OK! So you’ve eaten the last of the Christmas dinner leftovers (why did I buy a 25lb. turkey?), returned that sweater from Aunt June that you probably wouldn’t wear to Wal-Mart at 3 a.m. in the middle of a blizzard, waved good-bye to your cousin Eddie and his 3 darling kids who have broken 3 pieces of your Christmas china along with years 1983, 1997, 2002 and 2006 Hallmark Charlie Brown ornaments. As you collapse on the couch to enjoy a cup of coffee, your eyes fall on the calendar. New Year’s Day is just a few days away. 2019!
If you are like most people, you look with hope to a coming new year. In the new year we see a fresh start; a chance to do better than the last year. Many of us turn to New Year’s Resolutions as a way to better ourselves.
“I resolve to:
Stop procrastinating (OK, I’ll start that one next month!).
I don’t know about you, but whenever I make these “resolutions”, I find that they may last a few weeks, or a month or two at most. Then, in my inevitable weakness I crumble. I fail. I give up. If I can’t stick to my resolutions, then it seems that they are no good, so why not just surrender?
Many people view sin like our resolutions. In the beginning, when we are inspired to do better, we think that we have the ability to resist sin (greed, anger, lusts, intolerance, refusal to forgive), but before too long, we find that in our human nature we fail. As Christians, though, we are called to do something other than to just surrender to our weakness and give in to sin. As Christians we are given the gift of grace and forgiveness.
In Romans 7 and 8 Paul discusses our human weakness and God’s infinite grace.
7: 21 – 25 “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
8:1 – 4 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
So, as the new year approaches, it is a good thing that we reflect on the past year. Celebrate the victories. Examine our failures. Think about how we can do better in the coming year. As Christians, though, let us be realistic about our ability to change ourselves. If we rely on our own strength we will eventually fail. But, praise God, that is not the end of the story. As Christians we rely on God’s grace and God’s forgiveness to pick us up when we fall.
As Methodists, we believe that with enough trust, enough faith, enough perseverance, that we can succeed in “going on to perfection”. A perfection that doesn’t mean we never fail, but a perfection that has faith in God’s grace to pick us up when we fall down, to encourage us when we are discouraged, and to love us when our love fails. Thanks be to God! Let us rely on God for a joyful and meaningful 2017!