With a new year comes new hopes, new goals, and new aspirations. Even if we are weary of making resolutions for fear of repeating past failures, we probably have something we want to achieve this year. Maybe your goal for 2017 is to lose some weight and get into better physical shape. Maybe it’s being a better steward with your money. Maybe you hope to finish school this year, or get accepted to a school. Maybe you want to read ten books this year, or do some home improvements, or check something off your bucket list.
Those are all good things. It’s good for us to set reasonable goals for ourselves and make progress in areas of our lives that need it. It’s good to improve in our self-discipline, our vocations and our skills. Seeking to do our very best at something glorifies God.
But it’s important for us to understand that self-improvement is not the chief end of man. We live in a culture that seems to think that self-improvement and reaching your goals are the greatest virtues in all of life. A New Year’s greeting from Oprah Winfrey reads, “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” I’m assuming by “get it right” she means, “get life right.” But who gets to say when one has finally got it right? And how do you know when you’ve finally arrived?
The fact is that none of us have ever got it right. To get life right we must love God and love our neighbor perfectly. Adam had a chance to do that in the Garden of Eden. He had every opportunity to obey God and fulfill the covenant of works. Of course, the sad story is that he failed – not only for himself, but for the whole human race whom he represented. Ever since his fall, human beings are conceived and born with the condition of original sin, that is, guilt and pollution. Adam didn’t get it right, and neither have we.
But one person did get it right: Christ. He got life right by truly loving God and loving his neighbor perfectly. He lived a righteous life, obeying God in everything. His love for others was so great that he gave himself to be punished in their place for the sins they committed. And the good news for those who haven’t got it right in this life is that through faith in Him – faith apart from any achievement or improvement on our own – we are made right with God. And we get to enjoy life in fellowship with him and his people in his covenant of grace.
That is the blessing of a new year. For the people of God, a new year means much more than another opportunity at self-improvement or realizing our dreams. For the people of God, the great blessing of a new year is that it is another year of life in fellowship with God in his covenant of grace.
Whether or not 2017 proves to be a good year or a bad one for me, and whether or not I reach my personal goals, the God who has committed himself to me in his covenant of grace has promised to lead me through another year of my pilgrimage to the shores of glory. He has promised to sanctify me by his Word and Spirit, work all things for my good, and use me in the advancement of the gospel in the world. This makes a new year exciting for the Christian.
So go on, set some reasonable goals for 2017. Enjoy the new year! But let’s not lose sight of the chief end of man: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.