The New Year is typically a time of reflection and resolve. Many people, both Christians, and unbelievers, take the time to evaluate their lives and to make new efforts at self-improvement. Pastor John Piper talked about the importance for Christians to “resolve in the strength that God supplies” in his Jan. 1st episode of Ask Pastor John. I think times like the New Year and the reflection that it brings are a gift from God because they are opportunities to hear the Holy Spirit’s conviction and guidance. For unbelievers, this means hearing the call to repentance and faith. For believers, this means a time of looking back on what God has done and looking forward to how we might both serve him and grow more in the image of Christ.
I think we err, however, if we only do this as a matter of tradition each year as we recover from the business of holidays. Christianity is a faith that should be steeped in meditation on God’s word as well as a personal reflection on our lives. This is more than asking ourselves, “what can I do to be a better person.” We must constantly be seeking God in times of worship, reading his word, and listening for the guidance, teaching, and conviction of the Holy Spirit, who works in us against the desires of the flesh so that we can become more fruitful and more Christ-like (Gal. 5:16–24).
I recently gave you a list of Bible reading plans and said that I had begun the “Change Your Mind” reading plan. Because this plan has you read each book of the Bible 20 times (I am only doing this with the New Testament this year), it provides you with the benefit of both familiarity and the opportunity to deeply reflect/study the texts. Lately, I have been thinking about the connection between reading, reflecting, and resolution. My reading plan is helping me to grow in all three areas. Let me share a little about what is going on in my heart in the last few weeks since I began this reading plan.
My first two books in this year’s reading plan are Jude and 2 Peter. To be honest, before I began this plan a few weeks ago, I had not focused very much on the book of Jude. Now that I have read it at least twenty times, studied it, reflected on it and its application for my life and the life of the church, I am amazed at its relevance to our culture today and its importance to my walk with Christ. Jude and 2 Peter are very similar in their message, and both have caused me to reflect on my own walk with Christ as well as the tremendous gifts of grace God has given us as his children. The messages of 2 Peter and Jude have led me to strengthen my continued resolve to “become partakers of the divine nature,” by becoming more and more like Christ (2 Peter 1:3-4).
The two sections of scripture that are currently running through my mind each day are 2 Pet. 1:3–8 and Jude 24-25. I am simply amazed at Peter’s statement in 1:3 that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” (cf. Romans 6:1-12). This means that I have access to everything I need to become like Christ (though this will only see completion when I see him face to face 1 John 3:2). Peter then goes on to say that because of this I should “make every effort” toward sanctification. This is not a self-powered effort at better living. It is God’s “precious and very great promise” that in Christ “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV) Ultimately, I am empowered to obey God, continually resolving to put off the old flesh and put on the new way afforded to me in Christ. After all, he not only saved me but called me “to his own glory and excellence,” (2 Peter 1:3 ESV). I know that this will come to pass because it is the promise of our great God and Savior, who is able to keep me “from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,” (Jude 1:24 ESV). Wow! Not only is God powerful, but he is good. Not only is he working in me toward holiness, but toward great joy in his presence! What great news this is.
So, my reading has caused me to reflect on both God’s word and my life. It has caused me to reflect on his power, goodness, and the grace that he has granted me access to. It has caused me to reflect (and act upon) my responsibility to use that grace toward a life of godliness. I am encouraged by all of this because I am told that my resolve is not the basis for success, but rather it is my connection to God through Christ and his resolves to see it through.
I pray that 2020 will be a year full of reading, reflection, and resolve for you.
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