Clean slate, eh?
That's the attitude toward the New Year;
That would be nice wouldn't it, that we would have the opportunity once a year to wipe it all out and start with a blank page?
However, you and I both know it doesn't work that way. We know there is nothing magical about New Year's Eve. We know that we will wake up with the same problems on January 1st that we woke up to on December 31st. Thankfully we also wake up to the same blessings and the same joy.
God gave us the measurement of time when he created day and night. Ever since then we have gotten more precise (some would say annul) with the measurement of its passage and placing significance on marking certain events in it. We celebrate the dawn of a new year much like we celebrate birthdays but does such marking of the passage of time hold any significance? Is a person any better off for being one year older? In our society we have decided that a certain age determines the difference between childhood and adulthood but most of us would agree that such an achievement does not depend on the passage of time but instead the maturity of experience. What is more important to us, that a person has achieved a certain age or that they have grown wise in their living?
The passage of time means nothing unless we are using the experiences contained in the year to gain wisdom and understanding. Instead of wanting to start with a clean slate why don't we reflect on what we have learned from our dirty one? Don't avoid the pain, learn from it? Don't forget the embarrassment, examine it and gain understanding. Don't forget your mistakes but instead use them as teaching tools so you won't be doomed to repeat them. The saddest thing is if you are exactly the same next year at this time as you are right now. Our desire should never be to stay the same but to grow, to be more than we are today.
However, I need to be perfectly frank with you. Determination is not going to do it. Did it do it for you this past year? How long did it last? Did you end up quitting for whatever reason? Determination is a good thing but it is never enough. You could have a great will power but there are always things around the corner that are capable of knocking the wind out of your sail. You desire to be a better person. You want to improve. You want to overcome. You want to be more than you are today but there are hundreds of things that can work against you at any point. Marking a New Year could be the mark of a starting point but you are still dragging all your baggage with you plus all you weak character traits plus all the things life naturally throws at you. There is only one way to see real significant change in your life; you have to change your heart.
The heart is the key to everything. If you want to see changes it has to start in the heart but the problem is that we do not have any real control over our heart. We have the illusion of control but consider the amount of failure in your life; big, little, doesn't matter because all failure comes from the same place. If you want real change the heart has to change. The only way the heart is going to change is when you allow the Creator of that heart in to make the changes. Jesus said it has to start with a re-birth:
“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3)
Paul described this event as a new creation:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
This is the only hope we have of making permanent changes to our lives because this gives us a new heart and then after that it becomes a process; a process that requires us to live life with all it's ups and downs. Several passages encourage us to face the challenges of life with great determination, understanding that they are God's classroom for us:
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)
If some people were to consider Paul today they might say that he suffered from a messiah complex or something but this message is not just from Paul. James also writes:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
And let's not forget what we find in the letters from the great Apostle Peter:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9)
No, I believe in only one clean slate and that happens whenever I turn to Jesus for forgiveness. As for New Years, my determination remains what it is at the beginning of any new day; to know Jesus more than I did yesterday so I can serve him better today. I pray that this coming New Year will see you growing in wisdom and maturity as you build upon the opportunities of the experiences our Father gives you each day of your life. I pray you will discover the largeness of his love and the depth of his forgiveness, and the marvel of his grace. And I pray you will grow into the richness of the fullness of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Trust God with the past as you do with your present and, as I hope, with your tomorrow.