The New Year is here. Is it time to lose thirty pounds? To find a spouse? Or, if you’re married, to build a happier marriage? Is it time to clean out the garage? Or the closet? Or maybe the fridge? Surely there’s some bold new ambition to chase!
Here’s mine. I want a closer bond with the triune God. It’s a relational goal that won’t rust, mold, break, get too crowded, or put on weight.
The “Christ to God” communion Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 2:15 is central. So that “the fragrance” of knowing him will spread everywhere, both “among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” I want to share what I find.
Of course I know this sounds awkwardly pious. I can hear the voices, “Oh, come on—give us something better than ‘jingle bells’ and ‘God bless America’!” The slightly arched eyebrow and a quick turn away, maybe to refill the cocktail glass, is the response I’ve come to expect. I know ‘Jesus stuff’ offends people who live in the real world and achieve important goals.
But here’s the thing. I met Jesus when I was already taking that direction. But the world wasn’t working for me. I felt lost: seeing lots of nonsense around me. A friend had died and no one seemed to care. I wanted success but the more I learned, the more I knew I didn’t know. I was angry, immoral, sad, small, and anxious. Life seemed big and empty. I was afraid and alone.
Here’s what Jesus told me in that moment of crisis, through Matthew chapter six: “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
It was a revolution: a relational goal way too big to exhaust! And it was personal—from Jesus himself—as a goal for every new day in the year. A goal to abide in Jesus. In his love. In his ways. In his communion with the Father. In every moment of every day of every year.
But what about arched eyebrows and the head-shaking dismissals from so many? Even among church friends? Should I tone it down and try to get more in touch with the real world?
No. What I see around me is lots of short-term fulfillment and long-term emptiness. I talked with Scott in Canada yesterday. We talked about what’s going on in the world and even in the church today. So many divorces, abortions, and degraded lifestyles are crowding in from a fallen world. Television values are wandering into stranger and more ungodly realms and many are following. Cheap and utilitarian relationships displace healthy community.
My answer was what I heard from Jesus years ago: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” We can never fix the world with new laws. Or with better education. Or with finger-waggling chastening. We need changed hearts. And that only comes by a singular ambition: to know and love Jesus.
So the basis for the dismissive response of my cocktail toting friend is simple: he doesn’t really believe in God. Or, to be more accurate, in the Triune God of the Bible. If he did Jesus would change everything. Instead it’s easier to pretend that life works with a token God and a token faith. He drives a Lexus and I don’t, so that settles the matter.
Yes, yes. I know. So for now he knows how to be the bigger presence at a New Year Eve party. But I know his Lexus will eventually rust, need to be repaired, and eventually to be replaced. And that on a day to come he probably won’t recognize Jesus as Lord.
In the meantime I’m happy to be simple and ‘pious.’ Humility never produces success in this world. But it’s a great place to be because I know Jesus offers a firm embrace in each new day. My Scripture time each morning—thirty minutes, and another ten to respond in prayer—is a great way to get started. And then talking with Jesus throughout the day is better than any other gift I can ask for.
Is anyone cheering with me? Knowing God is a great goal not only on New Year’s Eve but for all of eternity too.