And so it is that the calendar has (finally!) flipped and we have begun a brand new year. 2016—with its mix of joys and sorrows, goals met and goals missed, friendships gained and friendships lost—is behind us.
For many, New Year’s is just another holiday. For others, it’s a time of deep reflection, both on the past year and on the one ahead. For followers of Jesus, New Year’s has no unique significance. There’s no central biblical narrative informing our celebrations.
But this doesn’t mean Christians shouldn’t pause and reflect on the turning of the calendar. Moses asked of the Lord, “Teach us to number our days, so we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Time—seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years—is a gift to us from a good God. To wisely follow him, then, is to redeem our time (Eph. 5:16).
New Year’s can also remind us of the new birth. In a sense, each day with Jesus is a chance to turn the page on an old way of life and embrace a new one. We are, after all, new creation people, and we serve a King who renews us daily by the Holy Spirit.
Setting goals for a new year are an important sign that we’re intentional about glorifying God in our callings—work and business, home and church, private and public witness. When we work and plan, even in seemingly insignificant endeavors, we’re fulfilling the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28). In this age, we’re blessed with an abundance of resources to help us to maximize our time: digital tools, productivity experts, and inspirational blogs.
But before we write out our goals, we should begin in the heart. The temptation for Christians is to make our plans and add a dollop of Jesus on top, rather than allowing him to form in us the desires and motivations to do his work.
So whether or not we’re making concrete goals or more abstract ones, whether we’re writing down resolutions or foregoing them altogether, here are four important steps we can take, as we peer into 2017, to draw closer to Christ.
The wise man of Ecclesiastes said, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Eccl. 12:1). In January, the year is young and the opportunities seem fresh. So many productivity gurus preach a gospel of self-empowerment, but as gospel people, we know the fragility of human life. We know every breath is a miracle, a gift given to us by our Creator.
I love the words of hymnwriter Fanny Crosby (1820–1915):
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
In a cursed and tumultuous world, creation itself reminds of God’s great faithfulness. Every new season is a testimony, a signpost, to grace. So the proper response to the past year, whether good or bad, is not “I made it through” or “Look what I achieved.” It is “Thank you, Lord.”
Our worship of God for his faithfulness and majesty, evidenced by the changing of seasons, should then lead us to repentance. His goodness breaks us in fresh ways as our sin is exposed by the light of his glory. But this isn’t a morbidly introspective, navel-gazing exercise. To repent is to rejoice. We claim the promise of 1 John 1:9 because we know our forgiveness has already been purchased at the cross.
Beginning the new year with repentance is to draw closer to Jesus, to appropriate the fresh grace that is ours in him. This is why confession always brings relief and joy. It is the gateway to greater intimacy with God.
How can we begin new plans and journeys in 2016 without first allowing his light to penetrate the darkness of our hearts and to reveal areas in need of growth? How can we start hustling and working and dreaming without first renewing our joy in the One who directs our steps?
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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition