After the excesses of the Christmas Festival, many of us will be looking at our waistlines and making New Year’s resolutions, committing ourselves to a diet or a fitness regime in order to improve our health. Perhaps it will be a decision to break a habit like smoking or to reduce consumption of alcohol. These are worthwhile lifestyle changes that doctors recommend as having significant benefit on our health and wellbeing. However if your experience is anything like mine, all too often these well meaning New Year’s resolutions quickly get broken and we slip back into our former habits and excesses. Every year thousands of people sign up to gyms and health clubs but find that after only a few months, the only pounds they are losing are from their bank balance when they can’t get out of the contract!
Many people view Christianity in the same way; they experience an inner conviction in their heart that something needs to change and so they look to religion, imagining that by attending church, reading their bibles, praying and being good (whatever that means) they will become acceptable to God. The shocking truth of Jesus’ teaching is that you can do all those things and actually be further from God than you were before. Jesus said “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) Jesus said this in response to proud religious people who thought that by doing certain things they were made righteous; in actual fact they were self righteous which made them offensive to God. This is revolutionary! Jesus says that he didn’t come to call those who can live by the rules, those who can turn over a new leaf and maintain resolutions. In fact he came to call those who know that they can’t.
By all means make New Year resolutions if you want to improve your health and fitness. However if you want to improve your standing before God, what you need is a New Year’s Revolution. Admit that you can never earn his favour by anything you do. Acknowledge that you will never be good enough to deserve anything other than condemnation, that, to use Jesus’ word, you are a sinner. Once you have reached that place then you are ready to receive Jesus’ gift of forgiveness that he has promised. Look at what John, Jesus’ closest friend, wrote: ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. (1 John 1:8-9) I pray that this New Year will be the start of a lifelong revolution for you and everyone else who reads this message.
This blog post featured in the January 2014 edition of Hook Focus