For this new year, skip the resolutions, and make a Rule of Life instead.
So argues Pastor Jeremy Linneman in his recent thought-provoking post for the Gospel Coalition. While resolutions tend to focus on one particular goal, the Christian tradition of a Rule of Life is broader than this. Rather than targeting one habit to change, it focuses on the patterns and rhythms of the day. It’s about being more intentional about putting God at the center of all things and finding space to live out our various commitments throughout the week.
In this, Linneman joins a chorus of voices warning us of the need to wake up to the mundane, the need to consider carefully how we are formed by the simple stuff that makes up our lives. A shift in spiritual formation is under way.
Until recently, the general assumption was that believers and non-believers in our country had a lot in common. Non-Christians usually would also have a high view of the church and the Bible, would largely agree with the Christian ethical tradition, and would seek to be a “good person” by standards generally compatible with the Bible. Consequently, Christian teaching would focus primarily on those few areas where the differences were clear: we’re saved by grace, not works. Sex is only for within marriage. A relationship with God is an important thing to nurture.
But we’re now in an age where that commonality between believers and unbelievers (which was always less than it appeared anyway) has diminished. Whether in our public schools or in our art or even simply in the normal daily expectations of our neighbors, Christians are increasingly feeling the pull between the pressures of our culture and the life of faithfully following Jesus.
And this means that focusing on a few ethical principles or on one important doctrine does not go far enough. We are daily being formed by a culture that is antagonistic to the gospel, and that means we need to let Christ reform every aspect of our lives, of our selves. If we don’t push back when it comes to our daily rhythms and rituals, if we don’t push back when it comes to which commitments we most hold dear, we will never be able to grow in the manner we desire.
Whether or not we agree with Linneman in the need to create a Rule of Life, I do think we should consider the underlying point. He writes, “My experience as a pastor has shown me that many of my friends and church members aren’t undone by poor theology or a lack of biblical information. Instead, we often fail to grow spiritually because we haven’t planned and made space for a deep, abiding fellowship with God.”
In this new year, what does it look like for you to plan to make space for fellowship with God?