Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can I grow to love Jesus more?

Originally published June 11, 2018

I have been a born again Christian for many of years. But how do I get so in love with him?? Please can you help me.

This could possibly be my favorite Mailbag question ever. How can I love Jesus more? What a sweet and precious thought. I should be asking that question every day. We all should.

The first thing you will have to determine in your own heart, through prayer and study of the Word, is exactly what you mean by your question. Do you mean:

“I’m a Christian, but I consistently have no affection for Christ whatsoever. I just don’t really care about Him one way or the other, but I see other Christians who seem to genuinely love Him. How can I get those feelings for Jesus?”

or:

“I’m a Christian. I love Christ, but I want to develop an even greater love for Him. How do I do that?”.

If your meaning is closer to the first question, I would counsel you to examine yourself to see if you are truly saved as 2 Corinthians 13:5 instructs us. Someone who has genuinely been born again should have some sort of affinity, love, gratitude, and affection for Christ because of who He is and all He has done for her. If you honestly don’t give a flip about Jesus, that’s a big red flag signaling that you might not be saved, even if you think you are. I would strongly recommend working through my Bible study Am I Really Saved? A First John Check Up as well as setting up an appointment with your pastor, a trusted, spiritually mature Christian friend, or a biblical counselor for counseling.

If you’ve compared your heart and life to Scripture and you’re certain you’re a genuinely regenerated Christian who wants to grow in the love she already has for Jesus, it’s simple. Just do what His Word says:

Study Your Bible

I would urge you to put away all of the “canned” studies (books, DVDs, etc. written by others) and simply pick up your Bible, choose a book, start at the beginning, and work your way through to the end. I cannot stress enough how much more rewarding studying the Bible for yourself is than relying on someone else’s materials, and how much closer it will draw you to Christ. If you’ve never studied the Bible on your own before, try taking notes on the text, or use one of my studies (see the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page) as “training wheels” to get started. Here are a few other resources that may help:

Bible Study Articles and Resources

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

Pray

You can’t grow in your love for Someone you’re not spending time with. Set aside a designated, uninterrupted time of prayer each day in which you can take all the time you need to pour out your heart to God, worship Him, praise Him, and thank Him. But talk to the Lord throughout the day, too. “Lord, I have to discipline my child right now. Help me do it in a godly way.” “Father, thank you that these peaches I needed were on special today!” “I see Julie coming toward my office. Lord, she’s so hard to love. Please help me show her Your kindness.”

Resources on Prayer

Basic Training: 8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

Sweet Hour of Prayer: Learning to Pray from the People of Scripture (a 12 lesson Bible study on prayer)

After this Manner, Therefore Pray

Can We Talk?

Be a Faithful Church Member

Find a doctrinally sound church that preaches and teaches the Bible well. Become a member. Faithfully attend worship service and Sunday School (aka: small group, Bible study, etc.) each week unless an emergency comes up. Find a place to serve, and get plugged in. Make friends with other members of your church and spend time in fellowship with them outside of church activities. Being fed the Word, serving the Body of Christ, and bonding with brothers and sisters in Christ will build your love for Him.

Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

All Word and No Play: The Importance of Fun and Fellowship in the Doctrinally Sound Church

Preach the Gospel to Yourself

Remind yourself of what Jesus did for you – the sin He saved you out of, the forgiveness, cleansing, and peace He freely gave you, the power the indwelling Holy Spirit gives you to resist sin and walk in holiness, the home in Heaven He has promised you.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:6-11

That’s what Jesus did for you. You. How could you not love Him more and more every time you think about that?

What Must I Do to Be Saved?

Be Thankful

Make it a habit to thank God for things throughout the day, especially the things you often take for granted. Can you read? Do you have enough food to eat and clean water to drink? Do you own a Bible in your native language? Do you have a car? Clothes to wear? Family and friends? Air conditioning? Chocolate?

Everything good in your life, every blessing you experience, comes to you straight from the hand of God. Think about what you really deserve for your sin and rebellion against God. Then think about the fact that He not only sacrificed His precious Son for you, but that He continues to bless you abundantly. Every thing you thank God for is just another reason to love Him more deeply.

