This year, I am instituting only one New Year’s Resolution. It is the same resolution I made at the end of last year. That resolution has changed my life in a very profound way, so I am changing the specifics but keeping the overall focus. It deals directly with my personal understanding of the true meaning of “perfection” as commanded in Matthew 5:48. I wish I had undertaken this effort decades ago, but I am grateful I have done so now.
I believe that the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ penultimate sermon – what I consider to be the blueprint to perfection. I focused on Matthew 5 this year; I will be focusing on Matthew 6 & 7 starting tomorrow. First, a recap of this year’s resolution:
In Matthew 5, I count 12 character traits applicable to me and within my control that I believe, when fully internalized, make someone perfect. In my opinion, everything else in scripture revolves around these traits. Also, I have a hard time focusing on anything for more than a month. Therefore, I focused my efforts this year on those 12 traits – emphasizing one per month in successive order – thinking about it and looking for ways to acquire it and not worrying about any other spiritual goals during that month. I also write each Saturday on my own blog about what I have learned throughout the week, which forces me to not let it drop each day.
The following is the plan I created:
January: Become more poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3)
February: Look for ways to mourn with those who mourn – then mourn with them. (Matthew 5:4)
March: Become more meek. (Matthew 5:5)
April: Hunger and thirst more after righteousness. (Matthew 5:6)
May: Become more merciful. (Matthew 5:7)
June: Become more pure in heart. (Matthew 5:8)
July: Become more of a peacemaker. (Matthew 5:9)
August: Control my anger better. (Matthew 5:21-24)
September: Become more chaste in thought and deed. (Matthew 5:27-30)
October: Keep my promises more diligently; make them a simple “Yes” or “No”. (Matthew 5:33-37)
November: Give more freely and do not revile as quickly. (Matthew 5:38-42)
December: Love those who revile me; seek situations of interaction with those who will do so. (Matthew 5:43-47)
I am planning currently to tackle Matthew 6 & 7 in 2009, then repeat the first seven traits (The Beatitudes) each year until I feel impressed to stop. I intend to change the last five each year to other traits found in the scriptures. I have come to believe that if I focus on becoming more “perfect” (complete, whole, fully developed), my actions will begin to take care of themselves – that as I replace my natural tendencies with those demanded by the Savior, that internal change will alter my very nature and allow me to do more naturally what He would have me do.
In that spirit, my plan for 2009 is as follows:
January: Search for ways to help others without recognition, blogging about the general concept – not about the specific examples. – Matthew 6:1-4
February: Pray more fervently, daily. – Matthew 6:5-13
March: Forgive more fully and immediately. – Matthew 6:14-15
April: Fast more fervently, weekly during this month. – Matthew 6:16-18
May: Judge less often. – Matthew 7:1-5
June: Ask God more for specific desires. – Matthew 7:7-8
July: Treat others how I want to be treated. – Matthew 7:9-12
August: Bring forth good fruits through a stronger connection to the Vine. – Matthew 7:17-20
September: Seek for and do the will of the Father. – Matthew 7:21-23
October: Refocus on the Beatitudes. – Matthew 7:24-27
November: Refocus on prayer and fasting. – Matthew 7:24-27
December: Refocus on serving others. – Matthew 7:24-27
I do not believe this exact path is the blueprint for everyone, but I do believe (based on my own experience this year) that the general idea is empowering and life-changing. I hope that in posting it here someone else will be benefitted by a process that truly has been a marvelous work and a wonder in my own life.