The New Year is the traditional time for making resolutions, to commit ourselves to change for the better in some area of our lives. While most of these efforts produce little if any fruit, I whole heartedly endorse the exercise, if for no other reason than it shows we still have hope in the future, hope in our ability to be different, and that is very important.
Being a Christian I want to tell you that Christianity is a religion of hope; a religion that not only hopes for change, but expects it.
Historically, biblical religion and the biblical record have been a chronicle of change. From Abram leaving his past behind and becoming Abraham, the progenitor of the Jews, to Saul being converted from a persecutor of the faith once delivered unto the saints to an evangelist for it, change has been part and parcel of our dealings with God.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul states the expectation for those who adhere to the New Covenant, who follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Now that is fundamental change, not a whitewash covering the old, stained, and dirty. A similar thought, more attuned to our discussion of New Year’s resolutions is expressed in Philippians 2:12-13, but this time Paul balances the effort we must make with the supporting nature of God’s underlying plan for our lives.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13
We are called to make fundamental changes in our lives (work out your own salvation). That work of sanctification is a daily, ongoing effort that often lends itself to things such as New Year’s resolutions. We can make those declarations of intent because we have hope that we can accomplish our goals. Where is that hope grounded, in our own efforts? Only partly Paul tells us. The real source of that hope lies in God, who is at work in us, diligently accomplishing his will.
So, as you work through the things you will try to change this year, remember this. You can do it because God is working side by side with you to support your efforts. You have the power of hope, undergirded by your faith in Him who is faithful. You can change. You can end this year better than you are starting it. Not only can you do it, God expects you to do it.
Therefore, this is my prayer for you (and myself) for the coming year. May we come to know the God of Abraham, Moses, and Paul and what He desires for our lives. May His mercy and grace give us the strength, wisdom, and perseverance to empower the engine of change in our lives, the new creation we have become. May we proceed from grace to grace, removing the wood, hay, and stubble from our sure foundation, replacing it with the gold, silver, and precious gems of the truth of Christ born out in real character, demonstrated by right actions, not just right words. Amen.