Top 10 Bible Verses on Giving Thanks

25 Things I Forgot to Thank God For

Give it Time and Be Patient

My husband and I have been married for over 25 years. Everything I feel about him – my love, trust, respect, admiration, everything – has grown deeper since the day I married him. But it has taken years of walking through “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health” together to get to where I am in my love for him today. And if God blesses us with more years together, my love for my husband will continue to grow beyond where it is today.

It’s the same way with your love for Christ. Developing a deep, mature love for Him doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. There are going to be “for better” days and “for worse” days, but if you continue walking with Him – studying His Word, praying, investing your life in the church, remembering all He has done for you, and being thankful – over the years, your love for Christ will continue to grow and grow.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Budgeting… Abuse and Submission… DIY Sanctification… Prayer)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


Before I get to this week’s questions, I wanted to say – I love getting questions from my readers! Here’s a helpful hint for increasing your chances of getting your question answered in The Mailbag

Your best shot at your question being selected for The Mailbag is to email me, or – if you have a question pertaining to a particular blog article – to comment on that article. Those are the two main sources I draw Mailbag questions from because they’re the most user friendly for that purpose. I also try to grab questions from Facebook private messages whenever I think about it.

I’m rarely able to grab questions from social media comments (on posts) and DMs, especially on Instagram and Twitter. Comments and Instagram DMs move down the notification queue too quickly, and Twitter DMs from people I don’t follow are hidden.

That being said, sending me the same question multiple times or on multiple platforms (emailing and leaving a blog comment and messaging me on Facebook) will not increase your chances of your question being selected. If you send it to me once, I’ve got it. :0)

Thanks for all your questions. Keep sending them in! We wouldn’t have a Mailbag without them!


I was wondering if you can do a video on how a Christian housewife should budget money. I want to learn and trust in God’s will as well.

Great question! I’m much better in writing than on video, so I hope this format is OK.

Every household is unique, with a unique income, unique needs, unique bills and expenses, etc., so I can’t tell you, “Budget X% for this and Y% for that.” The best I can do is give you a few general guidelines:

  • Sit down with your husband with all your numbers: income, bills, expenses, etc. Prayerfully and thoughtfully consider how much you’re bringing in and how much you’re paying out. Do you need to earn more? Spend less? Cut out some expenditures? Save more?
  • Don’t forget to pray about and consider how much you need to set aside for your offerings at church. Christians are not under the Old Testament law of the tithe, but we are to give as generously to the church as we’re able according to what we’ve prayerfully determined in our hearts.
  • If money is tight and bringing in more income isn’t an option, a great way to be a helper to your husband would be to research ways you can reduce your bills, cut expenses, etc. Can you renegotiate your mortgage? Buy generic instead of name brands? Use coupons and shop the sales at the grocery store? Get your clothes at a thrift store instead of a boutique? Turn off the cable? Sell one of your cars?
  • If your husband doesn’t mind you discussing this with someone else, ask one of the godly older women in your church for advice. You can share the specific details with her and perhaps she can offer you some suggestions specific to your particular household.

This is just one of those things every couple has to work on together and figure out for themselves.


I read your article The Mailbag: I “feel led” in a different direction from my husband. In that article, you said:

Unless your husband is abusing you or encouraging you to do something sinful, God’s will is for you to graciously submit to his decisions.

I have always wondered why this circumstance is almost universally accepted as an exception to the principle of submission.

I don’t want to try to answer for the rest of the universe, but let me just explain my position. If a woman is being abused, priority number one is to get her to safety. And that’s going to mean getting away from her husband to a different place to live (until or unless he radically repents and gets saved, bears a lot of fruit in keeping with repentance, the two of them get extensive pastoral counseling, and so on).

