Summary: We have to guard our Christian focus and make sure that it remains on Christ.
It is New Year’s Day. Happy New Year everyone! We all know what the coming of the New Year should mean to us all. It’s time to take an inventory of how we lived in 2011 and think through some much needed changes for 2012. In other words, it’s time to make a list of New Year’s resolutions.
Many of our lists will be ambitiously long and they will require us to include a healthy amount of wishful thinking. There is also a good chance that most, if not all, of our lists will include some leftover from 2011.
From losing weight to saving money, many people traditionally associate New Year’s Day with sobering up, not only from the night before, but also from the disappointments and distractions of the previous year. For those who were too busy, it’s time to start enjoying life. For those who were too lazy, it’s time to get organized and motivated.
Now there is nothing wrong with reflecting on the last year and doing a bit of self-analysis to see how we might focus on a few things to improve our lives, but shouldn’t there be something more to the resolutions we make as Christians? Or maybe we should say, shouldn’t there be a little less of us in the resolutions we make?
You see the problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they are essentially self-focussed. We look inward and evaluate what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong. Basically what we are doing with New Year’s resolutions is trying to figure out a way we can increase our happiness and self-satisfaction. We reason that if we could only, lose more weight, or lift a few more weights, or put a few more dollars in the savings account, or spend a few more hours organizing ourselves, or get more serious about succeeding at work, or finding a better job, or even spending more time in prayer and reading the Bible, we would be happier and find ourselves on the path to a richer, fuller, more satisfying and more God-pleasing life. Resolutions are “ME” driven. So, while some of these New Year’s goals and wishes might be admirable and worthwhile, the problem is our focus.
A couple of days ago on Twitter, preacher Rick Atchley wisely wrote: “As you make your resolutions, remember: it doesn't matter how accurate you are if you're aiming at the wrong target.”—Rick Atchley
As Christians in the West we have a problem, whether we are talking about New Year’s Resolutions, or just our interest in Spiritual formation and growth, and our problem is that we are often aiming at the wrong target.
Even when it comes to our spirituality, we are often aiming at the wrong target. Preacher Todd Wilken recently said. “Many pulpits across the land consistently preach the Christian and not the Christ.” What he means by his comment is that there is a lot of preaching going on in the church in North America that is “ME” focussed. Instead of glorifying Christ, it focusses on us as followers of Christ. We want church to be practical and helpful. We want tips to living better lives. We want wisdom on how to have better families. We want biblically sound principles on everything from how we should find a mate to how we should have a more satisfying prayer life. We want to be challenged to live an exciting, meaningful, eternity-impacting life, and all of this stuff is good, but ultimately it’s preaching that is off balance and off target if it is always focused on the Christian and not Christ.
We spend way too much time thinking about how we’re doing, if we’re growing, and whether we’re doing it right or not. We spend too much time pondering our spiritual failures and dwelling on our spiritual successes. Somewhere along the way we’ve come to believe that the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian, but it isn’t.
Here is a question I want you to consider. Don’t answer out loud and don’t answer too quickly. True or false: the primary focus of the New Testament is our growth in personal holiness as Christians. When I say primary focus of the New Testament let me make it even easier for you: let’s take the Gospels and Acts out of the equation for a moment. Obviously the purpose of the Gospels is to give us the account of Jesus’ life and ministry and the purpose of Acts is to give us a record of the history of the Early Church and how it grew, so let’s take those books off the table and just consider the rest. True or false: the primary focus of the New Testament is our growth in personal holiness as Christians.