Pastoral Perspectives

A Same Old Message For Every New Year

For my family, one of the things we try to do at the end of the year is to reduce the principal loan amount we owe to HDB. This is because a smaller principal sum would also mean we end up paying less interest in subsequent months. After saving for a year, we thank God for his gracious provision that our debt is getting smaller.

As many of us can attest to, there is a tremendous sense of freedom that comes with being debt-free and we certainly look forward to that day. To be sure, it would be even better if my family knew when Jesus’ Second Coming is. In this way, we could channel more of our finances into blessing others rather than just paying off for a flat that has a lease expiry in contrast to private freehold property. Too bad living by faith is not to be understood in this manner.

The good news of course is that living by faith does mean that there are some things Christians can be sure of. For one, we can be assured that as we begin a new year, God does not hold our failings and sins against us. Even though we may have been unable to keep our resolutions or failed to meet up to our own expectations, God’s promises as declared by prophet Isaiah “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25) still rings true because of what Christ has done.

Undoubtedly, it is a desirable thing to be debt-free in this world. But it is a far greater thing to begin the year (for that matter, as we enter each new day) resting in the assurance that when we turn to Jesus in repentance and faith, we are being set free from all the burdens of trying to prove our worth to God and those around us. Indeed, it is a most wonderful thing that God would choose to cancel out all record of our wrongdoing for his own sake. Out of God’s grace, what matters most to God is not our track record of keeping up with our list of do’s and don’ts but Christ’s perfect record for us. Through the redemptive act of Jesus, God is already glorified even as we sincerely seek to live for the glory of God.

As we prepare to enter into a new year, it would be timely to take a step back to take stock of how one has lived in 2017. We could also pray about making some resolutions and consider what are some things God is asking us to change or to focus on in the coming year. However, we need to be mindful that we are doing so only because Christ has already made us to be a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). If not for the fact that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone and in Christ alone, all our well-meaning resolutions would be like, in the words of a Christian writer, putting lipstick on a corpse!

In actual fact, a Christian does not necessarily have to wait till the last day of a year to do some reflection and make resolutions. After all, we can also consider doing this on our birthday which also happens once a year. In addition, we know that whenever God is speaking to us through a sermon, our Bible study time or personal devotion, He desires that we learn to respond in prompt obedience. Imagine if our earthly parents gave us some instructions and then we procrastinated until it is 31st December! Thank God that He is ever so patient and gracious towards us.

Although we do not know what the future holds, we can be certain that God’s mercies will be new every morning (Lam 3:23). If a Christian is going to make it through 2018 in a world filled with temptations and trials, we will definitely need much help from God. After all, it is one thing to go through life like the rest of the world. It is quite another to be intentional about setting ourselves apart for God’s holy purposes, living out our calling as salt and light of the world.

Even as many will make resolutions to grow in Christ-likeness, let us thank God that he does honour our sincere efforts and that it will not be in vain. More importantly, let us enter 2018 trusting that it is a sovereign and gracious God who will continue to work in us through the Spirit. We can have faith that God is more than able to use any number of circumstances to progressively conform us into the likeness of his Son and bring about our sanctification.

Often, the way God works to sanctify us may not be something we expect or find pleasant when we are going through it. Here, we need to bear in mind that God is not limited to merely our resolutions. After all, God knows better what is best for us and he loves us more than we could imagine him to. Just as He has shown himself to be faithful in 2017, we know that he will be the same in 2018. When it comes to God, it is not a bad thing that it is the same old message for every New Year.

Rev Edwin Wong

December 31, 2017