All around the world people are gearing up for the close of the old year and the beginning of a new one. Each country has it’s own unique way of celebrating.
The Greeks eat ring shaped cakes with silver coins in them. In the Philippines people like to wear polka dots or eat round fruit because it signifies prosperity. In Spain they eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight and, since 1904, the US has been ringing in the new year by watching the ball drop in Time Square.
Ireland, Scotland's and Denmark’s New Year’s traditions have a more sinister beginning and were meant as a way to ward off evil spirits.
As we look at our clean unmarked calendars we are given a chance to make fresh starts, especially in our spiritual lives. While I am not going to recommend we flail around with fire or wear colorful underwear in order to have a prosperous New Year, I do want to encourage us all, mostly myself, to work on doing 6 things more regularly and frequently in order to grow in holiness.
6 Things for the New Year
1. Spend time at the Cross
Of all the places you should spend your time this year make it at the cross. There Jesus died. There he accomplished redemption for a people in bondage. There he took away your sin and guilt. At the cross you learn to cry over your sins, your disappointments and your hurts. But that is not the only reason we should spend lots of time at the cross. There is much joy to be found there. The joy of forgiveness, comfort, and unconditional love are just a few graces you will experience at the cross.
Let this be the year where we rest in Christ’s work on the cross daily.
2. Plead at God’s throne
God is holy, and we are sinful. We cannot stand before him without a mediator. And Jesus is ours! In him we can approach the throne of God and we are to do so boldly.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Spend lots of time, this year, praying. Pray for everything and everyone. Don’t just coldly and matter-of-factly come before God with your wish list, but learn to pour out your heart, your deepest desires and your wishes. Confess your struggles and your darkest sins, plead with God to change you and make you holy. A great way to learn how to pray like this is to go through the Psalms. There David poured himself out before his God and held nothing back.
Let this be the year where we begin to understand the power of prayer.
3. Know God’s Truth
We talk a lot about the importance of reading and studying our Bibles, but many of us don’t put much effort into it.
Satan doesn’t have to attack us in big ways in order to keep us from the Word. I wouldn’t be surprised if he laughs at how easy it is to keep us from reading and therefore knowing God’s word. He takes our to-do lists and turns them into curses. Bible study time is often pushed aside for sleep, errands, work, cleaning, playdates and other items on our endless lists.
Make this the year that God’s word takes priority. Whether you are simply reading it or using a sophisticated method of study, make it a goal to end the year knowing God’s word much more than you do right now.
Let this be the year where God’s word is our dearest treasure.
4. Fight for Contentment
Life would be so much easier if we were content in all circumstances (Phil 4:12). Whether we have a lot or a little, whether we slept well or had a hard night, on bad hair days and good ones.
Contentment shows that we understand that our life belongs to God and that he may do with it as he wills because he is God and he is good. Contentment requires keeping Christ in front of our eyes at all times.
Let this be the year where complaining is killed and contentment is cultivated.
5. Search Out Humility
There is great quote that I came across the other day by Bryan Loritts. He said “It’s almost impossible to offend a humble person.” This has really stuck with me and I find myself thinking about often.
How many times has our day turned sour because our spouse said something that offended us? How many times have our feelings been hurt because of what a friend said or did. But a person who rightly understands who she is in light of who God is and who understands what she truly deserves (namely hell) will not be easily offended because of a careless word spoken or the inconsiderate actions of another. She will know that we all struggle with sin, that God has poured out grace upon grace, and that we are not perfect ourselves.
Let this be the year where we imitate Christ’s humility.
6. Speak about Christ often
I have 4 kids so there is always someone around with whom I can share something about God. It doesn’t have to be deep theological discussions, though those are fun. We can share with our family the things that God is teaching us. We can address disappointments and arguments by pointing them to God’s word and we can give them hope by sharing Christ ultimate work of salvation for us.
Let this be the year where our words point others to Christ.
"May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace."