Most of us feel a need for some changes. And New Year’s seems like a good time for resolve. We threw away the old calendar. We’d like to toss out some old habits just as easily. Not a bad way to think, and there’s biblical precedent for doing it on New Year’s and on other special times, like…
Daily. The day started for the Hebrew the night before: “There was evening and there was morning—the first day” (Genesis 1:5). I carry in my Bible questions to help review my day. Here are three: Did I live for others today? Did I miss any God-appointed opportunities? Is God pleased with me or do I need to ask forgiveness? Let’s resolve to start the day right—as we hit the sack!
Weekly. Each Sabbath brought a new opportunity for a Hebrew. A day of rest meant time for reflection. Worshipping Christians find an opportunity in Holy Communion: “Let a man examine himself…” (I Cor. 11:28).
Monthly. Hebrews built their calendar around the moon. The new moon brought a fresh month. The thin crescent visible at sunset set the day apart as holy. Time slowed down and work ceased, bringing a chance for rest and review. Some friends take a day a month for reflection.
Yearly. The Hebrew agrarian society harmonized with nature. Key seasons came at springtime and harvest. Feasts were holy days, marked by worship, celebration, and reflection. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated in the fall. It gave them (and still does) a time of serious introspection, confession, and resolve.
The God who says, “Behold! I make all things new,” gives us the desire to make some changes as well. Businesses take inventories. Not a bad idea for human beings to do the same.
We cannot change. Resolutions will fail if founded upon our ability. Paul had to acknowledge that will power did not get the job done (Romans 7:15,18). Desire alone fails—every time. Resolutions should perhaps start with the confession: “I can’t.”
God changes us through the Holy Spirit. The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news, not good advice. Jesus came because we couldn’t change. If we could, we would not have needed the cross. God works from the inside out, not by grit but by the Holy Spirit.
You might want to state your resolutions as an invitation rather than as a challenge. Instead of, “I am going to exercise more,” try saying, “God, I am trusting you to work in me self-control.”
If we catch the rhythm of change throughout the year, we don’t have to put all our marbles in the New Year’s basket. Otherwise we cave in by Valentine’s Day. The calendar provides us with a rhythm for resolution.
One final word: who we are determines what we do. Conduct follows creed. Those who only focus on the imperative, “I’ve got to change my eating habis,” don’t usually get the results they want. The indicative leads to the imperative.
The Christian life is more about receiving than doing. If we know that we are princes and princesses, how we live follows from that identity in Christ. When we get the indicative down (who we are), the imperative (how we’re commanded to be) comes more as an invitation than as a difficult standard. Identity drives behavior.