The start of every new year is a particular blessing, it seems to me. As God gives each of us another year of life on this old earth, a new year carries with it a built-in opportunity to take stock: to “(re-) consider our ways and be wise” (Prov. 6:6-8). We fallen human beings, many of us so easily distracted, so easily bogged down and procrastinating, surely need to do that. For myself, I find that each new January forces that upon me, and that’s a good thing.
I admit I’ve taken that Proverbs verse slightly out of context. It is addressed to “sluggards,” who are advised to consider the industrious ways of the tiny ant and to gain wisdom from her example. (My dad used to quote it to my eldest brother when that brother was a bed-loving, late-rising teenager.) The ant plans ahead, and that without being “told” to do so. It “has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provision in summer, and gathers its food at harvest.” The implication is clear: if a miniscule, insignificant ant can do that, surely we, made in God’s image, can; must. No contest.
We’re near the end of January and I’m still doing my review and reevaluating: the work I want or need to get done (writing/editing and music-related); the many household projects awaiting my time and effort; and, with Ed, continuing to consider whether we might move from our area, and when. Most important, though, is a spiritual review. Encompassing mind, heart, world-view, it must be all-inclusive.
It’s clear from Scripture that God expects us to grow in spiritual discernment, in increased devotion and in obedience to him. Obedience of any kind, much less to a “demanding” Deity, is not a concept that our modern age finds palatable. But we cannot be wholly devoted to God and proclaiming his glory with our entire lives if we don’t, or won’t, submit to his will and Word. We’re even called to be holy because God is holy. It sounds impossible. Yet the Apostle Peter tells us, Not so! God has called us; we are his, and “his divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Everything.
Ongoing spiritual growth, increasing obedience, is what Reformed theologians call sanctification. The New Testament epistles, particularly, guide us down that (long!) road. Here’s Peter, again. He sets down this spiritual progression for us: “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” If you possess all those things, he asserts, they will keep you from being “ineffective and unproductive” in your knowledge of Christ – and in your living for him.
To him be glory!
At the end of last year, as Ed and I finished reading the whole Bible once more, we naturally ended with its final book. That Revelation culminates the Bible is so right. What a way to end a year! The Apostle John’s inspired vision contains immense comfort for the Church of Christ in every age. Revelation sets forth thrilling descriptions (or terrifying, depending on where one stands in relation to God) of saints and angels praising God on this throne, and of the triumph of the Lamb Who Was Slain – the Christ who reigns, and will reign, forever and ever, and we with him! It reveals God’s great love for not only his saints who have willingly given their lives for his sake, but for all of us whose “names have been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” As the Apostle Paul puts it (Eph. 3: 20-21), this is a glimpse of the God “who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.” The astonishing fact is that that immense power is at work in us. And so we can conclude, with Paul, at the beginning of this year and every year God gives us: “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen!”
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