A funny thing, this January 1.
I can’t help but imagine the sun giving us a weird look right now. “Okay, Earth, so now you’re one degree further over and…oh, it’s a celebration for you this time? Umm…ok. Have fun, I guess.”
This is the day that most of humanity seems to connect with a fresh start. We’ve got a new paper book hanging on the wall with a big “2017” scrawled on it, so now we get to dump the last 365 days of failure and launch a new life. Or something.
A fresh start is a nice thought. Whether it’s from failure or from simply not being someone you yourself can like, the concepts of redemption and a clean slate permeate literature, television, and film. “Lost” was a great example (darn that show. YOU NEVER TOLD US WHAT HAPPENED TO WALT!!!! Ahem…). The idea of getting to become a better person calls to all of us. Even in the darker shows (think “House of Cards”, not that I could bear to watch it for long), we root for the antihero to experience that gradual turn towards the light. The theme is prevalent – almost universal.
Perhaps there’s a reason redemption sells.
The truth is, it’s speaking to a primal, unspoken truth running through the fabric of mankind. A fresh start is not a novelty. It’s not a fallback strategy, not a last-ditch measure, not “for those other people”. It is a necessity. For everyone.
Even for you, who think you have lived a good life.
You probably feel a little incensed right now. “What have I done to require a fresh start? I’ve lived well.” The question is, well by whose standards? Littering in Singapore gets you arrested; homosexuality in Syria gets you thrown off rooftops (and you thought America was intolerant). There seems to be an inherent problem with having…what is it now?…7.4 billion different sets of moral standards running around. It can be argued that such “diversity” is the very reason for our problems as a species. And even if we did agree on morality, from where does human law and social stigma gain the authority to decide good? And what good would remain if humans changed their minds (which they do all the time)?
No. The heart must change.
If you’ve ever wondered why a loving God would send good people to hell, God’s answer is that there are no good people. It’s not about being mostly good. The Bible uses language like “blameless” (Eph. 5:27) and “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18) to describe the state necessary to enter his presence. Nobody has pulled off perfection. Certainly not me. If they had, God wouldn’t send them to hell. As it is, blemishes are sentences.
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
It’s common to be outraged at the implications of that verse. It is one of the pivotal points of Christianity, one which sweeps away the barriers to becoming a Christian if you can accept it (and leaves them in place if you cannot). It is why the Gospel will always defy the endless attempts of my generation to make it positive and socially acceptable. It is inherently offensive.
But if you’re able to be ice-cold objective right now, you could probably at least admit that your outrage alone doesn’t make it untrue. It just makes it an inconvenient possibility.
Trust me, something in me is screaming with outrage at that statement, too. It is joining in the chorus of your own.I want you to know that. I’ve done some good in the world. I really have. I’ve helped people. I’ve taught middle school, for crying out loud. And it grinds at me to have it all dismissed as absolution, as if it doesn’t make a whit of difference on my eternal rap sheet.
If you think it’s easy for a Christian to appreciate God’s stratospheric standards, you’re mistaken. Many Christians just fall into the trap of trying to please God through religious deeds. Church attendance. Bible reading. Prayer. Serving others. These are all great things, and we’re commanded to do them. But when Christians are told by God that those deeds don’t earn peace from him, or don’t deflect his wrath like only the blood of Christ can, they’re often as appalled as you. Even many Christians don’t like the gospel when they really understand it.
Oh, yes – the blood of Christ. I should mention that.
That wrath…so unfair in our eyes…until you consider that God himself offered a way out.
He didn’t have to. He could have wiped us out and been righteous in doing so. But he did not. He rescued us – with the blood of his own son.
The blood of Christ was not shed on January 1, but (we believe, and no, it doesn’t really matter that much) on a spring Passover day. It was certainly as dark as your average January, though, for the Gospel says the day experienced three hours of darkness – in the middle of the day. Three days later, he rose again. His blood became our blamenessness. That was our spiritual January 1 – the day when God’s pleasure began for all who were willing to pay the much discounted price.
It’s not as if those appalled Christians don’t have God’s pleasure. They do. It’s just generated by the blood of Christ, not their own works, which are far more spurious and halting and fleeting than that blood could ever be. God’s pleasure, mercy, and favor are established and immovable for the Christian. There is nothing he can do to make God love him more, and there is nothing he can do to make God love him less.
As far as the other obedience stuff after salvation…did I mention that it is his power that accomplishes the necessary changes? That gives you the strength to decide for him? You’re not alone in this.
Once you look at this Jesus deal from the right angle, you start wondering why anyone would turn it down.
You can pray this to receive it:
Lord, I confess that I have fallen short, like all of us. I need your forgiveness. I believe Jesus was God’s son. I believe that he came to earth as a man, died to purchase my forgiveness, and rose from the dead to give me new life. I receive that life now. I receive this Jesus as my Savior. Forgive my sins. Show me mercy. Change my heart. I trust your goodness; I choose to follow you; I surrender the rest of my life to you. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Then seek out a church nearby. Search a little while if you have to, if it helps you find one with integrity and focus.
A fresh start.
Available at any time, for any who would come. It is needed, and it is glorious.
Now that’s a flipped calendar.