Most of us feel a need for change. New Year’s seems like a good time for resolve. We threw away the old calendar. We’d like to toss some old habits as easily. Not a bad way to think, and there’s biblical precedent for doing it on New Year’s and other 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 review my day. Here are three: Did I live for others today? Did I miss any God-appointed opportunities? Is God pleased or do I need to ask forgiveness? Resolve to start the day right—as you hit the sack!
Weekly. Each Sabbath brought a new opportunity for a Hebrew. A day of rest meant 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 marked the day as holy. Time slowed down and work ceased, bringing rest and review. Some 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, 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 changes as well. Businesses take inventories. Not a bad idea for us to do likewise. But…
We cannot change. Resolutions founded upon our ability fail. Paul acknowledged the insufficiency of will power (Romans 7:15,18). Resolutions should perhaps start with the confession, “I can’t.”
God changes us through the Holy Spirit. The gospel is good news, not good advice. Jesus came because we couldn’t change. If we could, no cross is needed. God works from the inside out, not by grit but by the Holy Spirit. You might state your resolutions as an invitation. Rather than, “I’m 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 gives us 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 results. The indicative points 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. Get the indicative down (who we are), and the imperative (how we’re commanded to be) comes more as an invitation than a standard. Identity drives behavior.