New Years Resolution as a Form of Repentance?

Let’s start out 2015 on a positive note. Have you ever thought of a New Years Resolution as repentance — turning away from sin or indifference and back around onto a more Gospel oriented course for the future? Scott Thomas thinks so and I’m inclined to agree with him. Perhaps this more manageable, year-end sort of reflection on how our hearts are churning out idols,1  may be more effective (and, certainly less painful and hurtful to others) than cruising along until we’ve foundered upon the rocks of sin and self. Scott began 2015 with this post on Facebook:

Goal setting is a form of repentance (literally, thinking differently afterwards). By setting a goal, you change your thinking about your relationships, your money, your spiritual disciplines, your mission, or your family and you create specific action steps to change direction.

Here is a link to a worksheet to help you define and clarify your goals for 2015:

I really appreciate Scott’s ability to communicate to leaders in a direct, simple and practical way — but, I also find his style of writing to be refreshing and enjoyable (He got my attention right away with dialogue from the film, Dodgeball). I’d really like to see him turn, think differently about writing and do a lot more of it in the future!

But, let’s get back to the subject at hand. Here are some highlights from his worksheet :

We often oversell and under deliver when setting goals. Too many people give up on goal setting entirely… Goal setting is hard work. But I think it can be helpful to base them on four principles drawn from the life of Jesus Christ: Leave, Love, Live, and Lead.

Scott continues:


Jesus left Heaven to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)… He was the ultimate Rescuer but He had to leave Heaven to accomplish God’s plan for redemption… Jesus invited the Disciples to leave what they were doing… They immediately left the fishing nets—their source of income—and followed Jesus…  The Great Commission mandates us to leave and go. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20)…. Jesus is now sending us in the same manner that He was sent by God the Father (John 17:18; 20:21). Empowered with the Holy Spirit, we are commissioned rescuers for God… if we are willing to leave financial gain, comfort, security, time off, and oftentimes, the approval of family and friends… What do you need to be willing to leave? What is holding you back from pursuing and obediently following what God has for you… When we leave, we empty self and we lay down our lives for the Rescuer to accomplish His will through us. Does this principle of a humble, rescuing shepherd dominate your list of goals? Many people miss this calling and it shows in their stated goals. The theme that dominates most lists of goals is an attempt to fulfill self and to protect our lives for our own comfort, satisfaction, or pleasure… The first principle of goal setting is to be willing to leave what is common, comfortable, and personally beneficial.


Jesus travelled through the cities and villages preaching and teaching and healing. When he saw the crowds, he had great compassion for them… Jesus felt pity and deep concern for those who were helplessly trapped in their sins and his response was to pray that God would send laborers into their lives to shepherd them to the chief Shepherd Jesus Christ. The solution to this helpless and harassed crowd of people was shepherds who would love them like Christ loved them. His love was expressed by his sacrificial focus on the needs of others and not on enjoying the fruits of His ministry…. The Great Commission is motivated more by love than duty. God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son to be a Rescuer of mankind (John 3:16). Jesus was sent by God to first love us. We cannot feed and lead and care for others effectively without loving them… If you’re not sure where to start to express this life of love and disciple making, look for those with whom you already have a relationship formed or those in your neighborhood or fellowship. God has a way of entrusting others into our care simply by proximity.


Jesus returned from praying with His Father and the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus was living his life in a way that was both regular and reproducible… Goal setting requires that our principles translate into repeatable life practices. We affirm our beliefs, not by what we teach, say, or write down on a list, but rather, by how we live… Goal setting is a form of repentance (literally, thinking differently afterwards). By setting a goal, you change your thinking about your relationships, your money, your spiritual disciplines, your mission, or your family and you create specific action steps to change direction…. An effective, but often overlooked way to begin living a new Spirit-empowered, transformed life is to write down your goals for greater clarity… You will not likely achieve what God is calling you to become without some clear intention of energy and emotion, strategy, and steps, precision and perseverance… Goal setting answers the question, “Where am I now and what will it take for me to get where God is leading me? You risk missing what God intends for you if you do not take some strategic steps… We have the capacity to inspire and influence people by the way we live. Sometimes we miss the reason we were born: to glorify God by making disciples and spreading seeds for a spiritual harvest for the King of Kings. Does your list of goals reflect this?


Making disciples as a leader is what I call “skillful shepherding with a purpose.” The purpose is to lead others to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who is calling people into mission for the glory of God… Shepherd those whom you have been entrusted to care for and disciple… In recent years, leadership theorists have increasingly begun to say goodbye to the “command and control” work environments… Jesus carried out the Great Commission through His disciples, not in spite of them. The way we lead is through others. Our job is to develop the skills and abilities of others by sacrificing our glory. We cannot lead others if we are trying to step on them to reach for more credit or personal benefit. The model shepherd, Jesus laid down his life for the sheep. If we are too busy looking after our own needs, those we are leading are more vulnerable to the thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy. Ironically, when we selfishly look out for our own selves, our life is destroyed as well. True greatness is marked by self-sacrifice for the good of others and the glory of God.

Pray that God enables you through His Spirit to leave, love, live and lead for His glory and the ongoing development of His workers. Take a step today by setting a time when you will review and write out your goals according to the principles set by Jesus.

As I said earlier in the post, these are highlights and you’ll want to download the entire document. Scott provides tons of examples of  leaving, loving, living and leading, as well as simple, practical suggestions for goal setting with the Gospel at the heart of it all. I hope you’ll follow the link and find some help from these Four Principles For Goal Setting.

  1. “From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols…” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion in two volumes, Westminster Press: Philadelphia, 1977, page 108 []

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