And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. (Genesis 1:14-19 ESV)
A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. (Ecclesiastes 1:4-6 ESV)
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16 ESV)
Before Wall Street, economies, mailman, and watches, God created time. Time is something He invented, He has a purpose for it (His glory, i.e. Isa. 49). He arranged for certain things to order other things. The earth revolves around the sun and therefore causes days and nights (Gen. 1), thereby affecting the routines of men. Different seasons serve different purposes for agriculture, farming, and other resources. He has given every person a limited number of seasons to observe and years to live. King Solomon witnessed this pattern in Ecclesiastes, ultimately saying that apart from obeying God, life is meaningless (Eccl. 12). What you do with your time matters, because time has eternal consequences.
It seemed fitting to write about New Years because it’s a holiday each of us celebrate in different ways. One of those ways is making New Years resolutions, but why? What does New Years Day offer people besides a new number on the calendar year? Here are a few guesses:
1) New Years gives us a sense of things starting over. It helps us feel like the past isn’t written in stone and change can happen. Some kind of atonement can be made. You can get a second chance at accomplishing your goals.
2) Not just starting over, but also rewriting the future. You are the captain of your destiny. Your weight doesn’t have to get in the way of living. You don’t have to continue going to the bar every weekend. Your vision changes from what has happened to what will happen. The question is, will you do it?
3) Not just a fresh start or looking forward, but also changing your habits. Instilling new and exciting things into your daily routine. Improving your character, and making sure your life revolves around the right things. Becoming a better you. Progress.
4) Having an end game. It’s not just about what you did yesterday or what you will do tomorrow, but also how you want your life to end. What is the end for which man created the New Years list?
If you look carefully at the points above, you will find strange parallels to the Christian life (as will be explained tomorrow). Therefore, New Years resolutions merely scratch the surface of what God wants to do in you every day: make you more like Himself.
New Years resolutions can become a cycle of defeat. Even if you meet your goals, pride will swell up or you will realize that the goals weren’t satisfying enough. So, you keep going. That’s the problem: New Years has become about us, instead of the Author of time. The world can’t see this clearly (1 Cor. 1-2), and so they miss the greatest reality of all: Jesus. Without Jesus, you will try to do everything yourself, and you will fail. With Jesus, you won’t do things for yourself, but for Him, which is the key to progress.
What I want to do over the course of the next three days is take a look at Scripture and see what God wants from us this coming year (and every year). Let’s replace the world’s view of New Years with God’s. The idea of setting goals is not bad, but we need to make sure that the gospel and the Christian life are in view before we make them. You have so much to rejoice in, so much to learn, and much more of God to know this upcoming year!
The Apostle Paul has this to say in Ephesians 5:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV)
We’re living in an evil world that does not know God. We were saved out of the world to serve the living Triune God. Paul tells us not to be foolish like the world but to know God’s will. In other words, to know what to do with your time here. Where do we find God’s will? Not in our feelings, but in Scripture.
Tomorrow we’ll re-examine the four motivations that people gain from New Years and look at them through gospel-lenses. Today, I want you to think about the time God has given you. Are you using it wisely? What needs to change this coming year?