Can you believe a brand new year is just a couple of days away? And it’s time to make those resolutions for the coming year, (not that I even remember what mine were at the beginning of this past year! Do you?).
While pondering what I wanted put down on my list of possible resolutions, I decided to come up with something different rather than the standard ones: lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, spend more time with family, to get out of debt, etc. You know, something I could actually complete or stick with for a change. Then a question surfaced unexpectedly in my mind, “How did this New Year’s resolution thing get started anyway?”
Turns out, according to Wikipedia, this tradition of making resolutions for the new year is believed to have first started among the ancient Babylonians around 4,000 years ago. Although this was done around the time Spring crops were planted, they made promises in order to get on the good side of the gods and to begin the year off right by vowing to pay off debts and by returning borrowed farm equipment. The ancient Egyptians did it at the beginning of the year when the Nile flooded, and Romans did it at the beginning of the year in the month of Janus (January). In Medieval times, knights took what was called a “peacock vow”. They placed their hands on a live or a roasted peacock and recommitted their lives to chivalry. I gather this bird was looked upon as noble and a symbol of royalty.
And so it carried on through the centuries. But I began to notice a common thread weaving them together, and it was the desire to do better or to be better in order to get on God’s good side, or to make themselves feel better about themselves. What a hard and impossible burden to bear and maintain through the year. If they messed up did that mean God was going to punish them somehow? Or something bad would happen? That they couldn’t do anything right? That they weren’t worth much because they couldn’t do it?
Of course, being the human beings we all are, they failed and today, I can’t keep my resolutions any better. I think it’s because the focus is on me and not on God. I turn my resolutions into idols. They come first and I obsess about them. But what if I took God at his word? What if the Gospel is right and I am made right with God by faith alone in Christ alone. What if I put everything in my life in line with the Gospel? Then my focus changes to God and not on me.
So let’s ask the question, “What is the Gospel?” Is it just that Jesus came and died for us so we get to go to heaven? That’s an important part of it, yes, but the Gospel is so much more. It’s the “good news”, the major announcement on TV, the front headline in the newspaper that God himself broke into this world to begin to take it back. The Gospel shows us through the example of Jesus in the Bible what Kingdom living is supposed to look like here and now. It’s about giving humankind back their proper identity and purpose. It’s God providing a way to make us right with Him, and to forever keep us right with Him. It’s knowing that we are free from rules and regulations to try and make us right with God. It frees us from continually failing in our efforts, feeling guilty, and then trying harder to succeed or to be accepted. If you believe that we are made right with God by faith alone in Christ alone, you can’t do one thing to make God love you more or accept you more than He does right now. His acceptance of us is based on what Jesus did on the cross for us, not what we do for God. We can’t do it ourselves as our yearly resolutions prove.
What it all comes down to is that I need to love Jesus more than my own agenda. Once that happens the decisions and choices I make are out of love and gratitude for what God has done, not from the mindset to do more so I can get more from God or if something bad happens in my life I must have done something to make God angry. That’s a never ending circle where I’ll always end up right back where I began or worse, and isn’t that what these New Year’s resolutions seem to do?
So my New Year’s resolution is to remember the Gospel everyday. To look at it with fresh eyes each morning and see the world as God sees it, to see people as God sees them, and to line myself up with it, not make the Gospel line up with me. I believe a lot of my “resolutions” will begin to look a lot different next year.
How about you?