In reality there is nothing different or special about a new year. Monday, January 1st, is just another Monday. The significance of New Years is the emphasis we place on it in that we acknowledge the earth making another trip around the sun and, like our birthdays, which mark our individual time on earth, the observance of New Years is simply a collective acknowledgement that time itself is a year older. So, while there may be no real difference in Monday, January 1st, from any other Monday, it is our acknowledgement of time’s passing that causes the whole world to stop and celebrate; a global party, if you will.
Many people make new years resolutions, many of which don’t survive the first week, but we make them nonetheless because passing the new year mark affords us a measuring point of reference. It’s not a difference in the day or year, it’s a difference in our attitudes that says, from now on things will be different. And so, though we often fail to live up to those resolutions, we make them with the hope that things will be different.
In Exodus, Chapter 20, Moses records how God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments. (Boy, talk about new years resolutions!) Here was God saying, “You want to be holy? You want to be different from now on?” Well, we all know how that turned out. The Israelites failed miserably. And so do we. ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our righteousness is as filthy rags. (My translation: our very best stinks to high heaven!) The problem isn’t with the commandments, the problem is with us. Even Paul, Mr. Christian himself, couldn’t keep them.
So, are we exempt from trying? It comes down to heart. David is my biblical hero, the person with whom I most identify. David committed adultery with the wife of a friend, had her husband murdered, and lied about it to cover it up! I think it would be safe to say that he was a failure as a man of God and yet God called him “a man after His own heart.” Should we live lives that glorify God and reflect the character and nature of Jesus? Absolutely. Can we pull it off? Absolutely not; not perfectly anyway. So, much can we fail and still be a man, or woman, after God’s own heart? Do I deeply desire to please the Lord? Do I read His word and desire to fulfill His instructions and live by His precepts?
The Christian life presents us with questions that are not always easy to answer. I think it’s worth pondering that scripture says that though a righteous man may fall seven times he can get back up. I doubt that the writer of that proverb (Proverbs 24:16) was putting a limit on how many times a righteous person may get up, but making a point that even righteous people fall, and that it’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you get back up!
You gotta love Peter; brash, impetuous Peter. On the night Jesus was betrayed in the garden, he claimed he didn’t even know Jesus, not once, but three times! If ever there was a case to be made for three strikes and you’re out, someone could preach a sermon and build a doctrine to support it upon Peter’s failure. But we know that Jesus didn’t call him ‘out’. Well, actually He did call him out. In fact, Jesus called the whole church ‘out’. We are the ekklesia. That Greek word that we translate ‘church’ means, “the called out.” We are called out of darkness, out of bondage, out of trying to be good enough to earn righteousness. In fact, it’s Peter who writes, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him Who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
So, the next time you fail to live up to God’s standards and your own, remind yourself that two of the principle players in God’s story, David from the Old Testament and Peter from the New, both failed miserably and yet God used them. And remember that ultimately, it’s not about how good we are; it’s about how good God is!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!