Anna is a pastor, writer, and theologian who obtained her BA in religion in '06, Diploma of Ministry in '16, and Diploma of Divinity in '17.
New Year's Resolutions
December 31—the last day of 2017. Come midnight, the ball will drop and a new year will be rung in, replete with fireworks, confetti, and enough booze to float a ship. Resolutions will be made, and some will even be kept. People all over the world will celebrate the end of a year and the promise that the new one will bring.
January 1, 2018, is the first page in a book that has not yet been written. It’s as good a time as any to make plans to lose weight, stop eating meat, abstain from alcohol, quit smoking, or any number of pledges one may make in order to better themselves.
The past is gone. Tomorrow will be the dawn of a new future, and it will be as bright as we want to make it. The self-help gurus will tell you to be the change you want to see. For the next thirty days gyms will be crowded, there will be a boost in sales of nicotine patches and e-cigs. Programs such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig will see their annual membership boost. Eventually, the excitement will all die down. Some resolutions will be kept, others will be dropped like so much loose change.
Lest I sound like too much of a pessimist, people are capable of improving themselves. Every new day is a new chance to better our selves, and the New Year is as good a time as any to begin the process. To quote Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810): “If you’re not going to be any better tomorrow than you were today, then what need have you for tomorrow?” The past is gone, we have an opportunity in the present to change our future. Is their any better way to upgrade ourselves than to learn a new language, she’d thirty pounds, eat right, exercise, or stop smoking?
Don't Neglect Spiritual Improvement
As it turns out, yes, there is a better way. New Year’s resolutions that focus on the body are commendable. But focusing on the soul is even better. The body is a temporary vessel that carries us on our journey to our more permanent dwelling. And while the body may be a temple that deserves proper care, one should never forsake the soul for the sake of the body. Is it not better to enter heaven with an imperfect body than to go to hell with a perfect one? (Matthew 18:9) Matters of the permanent soul should take precedence over matters of an impermanent body.
When we became alive in Christ we left our former selves behind. Whereas before we were spiritual infants, in Christ we have reached adulthood. We are to cast off our old selves and wear with pride our new bodies, created to be righteous and holy like God. (Ephesians 4) Through Christ we should bear the spiritual fruits of mercy, love, justice, compassion, and forgiveness. We should throw away our previous selfishness, anger, greed, ruthlessness, and cruelty. Such change is attainable because we are a new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God is capable of transforming the most hardened heart and creating a pure spirit. Everyday He constructs new, spiritually clean lives from the old filth that was our spiritual lives. Through the love of God we were given another chance to be made whole. Dieting and exercise take a lot of work and as often as not they are unsuccessful. Learning a new skill set takes time and energy. Quitting smoking is difficult and takes effort. (To be sure, they are all worthy goals.) But by giving your life to Jesus you are transformed in an instant, made into new person, with a new heart, and new attitudes.
Turning your soul over to Jesus is not difficult, but that is only the beginning of the journey. You will still have a ways to travel. You will still have to work to strive for spiritual perfection and perfectly imitate Christ in His holiness. It’s a goal you will never fully achieve, yet one you must always seek. Through God you will still be transformed into a new soul. One who can always work to be a little better each day, and through God and His saving grace, it is possible. What is dirty will be made clean, and the old will give way to the new. We can walk in the truth of God’s salvation as an entirely new creation. He will never abandon us on our journey but will stick with us all the way. No matter how rocky the road may be, He will remain ever at our sides.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its decietful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
— Ephesians 4:22-24
Seek Ye First the Kingdom of Heaven
We are to forget our former way of life. The mistakes we made are in the past. We should make restitution where we can and set our sights on the future. We must allow God the room in our hearts to work on our new selves. We will know we are transformed by the peace that only Jesus can provide. We will show we are transformed by the love that we give to others. We can do this because Jesus gives us an abundance of love. He loves us so much that our souls can’t hold it all and the excess spills out and drenches others. We are not asked by God to love everyone, friend and enemy alike, we are told by God to do so, that we may be sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven. (Matthew 5:45) And He provides a way for us to love the unloveable through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus the Christ.
So this new year, set your sights on the spiritual change that can come through Jesus. Be holy, as He is holy, and love your neighbor as yourself. God bless and good luck, and happy New Year everyone.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here.
— 2 Corinthians 5:17
© 2017 Anna Watson
Anna Watson (author) from Atlanta, GA on January 04, 2018:
I hope that 2018 is filled with blessings for you and yours!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 04, 2018:
Thanks for this very appropriate message of surrender to Christ as we begin the New Year. Happy 2018 to you!