Course: Spiritual Exercises
Title: Lesson #5 – “My One-Word Resolution” or “My One Word” | Part 1
“MY ONE-WORD RESOLUTION” or “MY ONE WORD”
Part 1: The Spiritual Exercise of Making Holy Resolutions & Introduction to “My One-Word Resolution”
This is Lesson 5 of a series we are calling “Spiritual Exercises.” So, let’s take just a moment here to remind ourselves again of what a ‘spiritual exercise’ is. We’ve been in this study for several weeks now, and we’ve had some interruptions, so it will do us good just to remind ourselves again what a “spiritual exercise” is to help keep us on point and in focus.
What is a “spiritual exercise”? A ‘spiritual exercise’ is any one of those activities or exercises that we do to exercise our obedience to God and discipleship after Jesus Christ. A ‘spiritual exercise’ is an activity that we practice and perform to follow Jesus Christ, obey Jesus Christ, serve Jesus Christ, and become more like Jesus Christ – which is always our ultimate purpose and aim.
A ‘spiritual exercise’ is any one of those activities that we practice that express and live out the lifestyle of truly being a Christian, a born-again child of God, and a transformed believer in Christ.
‘Spiritual exercises’ are those same activities and exercises that are sometimes also called ‘spiritual disciplines,’ ‘holy habits,’ or ‘habits of grace.’
And so, let’s be clear here: we’re not just talking about rote rituals or legalistic rules you make for yourself or for someone else – we are talking about the activities that express and exercise the real-alive, born-again, living, loving, and longing relationship of eternal life that we have with Jesus Christ. It is the expression and exercise of the spiritual life and fellowship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ, that the apostle John wrote about in his opening of 1 John, chapter 1.1-4:
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have observed
and have touched with our hands,
concerning the Word of life—
2 that life was revealed,
and we have seen it
and we testify and declare to you
the eternal life that was with the Father
and was revealed to us—
3 what we have seen and heard
we also declare to you,
so that you may have fellowship along with us;
and indeed our fellowship is with the Father
and with His Son Jesus Christ.
4 We are writing these things
so that our joy may be complete.
THAT is what spiritual exercises are: “…so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
Some “spiritual exercises” we have previously discussed…
And so, since the beginning of this course:
- we have studied lessons on reading the Scriptures daily, regularly, and comprehensively
- we have studied lessons on adopting and following Bible-reading plans and schedules
- we have studied lessons on how to read the Word of God for the doctrinal and practical truths and lessons God means for us to learn, take away from our reading, and apply to the ways we live our lives
- we have studied lessons on prayer and proposed prayer prompters that we must pray for every day taken from Jesus’ Disciples’ Model Prayer [usually called the Lord’s Prayer].
Another “spiritual exercise” – “MY ONE WORD”
What I want to do now is turn our attention and interest to another spiritual exercise that I pray and hope will encourage you to begin practicing it. I have personally practiced this spiritual exercise consistently for the past seven years and have found it to be one of the most beneficial and enriching spiritual exercises I have practiced over the course of my Christian life and my walk with the Lord.
I am calling this spiritual exercise, “MY ONE-WORD RESOLUTION,” or to shorten it up by one word, “MY ONE WORD.” I’ll be using both names as we go through this spiritual exercise. So, just by the first title that I have given you, you have deduced that it has something to do with resolutions, making resolutions. And you are right about that.
But, it is more than just a usual “New Year’s Resolution”
However, please don’t think that this just applies to what we usually call “New Year’s Resolutions,” although the turn and beginning of a new year is a good time to think about it and begin exercising it. The turning of a new year gives us a built-in opportunity and makes it more conducive to consider this spiritual exercise of making holy resolutions.
There is just something about the turning of a new year, the beginning of a new season of time that makes us stop and take stock and evaluate the year that has past and how we did in it.
- Did we grow … or not?
- Did we make spiritual progress … or backslide?
- Did we follow on to know the LORD … or did we lapse into indifference?
There is something about a new beginning of time that sparks our interest in making new beginnings and gives us hope that we can.
But not just at ‘New Year’s’ – it’s a lifestyle
But, the beginning of a new year certainly should not be the only time of our lives when we think about making holy resolutions to be better than we have been – and better than we are in the present moment.
Making holy resolutions is a spiritual exercise and a holy lifestyle. In fact, making holy resolutions is just another word for another word that may be more common to us: the word ‘repentance.’
Making holy resolutions is practicing the spiritual exercise of repentance: reflecting on the ways we are, and the ways we are living and having the holy desire and resolution to change the ways we are for a life that is more like Christ and more pleasing to God … more expressive of the life of Christ living in us!
And so, before I even begin the story of how I discovered this practice of making “One-Word Resolutions,” let’s address this practice of making holy resolutions and why it is an essential spiritual exercise.
