As the waning days of 2017 give way to the new year, people are faced with the prospect of making resolutions for 2018. For those who are so inclined, three local ministers have given their advice on making spiritual resolutions.
The Rev. Michael Mattil, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Denison, believes that people may want to look to the iconic Christian leader who is credited with igniting the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago.
“Martin Luther encouraged us to remember our baptism every day — the washing that God provided through water and the power of his word,” Mattil said. “I think that is an excellent suggestion. If you begin each day remembering that God washed away your sin in baptism, it gives you a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate to live before God in righteousness and purity.”
Mattil said that the power of prayer in the keeping of one’s resolutions, along with a provision of flexibility in the event of possible setbacks, is important.
“For those who find it helpful to make resolutions for the New Year, I would encourage them to do so prayerfully, asking God to enable them to fulfill their vows,” Mattil said. “I would also suggest that one mistake or slip up should not void the resolution. Start again — immediately. I compare it to my own sinfulness.”
Using that comparison as a guide, the pastor offers remedies in the face of setbacks or occasional discouragement.
“As a redeemed child of God, when I stumble and sin, that does not void the salvation Jesus earned for me,” Mattil said. “I admit my sin, ask God to forgive me for Jesus’ sake, and start striving to live as his child all over again.”
And so with the making and keeping of resolutions, be prayerful and do not give up, he said.
In considering his own resolutions, Mattil said that he is no longer bound to the calendar, and like others, may sometimes fall short.
“I have found that if I want to resolve to do something better, I make a resolution immediately and don’t wait for a day on the calendar,” Mattil said. “I might make five or six resolutions a year. I strive to keep them through prayer and determination. Sometimes I am successful, other times not.”
The Rev. Mark Berrier, pastor of Central Christian Church in Sherman, has reflected on resolutions for 2018, and believes that a new year is a good time to re-examine one’s life. As with Mattil, Berrier said that it begins by turning to God and the Bible.
“My wife and I plan to read the Bible more this coming year. I want to read through the prophets again first, then Psalms,” Berrier said. “I teach Bible in Dallas, so I’m reading for that all the time, and I also speak every Sunday and teach Bible studies regularly. But, those don’t count. I will read more for devotion.”
For those wishing to complement their reading of scripture with additional sources, Berrier recommends “God’s Chosen Fast” by Arthur Wallis or “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
“The latter one is a hard but important read,” Berrier said. “It should be read at a rate of two or three pages per day — and meditated upon.”
Joining Mattil in addressing the concern of falling short on a resolution, Berrier likens such occurrences to missing the mark in other parts of living, and he points to the perfect source of renewal for such times.
“God gives us new chances every time we mess up. He never fails to forgive,” Berrier said. “1 John 1:9 says that we were forgiven at the cross. We confess not to get forgiveness, but because we are forgiven.”
The Rev. Brian Taylor, pastor of Forest Avenue Baptist Church in Sherman, considered his family and congregation while reflecting on his new year’s approach.
“I want to be a better father,” Taylor said. “I want to spend more time with my kids, be more patient, and savor the time I have with them. It’s slipping by you know.”
In addition to a focus on family, Taylor has additional goals pertaining to his ministry.
“I want to be a better pastor,” he said. “I want to spend more time with my sheep. It’s people that make up the church, and they are important to God. I want to keep developing deeper relationships with them.”
As much as Taylor prizes his relationship with his congregation, he sees an even greater value in Christ’s relationship with those same congregants.
“I want to be a better witness for Christ,” he said. “I want to help people see that Jesus desires a deep relationship with them. What a wonderful savior we have who loves all of us, despite our sinfulness. He came to seek us and save us — and to live in us.”
When considering the resolutions he envisions, Taylor relies on divine help for their implementation.
“As for implementing all of these, it just requires me to put people before duty,” he said. “As a pastor, people are my duty, but when I’m walking with the Lord, they are not — they are my joy, my sheep, those for whom I desire to bless. And, when I’m walking with Christ, my children become my blessings, not my distraction.
In the midst of that walk, Taylor believes in the prospect of genuine transformation. He calls it a phenomenon that goes beyond acting differently. He said that God’s enabling presence is a necessity.
“As Christians, we should be proponents of transformation, but I don’t think I can really change myself by just trying harder,” Taylor said. “That may work for some people, but I guarantee you it doesn’t work for every area of your life. My view is that people truly change only by walking with the Lord.”