Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Beast of New Year!

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. - John 3:17

Christmas is over.  Just like that (imagine the sound of my fingers snapping!) weeks of rushing around, buying presents and awaiting surprised faces are over in a matter of days. Now reality sets in.  With another year gone by comes the ever-oppressive new year.   Staring at us like a giant beast of impending, judgemental doom (read: LAW).   What will be different?  How will we change?  What will we quit?  What will we begin?  How can we stick to what we couldn't stick to in 2010? (no rhyme intended)

40 to 45% of American adults make one or more resolutions each year.  Among the top new years resolutions are resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and quitting smoking. Also popular are resolutions dealing with better money management / debt reduction. The following shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:
- past the first week: 75%
- past 2 weeks: 71%
- after one month: 64%
- after 6 months: 46%

The statistics above (from The University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology) seem a little bloated but maybe I'm just cynical given my own experience with new year's resolutions.

I saw a special on The Today Show last week giving tips on how to keep new year's resolutions.   I changed the channel when the first hot tip was "make a list".   Who really needs a list to know all the things they'd like to change about themselves?   After 34 years of life, no one knows me better than me.   No one knows better than me all the things about me that could use a little shaping up, trimming down or just plain death.

Like Mr. Fox in Ronald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox who confesses he can't stop stealing chickens because, well, he's a fox, all our actions spout from our identity.   What we do is shaped by who we conceive ourselves to be.
For instance I'm a sweet tooth.  I'm absolutely amazed at how many sweets I've had these past few days.   At first it was comical (to me) but soon I was popping these Hershey Kisses every five minutes or so.    With the restraint of a chain-smoker I probably went through an entire bag as Nat King Cole sang the holiday hits in the background.   

Maybe deep down I thought "hey, it's the holidays"....but after a while, paranoia set in and I started to suspect that Megan might be on to my addictive ways as the bowl began to grow emptier and the little balled-up, shiney wrappers amassed in the trash bin.   What's wrong with me?   When is enough enough?   C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that addiction entails an "ever-increasing desire for an ever-diminishing pleasure".   I think he was on to something there.

The holidays are a perfect reminder of how little most of us really change year by year by our own will power and unfortunately, they're quite revealing as to how far we all have to go.  So how does change come?

Repentance and Baptism was the call by John The Baptist in making way for the coming of The Lord.
Turning from your old life (repentance), going down beneath the water with your old man and then being raised anew.  Not being simply cleansed by the water but (like all sacraments - physical actions having profound symbolic significance) symbolically leaving the old man below the surface while the new man is raised to walk in a new way - with a new identity.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. - 2nd Cor. 5:17

John Piper claims that sin is like mud on the windshield of your life which keeps you from clearly seeing God's pure, perfect and unique will for you.   This must have been why John (The Baptist) called people to "get right with God"... that they might recognize Him when He came.   Is it not then a continual posture of repentance that would best suit us in the new year?  Constantly turning from our old selves.  But by what power?

When Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to "Go and sin no more"  He had already accurately accessed her guilt by telling the others, "those without sin may cast the first stone."  Yet He did not condemn her; instead His grace set her free to become a new creation - to really change.  She then knew that the full force of the source of real transformational power lied in a life with Him.

My guess is, by God's grace, I'll probably change in ways I can't even recognize as the years roll by.   But as I do, The Holy Spirit will reveal more need for change through the gift of conviction.  Without God's power to do within me what I could never do on my own this would be an oppressive reality (read total condemnation).  

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. - Rom. 5:20

But with Him I can say goodbye to another year with gratitude for the work He's done in my life and greet the next one with the knowledge that, though most all New Year's Resolutions won't last past February, my God is The Beginning and The End, the Alpha and Omega and He's faithful to bring to completion that good work that He began in me. (Phil 1:6)

Happy New Year!
Christ's Blessings,
Matt (formerly Sweet Tooth)

This Week:

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM
   Jed Turman will lead discussion - See you guys next week!
   2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm) 
* The Magills - off the radar for some much needed relaxation.....

No comments:

Post a Comment