In this article, Elder Murray Palmatier, who co-pastors the CGI Burlington congregation, offers some deep insights for Christians as we enter a new calendar year and decade. This time of the year, many people get caught up in the ritual of making “New Year resolutions,’ which often come to nought. For the Christian, he argues, let us follow the Word of God instead of man-made traditions or pagan rituals because, “when we follow in the traditions of this world, we risk drifting away from God, regardless of our initial intent.”
Elder Murray writes…With 2019 now part of our “historical record,” you have likely already performed your annual ritual of replacing your old calendars with ones that read 2020. What a year 2019 turned out to be! The world is clearly in a state of transition – one which we cannot help but think is a pre-cursor to “the beginning of sorrows” (Matt 24:8).
Along with changes in the geo-political systems of this world happening at breakneck speed, mankind typically uses this time of year to set personal goals for the coming year. Typical “New Year’s Resolutions” involve self-improvement in terms of education, health, finances or inter-personal relationships. Unfortunately, these promises rarely have lasting effects.
What Improvement Means for Christians
For Christians, self-improvement is one of the hallmarks of our walk, but are there pitfalls in following these common everyday practices? First and foremost, we cannot forget that the calendar we follow is God’s calendar. We are forced to use the Gregorian calendar because we live in today’s world. But our spiritual lives are guided by the calendar God instituted and gave to His people at creation. Gen 1:14 tells us that the lights of the heavens are “for signs, seasons, days and years”. The sun tells when the weekly Sabbath is and the moon helps us calculate when the annual Sabbaths are. (As a reminder, compare the Hebrew word for seasons in Gen 1:14 to the Hebrew word for Feasts in Lev 23:2 – it is the same word – “moed”).
Our spiritual lives should be guided by the calendar of God. The Sabbath is a weekly opportunity to focus on our relationship with God and His people. The Annual Sabbaths remind us not only of the merciful plan of salvation, but, as Paul points out in 1 Cor 11:28 (“let a man examine himself”), we are commanded to assess ourselves, in relation to our God, our Saviour, and His Body, The Church. Secondly, following any holiday tradition prescribed by man is flirting with danger. Did you know that New Year’s celebrations date back to honouring the Roman god, Janus? Janus was the two-faced god (facing both ways, future and past) of beginnings and transitions. He was worshipped as a god who symbolized change because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other.
While it may seem harmless to celebrate a new year or to set a few “new year’s resolutions,” God plainly tells us in Rom 12:2,
“Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (NLT).
Examining oneself is a lifelong process that should be year round, with an increased focus in the lead-up to the Holy Day seasons. But, when we follow in the traditions of this world, we risk drifting away from God, regardless of our initial intent.
Why Examine Ouselves?
Finally, let’s take a quick look at why we need to continually examine ourselves against the portrait of the “mind of Christ” painted for us by Paul in Philippians 2:1-11. We referred briefly at the beginning of this article to the changes in world conditions that we have seen accelerate in 2019. When we read the book of Revelation, which provides us with foresight of the events which precede the return of our Saviour, Christ Himself gives the reason for the Revelation. The initial vision of John is of the seven stars and seven golden lampstands seen surrounding “One like the Son of Man” (Rev 1:12-13). In verse 20, Christ tells us that the mystery is of the angels (stars) and the churches (lampstands). Then He continues in chapters 2 and 3 to give a detailed account of the conditions of His Body, as portrayed by the seven churches in Asia Minor. As the complete Revelation comes to a close, we are not left simply with the vision of the Tree of Life as the centrepiece of the Kingdom of God. Rather we are left with explicit instructions on our behaviour in the meantime, connecting us back to the introduction which lays bare Christ’s report card on The Church.
As The Body of Christ, we are told,
“He who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still” (Rev 22:11).
Further along, He tells us
“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter into the gates of the city” (v.14).
So, let’s not try and be better simply because we’ve hung a new calendar on the wall. We owe it to God, to Christ and to the entire Body of Christ to
“Be holy in all your conduct, because it is written ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
Let’s move forward together, exhorting one another on to holy conduct and godliness.
For more on this subject, download FREE our booklet, GOD’S SEASONAL PLAN.