While many people are deciding how to celebrate on December 31 and figuring out their New Year’s resolutions, what should Christians be doing? There might not be one “right” way to observe the transition from 2021 to 2022, but here are some thoughts to help believers stay Christ-focused.
A Fresh Start for the New Year
Many people, no matter what they believe, look at January 1 as a chance for a new beginning. If the previous year was disappointing or they made significant mistakes, they imagine wiping the slate clean and starting over.
Christians know that new starts are available any time, they are not dictated by the calendar. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
All those who confess and repent their sin can enjoy freedom from regret and shame. They can find courage to endure through trials. Joy and mercy are available for every believer, all the time. A new year, however, inspires this kind of thought process.
1. New Resolution: Confession
Starting over often turns into making resolutions, but quitting smoking, starting a diet, or purchasing a gym membership is only the beginning of a “fresh start.” If there is a sin issue in any person’s life, he or she can address it right now.
In fact, peace awaits the one who is quick to confess and repent of sin. “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD” (Psalm 32:10).
Bad habits and addictions are symptomatic of deeper issues. Rather than making a resolution to quit doing something or start doing something else, take advantage of this renewed impetus to face sin in your life and find freedom from its effects through the Father’s loving direction.
For example, you might be the kind of person who seeks attention by causing drama. You might run from conflict by exercising too much and trying to control a painful situation by regulating calories carefully.
Fear could be driving you to drink or abuse drugs. These habits or addictions enslave a person; they rob peace because alcohol or exercise or drama becomes a focus of worship; an idol.
The New Year is a perfect time to dig up the roots of trouble by the power of the Holy Spirit, under the assurance that honest and whole-hearted repentance leads to life and peace (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Remember these words from the Apostle John: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Jesus does not want his people to be burdened by their sin. He wants them to experience freedom.
Just remember that, although God’s Word contains all the answers one needs to overcome addictions and work through conflict, gospel counselors provide direction and support, helping to connect the Lord’s promises to one’s unique emotional needs.
A responsible and discerning counselor will also suggest medical attention where necessary: certain habits and behaviors can be the result of a clinical issue or trauma and could require medication, at least for a time.
When one faces the turmoil of personal sin in response to sins committed against him or her, the New Year could be a time when both parties reflect and make changes.
But the work of the Spirit in each person’s life is between him or her and God. Part of learning to overcome addictive behaviors is, potentially, finding the courage to walk away from an abusive marriage, friendship, or job. A counselor can help.
2. Remember All the Lord Has Done
“Take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 6:12). Christians are enjoined to never forget what their Lord has done for them.
A Christian who obtains his greatest joy from the Lord sees January 1 as a time to remember the goodness of God as it has unfolded across the past year. Sometimes the details of God’s intervention are only obvious when one surveys his goodness over time.
We can never remember the Lord’s grace and mercy and love towards us too often. Remembering Christ is essential; the more one does this the better.
But at the start of a New Year, one might reassess which direction to go with regard to career or a relationship, what his or her cross might be, and to either change course or stick with the established One.
If this is a difficult season, go back to Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Recall that Christ knows the temptations you face, the suffering you endure. He is able to sympathize, so turn to him without fear.
3. Celebrate the New Year
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). This is the Psalmist’s exhortation for every day, not just New Year’s Day; not only on good days, when we anticipate the company of friends and a great meal, perhaps music and dancing. Every day is the Lord’s Day and every day we are his.
Christians do not need to avoid “fun” as though Christ was averse to it. God does not demand that we be serious all the time.
Adrian Rogers explains, “Jesus was not a recluse. He performed His first miracle at a wedding, when He changed water into wine. He was so full of life that His enemies called Him a wine bibber and a glutton. He was not, but there was in Him a genuine joy, and if you don’t have that joy, you’re not like Jesus, for He is literally leaping with joy.”
We are not called into debauchery, that is not joy; but we are encouraged by Christ’s example to be filled with the exuberance for life, which is living inside of us by the Holy Spirit.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-15). We have so much reason to celebrate.
4. Christ Coming Closer
Every year, someone predicts the end of the world. This so-called prophet names a year and tells the world not only when but how the world will end. With each new catastrophe and major conflict between world powers, Armageddon seems nigh, but only God knows when the end will come (Matthew 24:36).
Yet, every January 1, Christians wonder “will this be the year Jesus returns?” One thing is for sure: Jesus’ return is sooner today than it was yesterday. With that in mind, we prepare.
We are God’s children now, and […] we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3).
John Piper explains what it means to be in Christ: “if you really want to be like him by seeing him when he comes, you’ll pursue being like him now. You will.” In other words, the New Year is a reminder to keep Jesus ever in the forefront of our minds.
Why Does This Matter?
New Year’s Day is no different from any other day as far as Christ is concerned. For the believer, however, the very idea of throwing out an old calendar and starting with 12 clean pages is a poignant reminder that the pages, like our lives, quickly become messy.
New Year’s Day is a day of resetting hearts, which have wandered, and of restoring the habit of turning to Christ every day for a fresh start, not in a new relationship, but in a relationship with Jesus, which is always growing.