How the Gospel Resizes Our New Year’s Hopes and Fears

Looking to what God has done in the past in order to find courage for the future is a common theme throughout Scriptures.

One thing I learned in the course of my long life is that hopes and fears are in constant need of bridling and resizing, to bring them in accord with reality and with the ultimate goal of our lives—a goal that the Shorter Westminster Catechism, a 17th-century summary of the Christian faith, defines as “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

 

A new year is at our doors, waking up a mixture of hopes and fears. For many, it’s a chance to turn a new leaf and explore a new territory that, from this side of the fence, looks promising and green. For others—especially those who have been suffering or have received unsettling news—it may look like an ominous void.

One thing I learned in the course of my long life is that hopes and fears are in constant need of bridling and resizing, to bring them in accord with reality and with the ultimate goal of our lives—a goal that the Shorter Westminster Catechism, a 17th-century summary of the Christian faith, defines as “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Resizing Our Resolutions

School children of my generation used dip-pens and ink. Spills had to be blotted, and mistakes removed with strong erasers that gnawed through the paper. I remember my frequent trips to the teacher’s desk to ask for a new sheet. There was both remorse and shame, but also a strong determination to do it right.

New Year’s resolutions remind me of those feelings. Most people are ready to admit they have not lived up to their expectations. But they are ready to try again, holding on to the hope that a clean slate will allow them to succeed. If they have a history of broken resolutions, they may lower the bar—or Google “broken resolutions” to find a large assortment of tips on how to claim at least a partial victory.

For Christians, there is—as in many other areas— a need for discernment. When it comes to practical resolutions such as losing weight, getting more exercise, or reading more books, the advice we find on Google might be helpful. But when it comes to keeping God’s law, we enter into a completely different dimension, where no number of “simple steps” can earn God’s favor or achieve victory over sin.

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