What do you think an abusive husband’s immediate response to that is going to be? He’s going to be angry and demand that she come back home. That would be the first thing she would have to submit to before she submits to anything else. As a Christian, should she submit to that first demand? Of course not. He’s requiring her do a variety of ungodly things:

  • We are to be good stewards of our bodies and glorify God with our bodies. It is neither glorifying to God nor good stewardship to put your body in a situation in which you’re virtually certain it’s going to be damaged for no good reason. Putting your body in the hands of an unrepentant abuser is no more glorifying or good stewardship than jumping out of a third story window.
  • If you have children and you go back to an unrepentant abuser, you’re knowingly and intentionally putting them in danger. Godly mothers protect their children by keeping them away from danger as much as it’s within their power.
  • If you go back to an unrepentant abuser, you’re indirectly lying to him about his sin. By going back to him, you’re saying that his sin of abuse is OK, that he doesn’t need to repent or suffer any consequences for it, that you, as a Christian, approve of it, and that, by extension, God must approve of it, too.
  • Going back to an unrepentant abuser puts temptation in his way. When you’re in the home with him, he’s tempted to abuse you. When you’re not, he doesn’t have the opportunity to commit the sin of abusing you. We don’t put stumbling blocks in the paths of sinners.

These are all good, biblical reasons not to stay in an abusive situation, either. You can’t submit to someone who is sinning against you and requiring you to act in an ungodly way.


My question is how do you get out of yourself and your feelings? Yes, turn them over to God, I know this and I have but here I am still hurting and unable to find my way back to being content in all situations. Thank you for your wise words.

How do you cultivate die-to-self love and love God and others more?

Two great questions from different readers, but with the same answer: You can’t. This is something God has to work in you. You can’t sanctify yourself.

When it comes to sanctification and spiritual growth, we often cast about for a plan we can implement to start making things happen, kind of the same way that, when we want to lose weight, we reach for a diet book, join a gym, or call Jenny Craig.

Sanctification doesn’t work that way. There’s no such thing as a “get holy quick” scheme. There’s no program you can implement, book you can read, or specific behavior regimen you can initiate that will help you shed those unsightly sins and lose those pounds of character flaws. There’s nothing you can do to create growth and get the guaranteed results you’re looking for. That’s God’s job. It’s His job to grow you, and it’s His job to grow you in a way that guarantees He’ll get the results He’s looking for.

Your job is to get up every day, trust Him to do His job, and walk faithfully with Him by…

  • Studying your Bible
  • Praying- for help, for wisdom, for guidance, for strength
  • Being faithful to your church
  • Obeying the Word
  • Faith, trust, and utter dependence on God
  • Getting good counsel when you need it from godly friends and loved ones, your pastor, or spiritually mature women in your church

That’s God’s plan. His method. And it works every time it’s tried.

You might find some of the principles in my article You Don’t Need *A* Book, You Need *THE* Book to be helpful on this.


I often don’t know what to pray. Can you give me guidance and whether pre-printed prayers are a good idea or not and if so how they should be used. 

I’ve got tons of resources on prayer here at the blog. I hope you’ve been able to find them (using the search bar, tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page, or category cloud in the right or bottom sidebar) in the time since you originally asked this question.

I would recommend starting off with…

Basic Training: 8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

After this Manner, Therefore Pray

Can We Talk?

Sweet Hour of Prayer: Learning to Pray from the People of Scripture (my Bible study on prayer)

And then you can just start plowing through all of my other articles of interest about Prayer.

There’s nothing sinful about praying a biblical, doctrinally sound pre-printed prayer back to God. The best way to do that is to pray Scripture back to God, because you know Scripture is biblical, doctrinally sound, and pleasing to God since He breathed it out. The Psalms are especially well suited for this (in fact, praying the psalms back to God is one of the components in our current Bible study, Psalm 119: The Glory of God’s Word). You might want to take a look at my article Praying Scripture, to get a feel for it.

Outside of the Bible, the only prayer book I’m familiar enough with to feel comfortable recommending is The Valley of Vision. What I would recommend it for is reading through it for an example of the things we should be praying for and about, rather than using it for reciting or actually praying the prayers in it (although, like I said, it’s not sinful if you do). Your prayers should be personal, between you and God.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Holidays (Other)

40 Things to Give Up for Lent

Originally published March 3, 2017

Although, as a Louisiana girl, I’ve had a decades long love affair with king cake, and I totally support the increased availability of fish entrées at local restaurants and getting a few days off school or work, I’m not a big fan of Mardi Gras and Lent.

The intrinsic philosophy behind Mardi Gras – a day of revelry, indulgence, and debauchery to get it all out of your system before you have to start “being good” for Lent – is patently unbiblical.