Believe it or not, I actually had a brother come up to me after I preached this spiritual exercise and was leading my church to adopt it and practice it, and he just kind of smirked at me and said, “I don’t do resolutions.” Like he was kind of above the need to make resolutions. To be honest with you, I was so stunned and taken aback by that statement that I didn’t even know how to respond. However, I thought about it later, and given the history of this brother, he actually may have thought he was quite OK the way he was, and that he didn’t need to improve on anything he was or was doing. He may have actually thought that he didn’t know anything he was doing that he could do better. I knew him well, and I knew better, but he may have had that impression of himself.
We’re not talking about merely getting caught up in the impulse of a season…
Now, if he was saying that he didn’t get caught up in the emotion and impulse of making New Year’s Resolutions, then that may have been understandable. I’m sure there is a LOT of impulsive, insincere, superficial New Year’s Resolution-making that goes on in the wave and emotion of the moment … resolutions that are not serious and the resolution-makers never really intend and are not convicted and intentional about making a life-changing commitment to follow through and keep them.
But, what he said is, “I don’t do resolutions.”
So, let me ask you: “Do you do resolutions … do you make resolutions?” Or another way to present the challenge is: “Do you repent?” Do you ever examine yourself, consider your ways, evaluate and take stock of your life, and say, “I need to repent of this, change my ways, and resolve and commit to obeying God in the ways that He commands and that please Him”? Do you ever change your ways – by turning away from something that is sin, and evil, and displeasing to God, and turn to commit to a righteous way of living?
So, we may condense and distill what a holy resolution is by simply saying: A holy resolution is your spiritual conviction and holy commitment to change your ways to become more like Christ.
When I think of making holy resolutions, my mind invariably goes to Psalm 119.59-60 HCSB:
I thought about my ways and turned my steps back to Your decrees [or ‘testimonies’]. 60 I hurried, not hesitating to keep Your commands.
What David is describing here is the spiritual exercise of thinking on, evaluating, every facet of his life from God’s viewpoint and pleasure, and when he sees things that are wrong and amiss, he immediately resolves to correct it according to what he reads in God’s Word.
Pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote this excellent and pointed brief commentary on this verse in his splendid work The Treasury of David:
“I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.” While studying the Word, he was led to study his own life, and this caused a mighty revolution. He came to the Word, and then he came to himself, and this made him arise and go to his Father.
Consideration is the commencement of conversion: first we think and then we turn. When the mind repents of ill ways the feet are soon led into good ways; but there will be no repenting until there is deep, earnest thought.
Many men are averse to thought of any kind, and as to thought upon their ways, they cannot endure it, for their ways will not bear thinking of. David’s ways had not been all that he could have wished them to be, and so his thoughts were sobered over with the pale cast of regret; but he did not end with idle lamentations, he set about a practical amendment; he turned and returned, he sought the testimonies of the LORD, and hastened to enjoy once more the conscious favor of his heavenly Friend.
Action without thought is folly, and thought without action is sloth: to think carefully and then to act promptly is a happy combination. He had entreated for renewed fellowship, and now he proved the genuineness of his desire by renewed obedience.
If we are in the dark, and mourn an absent God, our wisest method will be not so much to think upon our sorrows as upon our ways: though we cannot turn the course of Providence, we can turn the way of our walking, and this will soon mend matters.
If we can get our feet right as to holy walking, we shall soon get our hearts right as to happy living. God will turn to His saints when they turn to Him; yea, He has already favored them with the light of His face when they begin to think and turn.”
So, that is what I’m calling us to do when I talk about the spiritual exercise of making holy resolutions: I’m talking about the Scriptural practice of repentance from our sins and turning back to walk in ways of holy obedience to God and His Word. I’m talking about the lifestyle of examining our ways before God by the standard and rule of His Word, and then conforming our lives to Christ in swift obedience and holy resolution.
Again, Psalm 119.59-60:
I thought about my ways and turned my steps back to Your decrees. 60 I hurried, not hesitating to keep Your commands.
By the way, before we leave Psalm 119 and return to the spiritual exercise of “One-Word Resolution” or “My One Word,” if you want to know how to make holy resolutions in keeping with the Word of God, then read Psalm 119. Mark all the times David makes holy resolutions with the words “I will…” or any of the numerous resolutions he makes just in Psalm 119 by declaring his intentions and then doing them. Psalm 119 is filled with scores of holy resolution prompters.
Let me just give you a brief sampler. If you want to know what a holy resolution looks like and sounds like, listen to this […and I’m just going to start at the beginning and go a few verses to show you how you, too, can make holy resolutions just by allowing David here to inspire you].
From Psalm 119:
verse 5: Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
verse 7: I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules!
verse 8: I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.
verse 10: With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
verse 11: I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
verse 14: In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
verse 15: I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
verse 16: I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
There are 176 verses in Psalm 119, and every single one can be viewed as a holy resolution in one form or another. No statement in these 176 verses about The Word of God can be viewed as FYI only. Every expression is not just an indicative … every expression is also an imperative.
