by Shane Scott
By the time you are reading this, the ball has dropped at Times Square, the clock has struck midnight, and the new year has begun. There must be some value to marking annual events like this since God gave Israel a religious calendar filled with such observances, including a new year’s festival. The calendar God gave to his new covenant people is much simpler, focusing on the beginning of each week to commemorate the resurrection of Christ and the commencement of the new creation that event made possible (Acts 20:7; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
And for many people, the start of the new year is a time for reflection, for reevaluation, and for resolutions to do better. January 1st can be a springboard to great personal growth. Some of you who are reading this may have put down an ambitious list of commitments for the new year.
But while the coming of 2019 may spark genuine resolve for improvement, the reality is that just because the page of the calendar has turned, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything has changed internally, in our heart, the only place where true repentance occurs. Perhaps this is why, according to one study, eighty percent of new year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. Without true repentance, even observances like the Sabbath of the Old Testament or the Supper of the New Testament can degenerate into showcases for hypocrisy, as they did for Israel (see Jeremiah 7) or the Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 11).
So the date on the calendar doesn’t determine what’s going on in your heart – but this is also a good thing. It means that the opportunity to resolve to make key changes in your life isn’t bound by the calendar, either. Consider this story:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:25-34)
We have no idea what year, month, or day this jailer’s life was changed forever. All we know is that when the clock struck midnight, his life was turned upside down, the gospel was preached, and he and his household believed and were baptized. The date on the calendar didn’t determine what his life would be – his response to the Lord did.
So, if you have watched great resolutions unravel already, if you have faltered just out of the gate on some goal you have set, or if you are reflecting back on years of misspent living, take heart. The clock strikes midnight every day of the year. Every day offers a chance for repentance and renewal. Just use the precious time you have been given to accept the invitation of God.
We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).