The practice of Lent often is, as well. Lent is the forty day period, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday, observed by Catholics and some Protestants. Originally, it was simply a time of fasting, prayer, and worship in anticipation of Easter, and for Christians who continue to observe it this way, it can be a valuable and meaningful time of respite and renewal with the Lord.

For many, however, Lent – particularly the aspect of giving something up for Lent in an act of self-denial – is nothing more than an empty religious ritual, or worse, works righteousness. Giving something up for Lent because, “I’m Catholic and that’s what good Catholics do,” or to atone for your sins, or to curry favor with God, or to flaunt your self-righteousness flies in the face of grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone biblical Christianity.

If you give something up for Lent, why do you do so? If it’s for one of the aforementioned unbiblical reasons (or others), or even if you don’t observe Lent at all, I’d like to challenge us all to give up the things below for Lent:

1. Give up Lent for Lent.

2. Give up attending any church that requires the observance of Lent in a sacramental way and find a doctrinally sound one.

3. Give up thinking your good behavior earns you right standing with God.

4. Give up the idea that there’s any such thing as truly good behavior.

5. Give up thinking your good deeds could ever outweigh your sins.

6. Give up willfully indulging in sin as long as you “make up for it” later.

7. Give up the notion that penance or self-denial can pay for your sins.

8. Give up thinking that penance or self-denial curries favor with God.

9. Give up the idea that repentance and obedience belong to a certain season on the calendar. We are to walk in repentance every day.

10. Give up the concept that Christmas and Easter are Christian “high holy days.” We celebrate Christ’s incarnation and resurrection every Sunday, and should prepare ourselves all during the week. Every Sunday is a high holy day for the Christian.

11. Give up rote participation in church rituals. Search the Scriptures and see if they’re biblical first.

12. Give up thinking God concerns Himself strictly with your external behavior rather than the condition of your heart.

13. Give up “sounding a trumpet before you” with humblebrags on social media and in real life about giving things up for Lent, fasting, giving offerings, or any other good works you might do. You just lost your reward, baby.

14. Give up approaching church attendance as punching the time clock for God. The Christian’s entire life, our very beings, belong to Christ, not just a couple of hours on Sunday.

15. Give up the delusion that you’re basically a good person. You’re not.

16. Give up biblical ignorance and become a good student of God’s word.

17. Give up forsaking the assembly and become a faithful, serving member of your local church.

18. Give up thinking that everyone and everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is.

19. Give up the desire to have your itching ears scratched and long for the truth of God’s word. Even when it’s hard to hear.

20. Give up neglecting the daily study of God’s word.

21. Give up rejecting parts of the Bible you don’t agree with. We don’t sit in judgment over Scripture. Scripture sits in judgment over us.

22. Give up neglecting your prayer life.

23. Give up making excuses for failing to memorize Scripture. You can do it!

24. Give up being a non-serving member of your church.

25. Give up being a non-giving member of your church.

26. Give up thinking you’re hearing God speak to you. If you want to hear God speak to you, open your Bible and study it. God has spoken in His word and many are largely ignoring what He has already said.

27. Give up following false teachers and be a good Berean.

28. Give up being afraid to share the gospel and just do it.

29. Give up thinking you can please God apart from faith in Christ.

30. Give up basing your doctrine and beliefs on your own (or anyone else’s) opinions, experiences, and feelings, and base them on correctly handled Scripture instead.

31. Give up following your wicked and deceitful heart, take up your cross daily, and follow Christ.

32. Give up thinking you have to do big things for God in order for Him to be pleased with you and “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”

33. Give up worrying and trust God.

34. Give up neglecting to fear God’s wrath if you don’t know Christ.

35. Give up fearing God’s wrath if you do know Christ.

36. Give up the idea that “God is love” means God is a pushover who won’t judge you.

37. Give up thinking you’ve been so bad that God could never forgive you.

38. Give up thinking you’re so good that you don’t need God to forgive you.

39. Give up refusing to forgive others when Christ has forgiven you so much.

40. Give up everything and be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and walk in His ways, all the days of your life, to the glory of God alone.