All of these resolutions are not only good holy resolutions, but they are also holy resolutions that should be the normal spiritual exercises of every believer
Now, let me return to my personal story of how I discovered this spiritual exercise of “My One Word” and began to practice it as a resolution-making lifestyle…
How I discovered and began practicing “My One Word” spiritual exercise
I first got started with this spiritual exercise of making “My One-Word Resolutions” when I came across a book by the title of My One Word: Change Your Life With Just One Word. It was written in 2012 by Mike Ashcraft. Mike is a Baptist pastor in Wilmington NC.
Here is the address for the website where the book is featured: http://myoneword.org/
Here’s how they tease the book on their website:
LOSE THE LONG LIST OF RESOLUTIONS. If you’re like most people, each January goes something like this: You choose a problematic behavior that has plagued you for years and vow to reverse it. In fact, you can probably think of two or three undesirable habits—make that four or five.
Thus begins the litany of imperfections to be perfected commonly known as “New Year’s Resolutions.” All of which are typically off your radar by February.
“My One Word” is an experiment designed to move you beyond this cycle. The challenge is simple: lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick ONE WORD.
This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future. So, we invite you to join us and pick one word for the next twelve months.
So, that’s what intrigued me when I first saw the book. This was around October 2014. 2015 was coming up. And, as usual, I was preparing for New Year’s Resolutions like I have done for as long as I can remember.
I have always been making resolutions…
I have always been one to be making resolutions. And not just around New Year’s. For pretty much all of my life, I have been one to be making resolutions all the time.
I have never been content with myself the way I was at any point. I have always been a perfectionist – and when I say that, I’m not commending myself – I’m telling you, that is not a good characteristic … not a good character trait. It’s one thing to want to be better than you are and strive for growth in grace and improvement in your character and conduct. That is a good thing. That’s what we should be doing all the time.
Perfection-ism is a sin
But perfection-ism is a sin. Perfection-ism is expecting perfection from yourself because … well, because you think you are perfect and can be perfect. And, of course, none of us is. But, in our pride, and arrogance, and self-righteousness, we strive to be perfect – or at least appear to be perfect. Except that when you are a perfectionist, all of our striving is in the energy of our own fleshly human will and nature which is fallen, flawed, and doomed to failure because “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” [Romans 8.8]. Paul had earlier confessed and lamented in Romans 7.18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” But, a perfectionist is always striving to prove Paul wrong on that indictment: “there IS something good that dwells in my flesh, and I’m going to show you!”
And so much of what goes into being a perfectionist is wanting to appear to be perfect for your own self-esteem and for the praise of other people. When all of this pride and seeking the praises of others works itself in our resolutions and efforts to be better, that is what makes perfectionism such an abominable sin to God. It is a self-help effort to produce the righteousness of Christ – the righteousness that only God gives through faith in Jesus Christ and the life of the new birth. This is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification.
But, I’m getting way ahead of my story here…
Not self-perfection-ism, but going on to perfection in Christ
I said all that to illustrate my statement that I have always been one to be making resolutions. But instead of making our resolutions from the motivation of a self-effort perfectionism, we must be making our resolutions – as a lifestyle – from the incentive and motivation of wanting to be perfect in the sense of growing up and being grown-up in the grace of God, perfect in the sense of being mature in Christ, and perfect in the sense of wanting to be complete in our character and conduct – complete as in becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.
This is the sense that the Hebrews writer is pressing on us when he says in Hebrews 6.1, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity…”, or as we are used to reading and hearing it in the Authorized KJV, “let us go on to perfection.” Or when James writes about our persevering through our adversities and trials of faith, he challenges us in James 1.4, “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
To be perfect, whole, complete in Christ
So, that’s what we are striving for; that’s why we make resolutions – so we can be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing we are supposed to be and do. The aim of all our resolutions-making is not just to appear to be better people, or become “a better you,” or even to actually be better people for our own self-satisfaction, or to boost our self-esteem or to win the praises of others. But rather we make resolutions to be more and more like Jesus Christ in our character and conduct – more complete, more mature, more perfectly conformed to His image and likeness.
And, to put it another way: we make our resolutions for change and growth and improvement, not to seek to please other people or to please ourselves – but to please God!
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OK – this will serve as our introduction to the spiritual exercise of making holy resolutions and what a “My One Word” resolution is. I hope you will follow up with our next lesson – because I want to maybe explain and illustrate with my own personal testimony how to practice this spiritual exercise.
I’m calling that part of the lesson: My Seven-Year Story Making “My One-Word Resolutions” and Living by “My One Word” – and What They Have Been. I’d like to tell you some of my own story. I hope you will join us then also.
Here is the link to the YouTube video: https://youtu.be/wrlO2nrS1Vse
Here is the link to the PDF of these same lesson notes: