The Most Important Thing to Remember in a New Year
The most important thing about a new year is not what you have done, but about what God has done.
I’ll admit, I am a sucker for sentimentality. New Year’s, especially, strikes me as a perfect time to pause and reflect, and see what needs changed in the year to come. I know, changing your life based on a changing calendar seems arbitrary (and, it does not even correspond to the new year on the church calendar). But I think any excuse, in our society, to pause and reflect should be celebrated and taken full advantage of.
I, like most other people, have thought about my resolutions a lot. I gotta go to the gym more than the about once a week basis I have been. I really need to write more: I’ve been squandering this gift more than I should be. I gotta be disciplined: even with a busy schedule, I don’t need to let laundry, dishes, etc. fall by the wayside. There are ways to schedule that, even if I don’t want o admit it (and add to my daily load). I gotta reach out more and be more open about my struggles, my successes, and what God has been teaching me. There’s a lot I can work on, and a new year seems like the perfect time to start cultivating all of that!
But I do worry that when we pause and make our new year’s resolutions, we start to do damage to ourselves and how we practice Christianity. These resolutions become the most important thing to us in the new year. We put an incredible weight upon our own shoulders to lose weight, to read or write more, to drink more water, to cook more, etc. etc. For a while, at least, we only think about how well, or not, we are doing on our resolutions. It is hard to think about anything else! This pressure starts to build up, and we start to measure our worth or our dignity based on our success in our resolutions. We may even begin to base our relationship with God on our successes!
That is, categorically, going to hurt us more than it is going to help us. The most important thing to remember, in any new year, or any time we make resolutions, is the centrality of the gospel of the blessed God. Anything that we do, without remembering the gospel, is doomed to fail. We may lose weight, but if that weight loss has become our idol, the sole focus of our attention, we have lost something even greater: our intimacy with Jesus. In the end, we become a slave to the weight loss, letting it consume our thoughts, our actions, and everything that we do. We stop living in freedom and joy and start living under sin’s tyranny because we have let something other than Jesus rule our minds.
Take me, for example. I start to think, when I am eating, only about calories, and carbs, and fat, and all of that. I worry that this may be too much, or that maybe I didn’t work out as hard as I could’ve, or that I didn’t count well and I’m eating too much. All of these concerns can be good, but usually, if I’m consumed by these thoughts, it means I’ve disobeyed God and have not taken this meal with thanksgiving (I Tim 6:7-8; I Cor 10:31; Acts 2:46-47). I’ve let the slavery of weight loss, and idolatry of my body, take place the thanksgiving I owe God for his faithful provision of food.
So, I invite you to add another resolution: to make remembering who you are in Christ, through the Spirit, to the glory of the Father as the primary importance in your life. The first step is easy: meditate on gospel texts.
For example, Paul writes in Galatians 4:4-7:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
A lot of times, we make resolutions based on what we think identifies us. We think we are identified by our weight, or our eating habits, but imagine the life change that comes when we are identified as God’s children, crying out to him as an heir!
That’s not to say that we can’t make resolutions to do better on our school work or to make a bigger effort at our job. Ecclesiastes affirms the goodness of our work:
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
We are made to enjoy our work, and to benefit from it. But notice that this work is done with the backdrop of eternity in our hearts. What am I not warning about is “doing more” or “trying harder”. What I am warning about is letting these resolutions supplant the finished work of Jesus on the cross, in his death, resurrection, and ascension, as the thing that drives us to carry out our resolutions. Let nothing that we do here make us forget about the eternity promised us in Christ. That drives us to futility, and nihilism, and despair. Rather, we eat and drink and take pleasure in what we do remembering it solely as God’s gift to us in Christ.
So, I’m asking that you join me in praying that God will recenter the gospel in our hearts as primary focus for this year. That with the gospel as our focus, we remember who we are in Christ, that our resolutions don’t bring us away from God, but closer to him through the Spirit.
The Aaronic priests had a famous benediction that I leave us with for this year:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
In the gospel, the Lord has blessed us indeed. His mighty hand keeps us, Christ’s love shines upon us as he shows us the grace of his death and resurrection, and the Spirit gives us the peace beyond understanding. Thus, his Trinitarian name rests upon us as he blesses us.
Chris is an intern at Hope Fellowship in Lombard, IL. He is currently pursuing his MDiv at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. Chris is single and ready to Christian mingle. His blog can be found at chriswerms.wordpress.com.