Holidays (Other), New Year's

The Mailbag: My word for the year is…

Originally published January 7, 2019

I can’t seem to find information on one topic that keeps coming up with women I am friends with. “One word” for the year. They are all waiting to “hear” from God what one word they need to focus on for the year. I have been asked what my word for the year is. I just think… the Word Of God is my word for every year. Do you happen have any links, resources, or input?

I wish there weren’t any links or resources on this, but, unfortunately, it looks like a small cottage industry – both secular and evangelical – is growing up around this unbiblical concept. (I’m not going to give anyone free advertising and website hits by providing their links.)

The idea is pretty simple. You pick (or God “speaks” to you) a word that represents some sort of change you want to see in your life and you focus on that word, especially during situations when you want to see that change manifest itself, for the remainder of the year. For example, if you want to be a more peaceful person, you might choose “peace” as your word for the year. You find some way to think about or meditate on the word “peace” every day, but especially in worrisome or chaotic situations, and that’s supposed to make you a more peaceful person by the end of the year.

The only problem with this is – as with so many things in pop evangelicalism – the Bible.

You will not find this practice taught, endorsed, or even mentioned in the Bible. In fact, I suspect this idea traces its roots back to some form of Eastern mysticism. It’s a modern day twist on repeating a mantra. And somebody thought it would be a good idea to “Christianize” it – so she slapped a thin coat of “this is how God can speak to you and work in your life” paint over the surface of it.

That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. You don’t just get to make up Christianity as you go along. That’s God’s job, not ours, and He already set it up exactly the way He wants it – in the Bible.

We know that God is not going to speak a certain “word for the year” to people for two reasons. First of all, extra-biblical revelation is unbiblical. God speaks to us through His all-sufficient written Word, not audibly. Which brings us to reason number two. Because God speaks to us through His written Word, and there’s nothing in His written Word about getting a word for the year, we can be certain that He’s not going to be whispering a word for the year in anybody’s ear.

OK, so let’s take the extra-biblical revelation component out of it. What if we go at it from a sanctification angle? Maybe I’ve noticed that I tend to worry too much, so I decide, for the sake of my own spiritual growth, that my word for the year is going to be “peace”, and I’m going to focus on that word this year?

Still not biblical. Not just because it’s not taught in the Bible (although that’s certainly reason enough), but for a host of other reasons as well.

For starters, we are not in charge of our sanctification, God is. He is the one who gets to decide what work He’s going to do in our hearts, and how He’s going to do that. And that’s a really good thing because He is infinitely wiser and more powerful than we are and He knows our hearts much better than we do. You probably won’t hear many of your girlfriends choosing words like “suffering”, “humility”, or “repentance” as their word for the year, but God knows that areas like these – the ones we often push back against with the greatest resistance – are the ones we usually need the most work on.

Next, sanctification isn’t linear. You don’t tackle peace, master it, then move on to patience, master it, and then move on to whatever’s next. And that’s how this “word for the year” thing is set up. This year, you choose the word “peace”. Next year, maybe you’ll choose “patience”, and so on. But what do you do when you get to the end of the year and you know you haven’t mastered peace yet? What then? Do you choose the word “peace” again? Give up on peace and choose another word?

Biblical sanctification is more like a big bowl of spaghetti noodles. Everything is all tangled up and inter-connected. At any given time, God could be working on one or five or a dozen different aspects of your character. And while you’ll rejoice when you occasionally look back over how much you’ve grown, you’ll never “master” any aspect of Christlikeness this side of Glory.

Finally, God has already prescribed our role in sanctification, and meditating on a particular word for the year is not even a little part of it. Our role in sanctification is to abide in Christ. How? We learn the “how” of abiding in Christ from studying our Bibles. John 15 offers us a little glimpse:

V.1: I [Jesus] am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Recognize that, as I mentioned, God is the vinedresser – the one who prunes, waters, fertilizes, harvests – not you.

V.2: …every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Bear up under pruning as God conforms you to the image of Christ. Cooperate with whatever He’s trying to do in your life by obeying Him, thanking Him, and realizing that He’s doing it to make you more fruitful.

