Even if you did not own a calendar, it would be nigh impossible to forget today marks the beginning of a new year if you spend more than 30 seconds on social media. Friends are chirping about fresh resolves, with a few scoffers and sundry cynics mocking the whole endeavor. Then some claim they do not believe in New Years resolutions, or that they might be dangerous. Perhaps like me you wonder whether Christians should participate in our cultural renewal of commitments for better health, stronger discipline, self-improvement, or other purposing.
Scripture creates a tension here. Does this surprise anyone? Few areas of doctrine (that is, theology in practice) resist the pattern of revelation that seems to stretch our hearts in minds toward two poles. But after the stretching, we find our minds and hearts enlarged and expanded, better fit to receive and glorify a God who demands greater mental capacity and deeper affections than we currently have.
Bricks of Babylon
The first error would be to try and wring justification out of the observance of days and months and seasons and years (Galatians 4:10). Paul says that slavish devotion to these “weak and worthless elementary principles of this world” nullifies Spirit-wrought transformation and gospel freedom (Galatians 4:11). So the first caution toward approaching new resolve for 2016 would be this: Make no resolutions for the new year that ignore your utter dependence on the Holy Spirit for any transformation that is pleasing to God. Resolutions have potential to be Petri dishes for the bacterial infection of self worship.
You are doing yourself no favor by erecting a haughty Babylonian tower of defiance against the Spirit of God, even if the bricks of your rebellion look like a Bible reading plan.
More Spiritual than God
But now for the other half of the tension: Don’t be a Gnostic. You are trying to be more spiritual than God if you dismiss the value of rhythmic reflection and commitment renewals. Don’t be silly. It was God’s idea to create a world that rotated on its axis every 24 hours and orbited a huge exploding gas-cloud every 365 rotations. Days and months and seasons and years were created by an infinite God for the benefit of finite creatures. So to wholesale reject periodical reevaluation and reflection ignores what God made for your good.
It is true that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27), but can we all note that Jesus did not tell us the Sabbath stopped existing? It is still there, and it is for us. So, while you must not slavishly observe our next trip around the sun (point 1), don’t get so high-minded to ignore that we live in a cyclical world that, apparently, God thought was a good idea (Genesis 1:14-18).
So, go ahead and make your resolutions. Lean on the Spirit of God to enable you to say you worked harder than anyone, only it was not you, but the grace of God working in and through you (1 Corinthians 15:10). Happy New Year, and may God strengthen you for many good works in 2016.