Every year, many of us make New Year’s resolutions that are forgotten by Super Bowl Sunday. According to one website, here are the most common: Lose weight, Volunteer to help others, Quit smoking, Get a better education, Get a better job, Save Money, Get fit, Eat healthy food, Manage stress, Manage debt, Take a trip, Drink less alcohol
One of my New Year’s Resolutions every year is to get organized. I will buy a book on organization, one or two “get organized” check list pads, maybe a computer program or computer all in the hopes of organizing my life. Is the expense worth it? Not usually. Sigh!
Michelle Singletary suggested four resolutions: Resolve to mend broken relationships, become healthier, become more connected in your community, resolve to help the poor.
Here is one resolution that should stand over them all. If you really work on this one, everything else will fall into place: Resolve to repent past mistakes and deepen your relationship with God.
How do we do that? John the Baptist has his own idea. If you ever want to meet the perfect example of someone who will tell you exactly what he/she thinks regardless of the circumstances, meet John the Baptist. If he were a preacher today, he would be kicked out of every church he served within a few weeks.
Imagine him preaching this sermon to you: “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, because we’re good church members. That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create good church members from the dirt in this carpet.” (Loosely from Luke 3:7-8)
Just makes you feel warm and cherished all over, doesn’t it?
We don’t like messages like this. I have news for you. Neither did the crowd that was listening to John the Baptist. None of us relish the idea of facing the reality of what we planted. That our apathy and our lifestyle can one day catch up to us. John Knox once said: “Many believers were sowing wild oats during the week, going to church on Sunday and praying for crop failure.”
Why is there a prophet like John the Baptist? This is not a message we want to hear. Why does God require this of us? I think it’s a warning about consequences. You come to a fork in the road. One way is your way. One way is God’s way, but God’s way is uphill, and your way is downhill and it’s only logical that you go downhill.
But there is an end called consequences and John the Baptist stands at the fork of the road and says: “You brood of vipers. I’m warning you.”
That’s the bad news but there is help readily available. Even during mistakes, mess-ups, bad choices and yes… sin, God loves us. God cares for us.
So, what do we do?
We repent. When was the last time you got on your knees and said, “Oh, God, I’m going my own way. Forgive me Lord.” John the Baptist is meant to bring us to our knees and repent. He also shows us a blueprint as to what real change means: Share, be honest, be content.
But John the Baptist is paving the way for someone else who will get us off our knees and enable us to really change. That someone is Jesus. To understand forgiveness and grace, we must first understand and grieve our mistakes, our mess-ups, our bad choices and yes, ultimately our sin.
Once we genuinely understand and grieve our sins, we are ready to repent and fully appreciate the power of God’s forgiveness and grace offered through Jesus Christ.
So, what should our New Year’s resolution be for 2022? Here’s mine: “I resolve to deepen my relationship with God and expect miracles.”
What usually holds us back from these kinds of serious commitments can be summed up in one word FEAR. I found two interesting ways to express FEAR as an acrostic.
- F for forget. E for everything. A for and. R for run. Forget everything and run.
- F for face. E for everything. A for and. R for rise. Face everything and rise.
We have a choice. Forget everything and run or Face everything and rise. What choice will you make? Someone once said: “Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship with God.” How is your relationship? Resolve this year to deepen that relationship with God and expect miracles. You will not be disappointed.