V.4: As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. Recognize and practice your dependence on Christ and His work for you and in you, not on a word you meditate on. You can’t be a fruitful Christian by coming up with your own way to grow in Christ. You can only do it His way.

V.7a: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you… To abide in Christ is simply to live for Him and commune with Him day by day. One of the ways we do that is to study “His words” – the Bible – so that those words will live in us. We ingest the words of Christ by studying our Bibles at home, with our Sunday School or Bible study class at church, sitting under good preaching at our church, and consuming other biblical materials during the week.

V.7b: …ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. If you’re abiding in Christ and His Word is abiding in you – what kinds of “whatever you wish” things do you think you’ll be asking Him for? Your foundational prayer to anything else you might ask for will be for God to be glorified and for Him to make you more like Christ. “Father, please heal me, but only if that will glorify You and make me more like Christ.” “Lord, I’d like You to take away this difficult situation at work, unless letting it continue would grow me to be more like Christ. Help me to glorify You no matter what.” Prayer is one of God’s prescribed methods of sanctification.

V.8: By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. Glorify God by bearing the fruit of the Spirit, displaying the fruit of obedience, harvesting the fruit of evangelism, and by doing so, displaying for the world what a real disciple of Christ looks like in order to point them to Him.

V.10,12,14: If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…You are my friends if you do what I command you. Obey Christ’s commands and love one others the way He loves you. That’s the heart of your role in sanctification. It’s an outward focus on how you can bring Him glory in any situation by obeying Him and loving others with a die-to-self love rather than a navel-gazing, self-centered, inward focus on “How can I be a better me?”.

V.11: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. Don’t forget the joy! What joy is there in a word that you focus on? How can you quantify whether or not you’re a better person at the end of the year and derive joy from that? Sanctification God’s way offers instant, daily gratification in the joy department. Joy dwells in us because the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Joy wells up when we see the hand of God at work in our hearts and lives, when He answers prayer, even just from spending time with Him in His Word, worship, and prayer. Joy is communion with a Person, not satisfaction over a job well done of pulling yourself up by your own boot straps.

This “word for the year” thing is not necessary, it’s not biblical, and it kicks God out of His rightful place of authority in sanctification and attempts to put self in the driver’s seat. You’re on the right track with your thinking. When someone asks you what your word for the year is, just hold up your Bible and tell her, “All of these.” After all, Christ gives us abundant life. Why would we limit ourselves to one measly little word when we can study all of God’s words?


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Holidays (Other), New Year's

Sanctification > Resolutions: 6 Ways God Could Sanctify You in the New Year

Originally published January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

There’s just something about the beginning of a new year that brings with it a yen for getting a fresh start. We think back over the past year, evaluate what we’ve spent our time and efforts on – or what we should have spent our time and efforts on – and, invariably, there’s a desire to make this year better.

Lots of people will make lots of resolutions on January 1: to lose weight, to stop smoking, to exercise more. And by mid-February, some 80% of those people will have failed and given up on their resolutions.¹ Why? Partly because (statistically speaking) most of those people are lost and the flesh is exceedingly hard to tame by sheer “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” willpower. Even Holy Spirit-indwelt Believers can testify to the pull of the flesh.

Should we, as Christians make New Year’s resolutions? Is it OK to set a goal to get a certain area of our lives under better control? Sure, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, is it possible there’s a bigger picture we need to take a look at?

The Christian life is not one of putting out fires via resolutions. We don’t tackle one problem, get it under control and then move on to each of the other five problems that popped up while we were working on the first one. It’s more like fire prevention. We get up every day and hose down the house and yard by resting in Christ, communing with Him through prayer and the Word, and seeking to obey Him throughout the day. Sanctification is not mainly reactive, it’s proactive. And it doesn’t come by our own outward effort and striving, but by Christ growing us, changing our hearts, and enabling us to obey Him from the inside out.

And guess what? Along the way as Christ is conforming you to His image, you’re going to fail. You’re going to give in to temptation, and you’re going to sin against your Master. But here’s what biblical sanctification offers you that New Year’s resolutions cruelly withhold:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

You don’t just get a fresh start once a year. You get a fresh start every time you confess your sin, repent, and receive Christ’s cleansing and forgiveness. You get the mercy of Christ, the grace of God, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to move forward in submission to God’s Word. You get the steadfast, never ceasing love of the  Father who is out for your good rather than the unfeeling “do more, try harder, be better” taskmaster of New Year’s resolutions.

