Make Your Resolution
Text: Romans 8:31b-39
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
It’s New Year’s Eve. For many people, today is the day to leave the old year behind. Tomorrow is the day to begin the new year with a fresh start. Maybe you’ve made lists of things to change or to accomplish. Some simply think it over and have a strategy and plan to take a turn in a new and better direction. How about you? On this New Year’s Eve, Have you made your resolution?
Tonight is our last chance to make a new year’s resolution. Is there some bad habit you want to break and leave behind? Is there some better habit you wish to form? You and I are not alone. Watch any of the countdown shows tonight, and you’re sure to hear one of the roving reporters asking folks in the crowd about their resolutions. For some reason, a new year gives us the sense of a fresh start and more promising future.
But, unfortunately, we’re often setting ourselves up for disappointment and disillusionment. A survey of many studies done on new year’s resolutions reveals that only a small fraction of our resolutions are kept. I heard a commercial on the radio the other day that said of all the new gym memberships started on January 1st, 90% of those people won’t be in the gym by Super Bowl Sunday. Most of us fail in the second month. The new year once had the feeling of a fresh start. Now it becomes a nagging reminder of how difficult it is to change ourselves.
Last year, many of us hoped we’d spend more time with family and friends. But we didn’t. We thought we’d be in better shape, lose some weight, quit a bad habit, get out of debt, and get organized. But we failed. Instead, we’re more disillusioned than ever.
And frankly, these are the small things. We’ve been talking here about things that we at least have a chance, that we’re at least theoretically capable, of improving somewhat. The bigger thing that needs to change we cannot change at all. This year, last year, every year we’re on earth, we’re sinful. By nature, we’re sinful through and though. Try as we might, resolve as we might, we can’t do a thing about that. We might be able to focus on a specific area and perhaps improve a little, but never really enough to make it feel like we’re making a dent. On our own, we’re still thoroughly selfish, completely bent on having things our own way, always happy to care about the other guy if—but only if—it serves us. No resolution of ours is ever going to change that.
Still resolved to try? Then go ahead and make your resolution?
Maybe a better train of thought would revolve around what our new year’s resolution should actually be. What should chiefly occupy our minds and priorities? Many of the things we’d like to change about ourselves are good and worth the effort. But our Epistle Reading offers us the best resolution we can have—St. Paul’s resolution.
Paul says, “For I am sure.” The Greek word pepeismai can also be translated “resolved.” “For I am resolved.” About what is Paul resolved?
Paul’s resolution is not about himself. It’s about his Lord. It’s a resolution of faith. His resolution is that there is no safer place than the love of God. It’s a growing trust in a loving Savior. He is resolved that nothing can surpass, overpower, or destroy the love God has for us, his children. “For I am sure,” resolved, Paul says, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul’s resolution is that God is for us! Our enemies don’t stand a chance. He boasts, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” So resolved, he doesn’t even expect an answer. “Who can be against us?” No one of any significance is a real threat if God is on our side. God has not held back any of his resources and power—He’s sent his own Son for us all. He died for us. He was raised for us. The Gospel declares us innocent for his sake.
Paul tells us to be resolved, to stand firm, in Christ and say to our accusers, “Your condemnation, your charges against me, a child of God—they mean nothing. Your voice carries no weight in the courtroom of God’s justice. God the Judge has cleared me of the guilt of all my sin. I have been declared ‘not guilty’ by the one mouth that matters.”
So confident of this reality, Paul is not distraught over the suffering and death we experience in this life. He asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”
Paul is persuaded, convinced, and therefore resolved that the love of God through Jesus Christ is what the whole world needs. It is the love of God that brought the Son of God to humanity. It has bridged the gap between man and God. It is the love of God that caused his Son to endure death on the cross with joy for our salvation. It is the love of God that caused him to be raised from the dead as a pledge and guarantee of our eternal life.
Paul’s resolution is grounded in God’s resolution for us. Paul wants his resolution to be ours—a resolution that the love of God has already defeated our sin and weakness. It has already defeated death. It has already claimed eternal victory for us. Can anything we face in this life finally defeat us? Paul’s answer is a resounding no! He boldly proclaims, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Sure, we face trials and tribulation. But we have something even greater than anything we might face, even more powerful than all the forces of hell—the love of God in Christ Jesus. It’s Jesus, our Savior, who made the greatest resolution in all eternity: his love for us. A love that’s never failed. His plan to make us his own has never been forgotten. His resolution is to unite us to God and one another forever.
In John’s Gospel, we hear the Lord’s determination. We hear his resolution for us in his own words. He says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
The Father is resolved; he sent his only Son to secure life everlasting for us. The Son is resolved; he lived, died, rose, and intercedes for us even now. The Holy Spirit is resolved; he creates and strengthens faith in us. He secures us in the Gospel. The triune God’s grip on us is infinitely firm. He is resolved never to let us go. Even if we face a year of challenges ahead, we need not despair. The bonds of love between him and us cannot be broken. It’s this, his resolution for us, that really counts. And not just for a new year, but for eternity!
Our Resolution, Then, Is Not the One We Make—and Fail to Keep—
but the One God Has Made for Us.
So, we begin this new year confident, convinced, and sure of God’s resolution—“that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.