Our culture has a fascination with “the new.” We’ve all heard (or seen, or participated in) the stories of the hundreds of people waiting in line just so they might have whatever company’s marketing departments tell us that we “need.” In a similar way, we celebrate the start of a new year every Jan. 1. For many, this is a time to (re)start self-improvement. We start diets and workout regimens, vow to adhere more strictly to our budgets, or maybe even consider going back to school. These things are often dependent upon the American dream of hard work and determination to come to fruition. We allow our same desire for “the new” to motivate and drive us towards our new goals and ambitions in hopes that we receive a new (and better) quality of life!
While I have not been pastoring for long, I have seen throughout my life and ministry people say, “This time will be different” in regards to living out their faith. “This time” I will read my Bible more, “This time” I will stay sober, “This time” I will work to reconcile my relationships. And just as often as our New Year’s resolutions slowly dissipate into our old habits, our new commitments to faith dissolve and we find ourselves again in the spiritual dryness of life. As a seminary professor of mine once said, “Nobody sets out to be a hypocrite.” Yet, why are we often surrounded by friends and neighbors who feel as though they have failed out of faith?
Perhaps returning to our old ways arises out of our faith being rooted in a determination to try harder. Again, this reflects the American dream of hard work and determination that is preached by our society. However, God does not call us to a life of hard work and determination. Rather, God calls us to a life of love — a love that dwells with God and with neighbor.
So this year, rather than placing our hope in something new simply for the sake of something new, perhaps our resolution should not be to try harder. Rather, my prayer is that 2014 be a year where we all learn to dwell in the empowering grace of God. Instead of hoping for our hard work to change everything around us (and change does take hard work), may we reflect upon the words of the old hymn: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Our hope is not limited to our unbreakable work ethic, mindset or tenacity. Real change comes in God. After all, we are reminded in the comforting words of Revelation that God, the one on the throne is “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
God does not say that God is going to make all things new in the future, nor does God say God has already finished. Rather, God is the process of making all things new — right now. When we allow God to make us new, everything around us begins to be made new because we are being transformed by a God who is making all things new!