January is here, and with it comes the alluring promise of fresh starts and big opportunities.

We reflect on our successes and failures from the past year and determinedly set goals for bigger and better things. Flip the calendar over and start fresh! Society promises us anew that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. We can achieve anything!

We want to reach our full potential, and we decide this year will be different from all that have come before it. With every goal or resolution we set, we’re making a conscious admission that we are not what we wish we were. We’ve got room for improvement. We are falling short of our expectations.

We can feel that we’re not what we ought to be, and we’re striving for something better; however, this is beyond our ability to fix. Our problems do not lie in our inability to be true to ourselves. The widely held belief that all we need are a few more rules to fix our problems is false. Our lives are not ours. We don’t have the power to fix this.

It is not news to God that we are not reaching our full potential. As the one who created us he fully knows our potential, for both good and evil. We’ve displayed our excellence at rejecting goodness and embracing depravity. We’ve exhaustively proven that we’re more than capable of loving ourselves.

Our belief that we’re in charge of our own lives, and our obsession with ourselves was a declaration of war against the one who created us. We entered into a battle we could never win through our own effort. We were crushed by the weight of our sin, and death would be our end.

But the God of the universe saw us – unable to follow basic moral rules, without hope of ever drawing near to God, completely unworthy of being in his presence.

Two weeks ago we were celebrating a baby in a manger: proof of the scandalous good news that Christians profess. In the tiny body of God incarnate, peace on earth was declared, and goodwill to all mankind (Luke 2:14). In his compassion and mercy, Jesus chose to enter into the mess we created and were powerless to fix. Jesus emptied himself of his heavenly glory and put on human flesh (Philippians 2:7). He entered the battle and fought: not against us but for us, his enemies (Romans 5:8-11). He came to rescue us from our inability to get things right. He entered into human history and lived the perfect life every one of us has failed to live (Hebrews 4:15).

It was our sin that made Christmas necessary.

It is sadly ironic that in the wake our celebrating Jesus’ arrival and subsequent obedience to God’s perfect law on our behalf, we ring in the new year by creating yet more laws for ourselves to follow.

I’m not advocating that we should flounder around in a purposeless existence without goals or resolutions. To be resolute is to be admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering. By all means, be resolute in your pursuit of Jesus! Do the things he calls you to with determination. Make plans, strategize, and work hard (Colossians 3:23-24, Ephesians 6:7). You are here to serve Christ, so do it with purpose and passion!

Making much of Jesus is the purpose of our existence, and we should be eager to give him glory! If you are a Christian, your goals should be bound up in Christ. He is our glorious Saviour, the perfect and spotless lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He is also Lord and King, and tells us in no uncertain terms that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), to find our lives we’re going to have to lose them (Matthew 10:39), and if we’re going to follow him we’re going to suffer like he did (John 15:20).  He humbled himself and came to serve unworthy people, and those who call him Lord and Saviour are called to be like him.

Being saved by Jesus means our lives are not our own. We were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We don’t get to set goals that centre on us. In telling us to pick up our cross and follow him, he’s essentially telling us to come and die (Luke 9:23). This is not what the world has in mind when we’re encouraged to “live our best life now”. 

If we profess faith in Jesus, our goals in life should be different from what the world is aiming for because our definition of success is different.

So what are you resolute to do this year? For whose glory and fame? What are you aiming for?

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