It’s the time of year for new beginnings and new starts. The need for such newness is highlighted by the glut of advertisements that are targeted at overweight, balding, skin-blemished, and in-debt people. It’s the promise of something better dangled in front of the discontentedly needy; a seemingly win-win combination. New beginnings 2013. Of course this is a follow-up to new beginnings 2012 and new beginnings 2011, and, new beginnings 2010, and, well, you get the point. I heard a news report today that said 40% of Americans make resolutions each year, and one-third of those resolutions are broken before the end of January.
We joke that New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. I guess we joke about it because the only other alternative is to feel guilty about resolutions not kept and who needs that? I’m sure that many of these resolutions are sincerely made. The beginning of a new year seems a natural time to make these new-beginnings resolutions, as if the movement of the second-hand from 11:59:59 PM, December 31 to 12:00:00 AM, January 1 resets life for the next twelve months. It’s a chance to try again with fingers crossed, hoping that this time it will all work out.
Why do we keep doing it – making resolutions we don’t keep? Why do we act as if January 1 is a reset button? I think part of it is that we have a keen sense that we haven’t become everything we want to be or are meant to be. We know there are still areas of our lives that need improvement physically, relationally, financially, vocationally, and spiritually. We know we can do better and be better and at the beginning of a new year we seem to want it enough to make resolutions to do something about it. Additionally, I think we sense there is something more to be experienced in or accomplished through our lives. We know it’s not time to retire from life.
I wonder what God thinks of it all. I don’t know and won’t claim I do. But since God is timeless existing in an eternal present, I’m inclined to believe that the annual transition from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day is irrelevant to Him. I can’t help but think that with God our annual resolution-making must be sort of like a 6-year old promising every morning to be a better boy or girl that day but to no avail by bedtime.
Do we just give up then? Of course not. It is true that there is more for us to know, to experience, and to become; we haven’t arrived. It’s also true that we have some personal responsibility for our progress in the journey of life that requires our resolve. But the answer isn’t a new beginning every January 1 that proves to be another false start. Changed lives do not come through man-made resolutions but by divine regeneration. I’m not saying people don’t experience change apart from God. I am saying that the change that most needs to happen won’t happen apart from the regenerating power of God. And that change is unleashed through the cross of Jesus Christ. Real change comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus. If you want to see change in your life this year, perhaps you should revisit again the wonder of what Jesus has already done through the sacrificial death of his own Son and his resurrection to new life.
In his book The Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing, C.J. Mahaney writes:
If there’s anything in life that we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others. I mean passionate in thinking about it, dwelling on it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel ought to be.
That’s how change happens. It’s not so much through new resolutions as it is a return to what’s already been done. The truth is there is only one time in a person’s life when a reset button is pushed and that is the day a person trusts in Christ for salvation for when that happens, that person becomes a new creation in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 15:57). That is a real new beginning, a real new start in a real new life. More than making wishes that we conceal as New Year’s resolutions, what we need is the life-giving and life-changing power of Jesus flowing through us by His grace. More of that is what I need. More of that is what I want. To that end and for that purpose and in that power let the resolutions begin!
I invite your feedback on making resolutions for the New Year.