New Year's Resolutions: Why You Can't Keep Them
by Rich Deem


Why is it that we make New Year's resolutions, but fail to keep them within the first month of the new year? Some will say that you lack the willpower. Others have given up making New Year's resolutions altogether.

What the Bible says

The fact is that all people lack the willpower to keep all but the easiest of resolutions. The Bible makes the claim that the reason why we are unable to do what is good because we are, by nature, sinners.1 In fact, the Bible claims that we are born sinners.2 Of course, these ideas are not politically correct. Political correctness would claim that we are born innocent or even virtuous and are corrupted by society, parents or other adults.

What the evolutionary biology says

However, such claims do not hold up to scientific scrutiny. In The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human NatureThe Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Steven Pinker, professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, provides that our facility with language, our ability to understand each other's actions as manifestations of mind, our number sense, our moral sense, our tool-making propensities are all pre-programmed. Being an evolutionary psychologist, Pinker claims that immoral behaviors, such as violence, clannishness, nepotism, lying and cheating have an evolutionary basis. Pinker goes on to show that the "noble savage" idea (that we are born virtuous and that it is only society that warps and corrupts us) is a myth.

The solution

Although Pinker gets the data right, he fails to provide the direct genetic evidence that these mental functions are encoded by genes (although it is likely that at least some mental functions are genetically programmed). Ultimately, the Bible's claim that humans are "born sinners" seems to be supported by this research, even if the cause (evolutionary genetics vs. the biblical sin nature) remains unresolved.

Given this depressing news, what are we to do? Pinker suggests that we fight against our genes and rise above them. You (and I) have already tried that approach and failed at it. The Bible has another suggestion. It is not through human willpower, but by abiding in "the light"3 - Jesus Christ4 - the source of all power5 - that we have the ability to do good.6 If you are trying to do things through your own will power, you will find that there is no "power" in your own will. Only by abiding in Christ can we fulfill the will of God in our own lives.

Conclusion Top of page

Only one New Year's resolution is required in life - following Jesus Christ. If you follow Him, all other resolutions can be accomplished by the power of His Spirit.7 May the Lord bless your year!

References Top of page

  1. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
    as it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one;" (Romans 3:10)
    "The wages of sin is death" [spiritual separation from God] (Romans 6:23)
  2. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)
  3. The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:9-10)
  4. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
  5. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)
    If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)
  6. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:9)
  7. On the other hand I am filled with power-- With the Spirit of the LORD-- And with justice and courage To make known to Jacob his rebellious act, Even to Israel his sin. (Micah 3:8)
    but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
    Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
    For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; (Ephesians 3:14-16)
    For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Last Modified December 26, 2011


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