perspective on what it means to be human.
The Cultural Mandate involves making and shaping everything on earth as God’s image-bearers.
In her book, Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey puts it this way.
In Genesis, God gives what we might call the first job description: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” The first phrase, “be fruitful and multiply” means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, “subdue the earth,” means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations-nothing less.
To that end, God has given each one of us different desires and talents to be used; He has given each person a “calling.” No matter what our skill or skill level, we are to reflect God as we go, invent, build, and organize. Sometimes it is said that the only thing we can do on earth that we can’t do in heaven is evangelize. Not true. Man was given a purpose on the planet before the need to evangelize even existed.
Image-bearers recognize their calling and make resolutions to change their community, their culture, and their world. Of course, success in “changing the world” depends entirely on God’s grace. Men are responsible to work with all their might (Ecclesiastes 9:10), but God’s plan always stands (Proverbs 16:9; 19:21). Even if things don’t work out exactly as we intended, we can still find enjoyment in our toil (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26).
2. Image-bearers make resolutions to strengthen their relationships.
Our God was (and still is) a personal God before He created; the three Persons enjoy eternal relationships with each other. Each Person is different, yet the Three are One. The relationships among the Godhead are the foundation of, and pattern for, human relationships. “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Men and women bear the image of a relational God.
The first thing in creation that God identifies as “not good” is man’s solitary condition, and teaches man that it isn’t good for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Loners are incomplete. Loners may work and produce like nobody’s business. Adam may have named a few hundred, or even thousand, animals in Genesis 2:19-20. After God created Eve, Adam didn’t celebrate that he had a co-worker, he celebrated because he had a companion. Life is more than doing stuff, it is doing stuff with someone(s). Resolutions made by image-bearers must be about more than tasks and projects, they should revolve around people.
The biggest problem with maximizing our calling, as well as strengthening our relationships, is sin. Sin makes us lazy, not responsible. Sin makes us selfish and self-centered, not relational. Adam wasn’t enslaved to sin in chapter two. But we live in a Genesis three world. We need help outside ourselves to fulfill our image-bearing responsibilities. Thanks to the gospel, God’s Son, God’s Spirit, and God’s Word, we can be restored to reflect God through our resolutions better this year than last.
In my preparatory reading for our upcoming snow retreat, I came across this celebration of beards by Augustine in The City of God.
There are some things, too, which have such a place in the body, that they obviously serve no useful purpose, but are solely for beauty, as e.g….the beard on [a man’s] face; for that this is for ornament, and not for protection, is proved by the bare faces of women, who ought rather, as the weaker sex, to enjoy such a defense. (XXII, 24)
One of Augustine’s biographers, Peter Brown, summarized the same section as follows:
Think of the intimate wonders of the human body, even, the quite gratuitous ornament of a male beard! (Augustine of Hippo, p. 329)
Many of my favorite people have, or have had, beards, such as my dad, the former intern, and one of the hairiest men I know. What’s more alarming than any of the linked images, is that this is not the first post I’ve written about beards.
I received the following email Sunday afternoon.
A copyright owner has claimed it owns some or all of the audio content in your video Water. The audio content identified in your video is Water by Kristy Starling. We regret to inform you that your video has been blocked from playback due to a music rights issue.
What can I say? The quality of our production must have started to pilfer the profits. After garnering a few thousand views and international acclaim, I’m not really surprised the lawyers would want to shut down the site.
My original explanation and link to the video are here. Near the end of that post is a Quicktime version. Download and drink the Water while you still can.
Having reached 2009 (Happy New Year!), I need to lay down my 2008 resolutions so I can build new ones on top.
My first resolution for last year was to build more structure into my supplication struggle. (You can read here to see why I’m calling prayer a struggle). I desired to be more devoted to scheduled, private prayer times and more diligent during those hours. I also made a renewed commitment to corporate prayer (whether in [one28] or with family or with the Thursday Friday morning guys).
Part of my plan was to pray for a class of students per day. Starting with the seniors on Monday and finishing with the freshmen on Saturday, I committed to pray for each student by name every week this year. The only thing greater than my excitement to embrace this supplication system was my shame at not being busy with it already. I stuck with this exercise program for the most part and intend to continue it in the new year.
My second resolution was to cultivate three life adjectives: flexible, fun, and fanatical. It was a three pronged mental paradigm aimed to increase my joy, eating my own dog food by Enjoying the Process. Admittedly, some days were better than others; substantial happy-heartedness really is elusive in world of emptiness (Ecclesiastes 1:2-11) and sin. But this kind of personal culture is always worth pursuing, both for sake of God-fearing gladness and also for the influencing aroma it leaves on others. For that reason, I’ll keep striving by His Spirit to do even less apart from Him (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26) in 2009.