It’s time to hurtle headlong into a New Year. Ready or not, here it comes. The New Year is a time to look back and to look forward. Customarily, it’s a time to get discouraged about how little you’ve grown spiritually in the previous year. Traditionally, it’s a time to drum up some New Year’s resolutions and dig in with do-it-or-die determination. Whatever your perspective on the New Year, whatever your feelings on New Year’s resolutions, or whatever your situation in life, here are two thoughts to meditate upon as you enter the New Year.
1. Something bad will happen in the New Year, so rest in God’s sovereignty in your life.
I’m not trying to go doomsday on you or anything, but let’s be realistic. Something negative is going to happen within the next 365 days. It may be as minor as a flat tire, a nasty cold, or burnt toast. But it could be something really serious. Your spouse could die—tragically and unexpectedly. You may lose your job. You may be diagnosed with a terminal illness. Your church could split. Regardless, you will experience some negative event in the next year.
What should you do when the bad days come, when the cruel event strikes, or when your life seems to fall apart? You can chalk it up to fatalism, a whatever-will-happen-will-happen mentality that leads to disorientation, faithlessness, and cowering beneath the fear of capricious brutality. Or you can trust in the all-encompassing sovereignty of God. Scripture affirms the latter. God’s Sovereignty is the reality:
- You can do all things, and…no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)
- The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. (Psalm 33:11)
- For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? (Isaiah 14:27)
- Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? (Lamentations 3:37-38)
- All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)
- He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, (1 Timothy 6:15)
- If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. (James 4:15)
All of Scripture teaches the sovereignty of God. Without this crucial doctrine, our lives are nothing more than a disconnected series of crises, emergencies, disappointments, and frustrations. Only the sovereignty of God gives to life true purpose and meaning. On the subject of God’s sovereignty, Jerry Bridges wrote, “God does have a purpose and a plan for you, and God has the power to carry out that plan. It is one thing to know that no person or circumstacne can touch us outside of God’s sovereign control; it is still another to realize that no person or circumstances can frustrate God’s purpose for our lives.
Believing and submitting to God’s sovereignty does not imply that every event in the believer’s life is going to have a fairy tale ending. You will, in fact, face confusion and disappointment. However, like an anchor secures a ship in the midst of the storm, the anchor of God’s sovereignty secures the believer during the storms of life.
Where does this leave us as we face a New Year, with its potential life-changing injuries, devastating news, or depressing events? Bridges writes, “If we are to trust God, we must learn to see that He is continually at work in every aspect and every moment of our lives….Nothing is so small or trivial as to escape the attention of God’s sovereign control; nothing is so great as to be beyond His power to control it.” God’s sovereignty is a doctrine upon which we can stake our lives…and rest.
2. You will sin in the New Year, so be confident in God’s sanctification of your life.
I would venture to say that almost nobody has the new year’s resolution “to sin more.” Most likely, you’re resolved to do the opposite. Sorry to bring you some tough news, but you’re going to sin in the New Year. Sinless perfection is unattainable this side of eternity.
When we’re tempted to bury our head in discouragement over our sin, and bewail any hope of ‘doing better’ there is something we need to realize. It goes hand-in-hand with sovereignty. It’s called sanctification. Sanctification refers to the point in time when God set you apart as a believer. But sanctification also has a progressive aspect. That is, a believer is continually being sanctified—made into the likeness of Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30). You may look at yourself, and think “Ha! If sanctification is progressive, I think I started in negative digits. I sure haven’t come very far.” Well, you started off worse than that. You started off dead. Jesus brought you to life. Sanctification isn’t just matter of more doing good and less doing bad, although that’s part of it. Sanctification is about more likeness to Jesus. It’s about total life transformation–positionally and progressively.
Sanctification is a marvelous truth. As Moises Silva wrote, “[To understand] sanctification is to apprehend a new and glorious dimension in the believer’s experience itself.” The good news about sanctification is that God has willed that you will be sanctified. In other words, He wants you to be sanctified. And what God wills, no one can prevent (see the Scripture verses above). Consider these verses.
- But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. (Romans 6:22)
- For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29)
- And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30
- And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
- For this is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
The Scripture speaks of sanctification as a positional reality. That is, we are sanctified at the point of salvation. But sanctification is not something passive. The other component of sanctification—progressively becoming more like Jesus over time—requires responsibility on the part of the believer. The book of Romans says, “For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Romans 6:19). We must not think that we can just chill out and get holier. Nor should we think that sanctification comes in sort of a second-blessing experience after we get saved. Some Christians tend to think that a crisis decision at a camp meeting will jolt them out of their spiritual doldrums and into a new plain of superspirituality. The Bible never speaks of “second shazam” sanctification experiences. Instead of hoping for some exciting spiritual jolt, pray according to God’s own will—”your sanctification” (1 Thes. 4:1).
So, New Year, here we come! Bad things happening? Most likely. Sin coming. Most definitely. What do you do? Cling to the bedrock truths of Scripture. Although these two thoughts are indeed thick theological concepts, they are there for you to grab ahold of and cling to. Although fear and frustration may rack your feeble frame, you can cling to the confidence that God is sovereign, and you are sanctified.