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January 1 is Meaningless December 31, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Attitude, Change, Growth, Heart Condition, Holy Spirit.
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I was just thinking today, as I imagine most people are, about the new year that is coming in just a few hours. As usual I have various plans and resolutions for 2011,  some of which I’ve made before and failed at and some of which are totally new. But part of what I was thinking is that tomorrow is actually no different than any other day. It has no significance whatsoever other than that we’ve culturally decided that tonight at midnight is the moment that the old year ends and the new one begins. Although necessary for time- and calendar-keeping, it is a totally arbitrary date that doesn’t even have any particularly astronomical, seasonal, or religious meaning to it (unless you count the Feast of the Circumcision, which is a pretty strange day to start a year on) . It’s just a day, kind of in the middle of winter, just like any other.

And yet we hang such importance on it. January 1 is the day we’re going to start that diet, change our lives, be a better person. We make resolutions and promises. We start regimens. We think that somehow the new year will magically empower us to be different than we have always been, than we were on December 31st. We can put all the things that happened in the past 365 days behind us and start over. I do it too, as much if not more than anybody else. New Year’s, the first of the month, my birthday, and arbitrary Mondays – I see them as a chance for a new start, to get the week or month or year right this time. I imbue starts of things with mystical powers that I think will help me be more organized, or more self-controlled, or happier. It’s a very human thing to do.

The trouble is, it doesn’t work. Most of my well-intentioned self-improvement plans come to nothing after a week, a day, or a few hours. And the dates on the calendar are just numbers. There is no difference between Monday and Friday, between January 1 and June 12th, between my birthday and President’s day in terms of my likelihood of keeping a single resolution in the long term. I know that sounds depressing, but we all know it to be true. But I am not feeling depressed right now, because I have realized something.

All those dates that don’t mean anything? They don’t mean anything to God either. Through Christ and through his grace, he is constantly making things new. Take a look:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17

It is Christ that makes us a new thing, not our own efforts, not some random calendar change. The moment we accept Christ into our heart we are a new creature. We don’t have to wait around for a particular date to arrive. It doesn’t mean his work on us is done, but the start of a relationship with him is the new beginning we should look to, not a day of the year.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
1 Peter 1:3

We have a new birthday, a new day to celebrate as the start of our new lives. And although we have to be willing to let God change us, it is not up to us to affect the change. We don’t have to rely on our own willpower, our own strength, our own ideas of who we should be or what we should be doing to change. We need to be malleable, but it is God who will make the true changes in us, not our own list of 11 Things to Change in 2011 .

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command.”
Ezekiel 36:25-27

Instead of our own laundry list of resolutions, changes, goals, and things we want, God will, if we let him, put his living Spirit within us to guide our desires and make the changes in us that he has designed us for, not the changes that we think we need to be happy, or to make others happy, or even to make God happy. Sometimes we feel frustrated because we don’t feel that we aren’t changing the right way, or changing fast enough. The questions I need to ask myself in those times are first, am I seeking the change the God wants or the one that I think that God wants for my life? And, second, am I worried about my time, or God’s time?

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

God’s time is not our time, and his plans are not ours. He has a time for everything and a purpose for everything. Sometimes my frustration may come because what I’m striving for is not good for me, or not what I need to be placing importance on. But sometimes it may come from knowing what the right thing is and feeling like it’s taking too long. But God will make me beautiful in his time as well.

So this New Year, if I make any resolution at all it will be to open myself up to the possibilities God has given me to be made new. I don’t often feel like a new creation, holy and blameless with a new heart. But that is because I close myself off from it, I still try to do things on my own. The truth is, the only thing keeping me from being a new, vital, pure creation in God is…me. But the very best thing to realize is that however many times I find myself failing to do something in my own strength, I can never miss my chance with God. He doesn’t allow us to be new in him once a year, or even just once when we first accept him and then it’s gone. No, with Christ every day, every moment is a chance for him to make us new, to give us more grace, and to move us closer to being perfected in him. And no matter how far we’ve wandered from a good relationship with him, no matter how many times we’ve tried to wrest control of our own destinies our of his hands, every single day is a new chance to return and let him start work on us again.

“The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
Lamentations 3:22-24

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Comments»

1. Dave - January 15, 2011

I find rather consistently that I tend to be aware of only one thing that God is working out in me at any given time.

A friend asked, “shouldn’t I just have faith that God would heal me and stop taking anti-depressants in anticipation of it?” and my reply was simply, “keep taking them as long as your doctor recommends, until God makes it unnecessary.”

I may never understand his timeline, but when I look back on my life, he tends to work out the things he knows are more important. I would never have prioritised my issues as he did in those moments, but that is why the details of 2 Cor 5:17 are for him to decide.

orualundone - January 16, 2011

Ooh, good perspective there. You’re so right. I am crap at prioritizing. I think I probably consistently put the least important things to work on first because the really important things are too hard/painful/frustrating to want to deal with. Luckily God knows better and often makes me handle that stuff before I think I’m ready to. Because, let’s face it, most of it I’d never be “ready” to deal with.


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