Summary: Resolve a new life, not just a new year.
Not Just a New Year
Here we are at New Year’s again. We have just celebrated Christmas with all of its parties and celebrations. And most of us have overindulged in food and spending, not to mention other areas. This is the time of the year we go on a guilt trip. We haven’t been too good lately, so it is time to make amends. It is time for that New Year’s resolution. After we have one more fling at the New Year’s parties, we will straighten ourselves out. All too often, tomorrow never comes or we cave into our indulgences after a short stay. That diet works to remove five of the ten pounds that we gained at Christmas, So, it’s time to celebrate. Let’s get a pizza!
Soon, for Christians, the season of Lent comes upon us. It’s time to give up something for forty days to remember the Lord’s fast of forty days in the wilderness. Hmm—what do I give up? I know! I’ll give up tuna and peanut butter like I do every year. These are vows I certainly can keep, seeing that I don’t like either. To prepare for Lent there is the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper sponsored by the choir as a fundraiser. I know I’m diabetic, but just one indulgence won’t hurt. After all, I have all of Lent to straighten things out.
The television ads all stroke us with the illusion of free will. We are in control of our lives. We can freely choose. But why is it so much easier to choose to indulge rather than abstain? Is it really a choice, or are we slaves to our passions? I don’t know what you tell others you believe, but deep down in your heart, do you have to admit that you really don’t have it all together? Is there a great gulf fixed between your public persona and your assessment of yourself when no one is around. Does your Facebook profile show you as an enthusiastic go getter who has it all together when your private life is best summed up in Paul’s words in Romans 7 “O wretched person that I am”?
But don’t worry. The television has an answer for you. Alongside the Nutri-System and Jenny Craig ads are the ads of the psychologists. Then there is always Dr. Phil and Oprah. Surely they can steady the wreck we have made of our lives. But after we have tried out the latest fads, we still feel empty and broken. Is there any hope for us wretches?
I have good news to bring. There is help. There is someone who can fix the plague of our heart. It isn’t the advice of someone who sells his plan to get your life together, someone who doesn’t have it together himself. Just look at the lives of Hollywood idols. Do they have it together? The most of them are just as if not more desperate than the rest of us. How could they have any answers? They have wealth, influence, power, and the ability to indulge their every fantasy. They are hunted down by their own fans and followers. They seem to alternate between Hollywood and rehab. No, if you are looking for help from the world, you are looking for healing in all the wrong places.
The problem with us has been well described by a French mathematician named Blaise Pasqual. He noted that every person has a God-sized hole in his (her) heart. St. Augustine puts it in a similar what when he say that the heart is restless until it finds its rest in God. Nothing else can fill this void.
But how do we get there. Which way should we look to find God? Is God “up there”? In a spherical earth, which way is up anyway? God seems so wholly other to us. He is so remote. We know we have a whole in our heart that no surgeon can fix.
The good news is that we don’t have to find God. God has reached out to find us. Adam and Eve went out and hid themselves in the garden. They did not even want to find God, for they feared His judgment for their disobedience. They weren’t sure what “death” was, but it did not sound pleasant. They discovered they had a bad heart. But God came searching for them. He did not leave them there in desperate fear and brokenness. Yes there would be severe chastisement. They would be thrown out of the garden. The earth would be cursed and their children cursed with death and decay. But this was not the end of the story.
Paul tells us at the right time, God sent His Son, born of a woman, a birth we have just finished celebrating. His Son was not a broken human being like we are. He had it all together. He did not have a God sized hole in His heart. He was in perfect communion with the Father in heaven and perfectly did the will of He who sent Him to earth. Despite His perfection, he was allowed to feel our forsakenness. His perfect body was disfigured by scourging and crucifixion. He who deserved all acceptance was rejected by the world. Jesus did not come into the world to warm our heart at Christmastime. He came to change us.