Happy 2016 everyone! We hope this year is filled with God’s blessing for each of you.
As we enter into the new year, there is the inevitable conversation of resolutions, new beginnings, and how resolutions never work. And while this conversation is tired and cliché, it bears looking at why it is tired and cliché.
Think about the kind of things we do for resolutions. We want to eat better, drink less, spend more time doing certain things, and less time doing other things. They tend to be small adjustments that require a minimal amount of inconvenience.
One of the reasons they don’t work is because we quickly find out how ingrained our habits are. Small adjustments don’t have the power to change the things we have literally hard-wired our brains to do.
Which is why (for example) jumping from six-week diets to six-week diets never really works. We aren’t trying to rewire how we think about food, we are just trying to adjust for six weeks and hope the scale reflects that we made some changes. But after six weeks, we are right back eating all of the stuff we avoided during the diet.
Now, I am not against diets or New Year’s resolutions by any means. Diets can be very helpful in a struggle with food. New Year’s resolutions can bring about many benefits. But they don’t have the power to transform. And I think the same mentality carries over into how we view what it means to be a Christian.
We often assume that if I want to be a (better) Christian, I just need to add a few things and take a few things away.
So I read my Bible more, subscribe to a blog or podcast or two, I go to church, join a small group, pray more…. Or I get rid of the bad stuff in my life which is not on the approved Christian list.
Which are all really good, important things (especially the blog subscriptions – tell your friends). But these are also void of the ability to transform our lives. If we see Christianity as a list of do’s and don’ts we need to be better at each year, we will never really experience the impact of what it means to follow Jesus.
Which is why Jesus gets all wrapped up and twisted into other aspects of our lives. When I just add Jesus to my list of New Year’s resolutions and do’s and don’ts, Jesus is then just an extension of everything else in my life.
So you can’t be a Christian unless you think, act, and look like I do. Christianity gets wrapped up in nationalism, partisanship, denominational preferences, etc. because we assume what it means to be a Christian is to do all the things I do, vote the way I vote, assume the things I assume…and then read my Bible.
Which makes Christianity basically ineffectual. We get caught up in the same old tired, cliché debates and discussions, and nothing really changes. The world, our churches, and even our own hearts and lives are unaffected and seem to continue to have the same old problems.
But Jesus comes to break all of these patterns.
Jesus doesn’t come to offer us better New Year’s resolutions, or another set of do’s and don’ts. Jesus comes to offer us whole new ways of being.
Jesus comes to offer something new. We often speak of “the new thing” Jesus comes to bring in terms of moving from the Old Testament to the New Testament, but the Messiah brings us new things every single day.
When we look around the world, or at ourselves, and we wonder why things aren’t changing…it is because we are approaching the problems we see with the same set of assumptions that created those problems to begin with.
Jesus comes to give us something new. Something better.
Tweaking the same old ways of doing things will never have the power to truly change ourselves or the world. We need fresh eyes, and new ways of seeing and being in the world.
The new ways, however, are difficult. They require us to love and forgive, even our enemies. They require us to affirm the dignity and image of God in all people, even those who are radically different. They require us to give sacrificially rather than protect our own interests. It requires we hunt out our own assumptions about the world and begin to replace them with the truth of Jesus on the cross. And assumptions do not go down without a fight.
Jesus wants us see the world more and more through his eyes. But we can’t do this alone. Only when we truly have the desire to let Jesus be more important than our nationality, partisanship, denomination, whatever it may be, we will begin to allow him room to move in our hearts and do the hard work of re-wiring our brains, and to allow something new to truly be born this year.