So, bearing all that in mind, how might God be trying to grow you in Christlikeness this year? What are some ways you can get up each day and proactively rest in, and obey Christ? Let’s prayerfully consider the following aspects of our walk and ask God to sanctify us and help us submit our will to His as we follow Him in this new year.

Growing in the Word

1. Daily personal Bible study. Do you set aside daily time for the personal study of God’s Word? Have you ever read the Bible from cover to cover? Have you considered, maybe just for this year, putting away all of the Bible study books and materials authored by others and using only the Bible during the next 365 days of your personal study time? Evaluate your daily time in God’s Word. Here are some resources you might find helpful:

📖 Bible Study Resources (how to study the Bible)
📖 Bible Studies
📖 Bible Reading Plans for the New Year- 2022
📖 You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

2. Scripture memorization. This is something God has gotten a hold of me about recently. It’s important to store up God’s Word in our hearts as a weapon against temptation, for comfort, for prayer, and to encourage others. Try starting with verses you’re already somewhat familiar with. Many find it easier to memorize Scripture in song form, or by typing it out. If your pastor is preaching through a certain book, memorize a verse or passage out of each chapter as he comes to it. I’ve found it helpful to recite my verses in my head in bed at night. It helps me fall asleep faster, and there’s actually research that shows retention is improved if you study right before bed.

Growth In Prayer

3. Daily prayer time. Of course we should be talking to the Lord throughout the day as we go about the routine of life and work, but that’s not a substitute for having a daily block of time set aside for focusing all of our attention on communicating with God. Jesus set this example for us, and we should follow it. Do you have a daily time of prayer? Do you know how to pray in a way that’s pleasing to God and helps you grow in Christ?

🙏 Prayer
🙏 After this Manner Therefore Pray
🙏 Basic Training: 8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer
🙏 Sweet Hour of Prayer (Bible study on prayer)

Growth in the Body of Christ

4. If you don’t have a church, find one. Physically gathering with the Body of Christ for worship, teaching, fellowship, prayer, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, giving, serving – and so much more – is not optional. It’s vital to your growth in Christ.

 Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians
 Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly
 Searching for a new church?

5. Faithful church attendance. At a minimum, Christians should be at Sunday morning worship and Sunday School/Bible study class/small group every week unless Providentially hindered (circumstances beyond your control: illness, emergency, the rare out of town trip, occasionally having to work). That’s not legalism, that’s loving the Bride of Christ and having your priorities in line with Scripture. Contrary to popular metrics, habitually missing Sunday worship twice or more a month (when you could be there if you made it a priority) is not faithful attendance. If you’re lackadaisical in church attendance, examine your heart. What’s going on in your spiritual life that’s keeping you from wanting to gather with your brothers and sisters in Christ? (And if it’s a problem with the church itself, see #4.)

6. Don’t just “go to church,” invest yourself in it. Are you serving your church in some capacity? Do you regularly and fervently pray for your church, your fellow church members, and your pastors, elders, and teachers? Have you poured yourself into personal relationships with others at church for fellowship, care, and discipling? Do you regularly, sacrificially, and joyfully give offerings? Are you sharing the gospel with the lost? As with anything else, you get out of it what you put into it. God loves you and wants you to invest yourself in His Bride for His glory and for your joy.

⛪ The Servanthood Survey
⛪ Let Me Count the Ways: 75 Ways Women Can Biblically Minister to Others
⛪ Servanthood
⛪ Top 10 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor
⛪ To Tithe or Not to Tithe…
⛪ Evangelism
⛪ 10 Fun, Practically Effortless, and Free Ways to Do Missions and Evangelism

How might God want to conform you more to the image of Christ this year? Could it be in one of these areas? Maybe another area? New Year’s resolutions are often about how you want to shape your life. Sanctification is about how God wants to shape your life. Not just for the new year, but for eternity.


¹Luciani, Joseph. “Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail.” U.S. News & World Report. December 29, 2015. Web. December 29, 2017.