New Year’s Day is a day filled with traditions. Each year, we make the turn from one year to the next in almost the same ways and fashions.
Many of us might have stayed up way too late watching Dick Clark and seeing the ball drop from Times Square in New York. Though it is a tradition put on hold for a day this year, we enjoy watching the Tournament of Roses Parade and the many college football games. We might even have a special meal we always cook on this day. My mother would make cabbage, which meant I always started the year hopeful she would make us hot dogs or anything else.
Then, there are those resolutions. These statements we make that we will aspire to in the coming year. It’s a tradition that goes back some 4,000 years, and maybe it is a tradition you have participated in today, or in previous years. There are the traditional resolutions we all seem to make from time to time. We resolve to lose weight, to be nicer, to give more, or to go on a vacation. By February, many of us will either forget what we resolved to do or have simply failed at our resolution entirely.
With that in mind, let me make a suggestion on a New Year’s resolution for each of us gathered here today. If you have made a resolution, or even if you haven’t, this is a resolution worthy for each of us to take on in 2012. May this be a year that we seek after God and grow in our relationship with our Lord and Savior. Let us resolve that in 2012 we will, as Peter suggests, become holy because our God is holy, because we will strive to grow in our witness as followers of Jesus Christ.
This is an important resolution, and I do not want it to become just another resolution we pick up and then drop because life gets in the way. Today’s worship service is built around the idea of renewing our commitment to God. In our time together, I want to give you some advice, built around 1 Peter, that will help all of us as we begin this new year.
First though, we need to look at this word holy. Peter is using a phrase that is similar to the command that Jesus uses in Matthew 5 when he says “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” When we speak of holiness, we are talking about God’s character. God is holy. His life and character is perfect in love, grace, peace, justice, hope, and compassion. We see this come out in Leviticus, which is an entire book built around the idea that because God is who he is, we are called to live in response in the same manner. In other words, because of God’s gracious acts in offering Jesus Christ as the perfect gift, the gift of salvation freely given to all of us, we are called to respond in a like manner.
Holiness is about us taking on the qualities of God – peace, justice, hope, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, grace, and so forth – and making them a part of our lives in an act of obedience and love to God. We do not do these to earn God’s favor, but in response to God’s love that he has shown us. We in turn show that love to others by being a reflection of God’s love and grace. Because we are saved by the free grace of God, we take on the qualities of God and share those with others.
Each day, not just each year, is an opportunity to live for Christ and to make each moment an opportunity to grow in all that God has for us, and to be transformed and renewed in our minds and souls by that same image. We commit ourselves daily to live for Christ, and ask God to use us in our families, in our marriages, in our relationships, and in those difficult places we find ourselves in.
Holiness and our relationship with God is not about us picking and choosing what we want to follow. God does not give us a fast food menu where we have the options to decide how we follow God. We cannot say, ‘I will accept grace, but I chose to still maintain this element of sin in my life.’ Instead, we are called to take on the life of Christ as our own and to be strangers in the world, to live differently than the world does, so that others might see there is something different about us and desire to see and know Christ for themselves. It is a difficult task, but we have the promise of the Holy Spirit walking beside us as we grow in the image of Christ.
This is an important commitment. It is a commitment we are making to live each day and moment in response and in thanksgiving for all that Christ has done in our lives. It is a difficult commitment, but the road to Christ, the road to Heaven, is narrow, but is worth the journey.
As we are making our commitments to follow Christ each day, let me make some suggestions on how to foster that commitment each day.
First, take time to be in relationship with God. As I’ve said before, we cannot expect our relationships with our loved ones to grow if we are not spending time with them, so how can we expect our relationship with Christ to do the same without spending time with God? Spend time daily in Scripture. I encourage you to read through the Bible each year. That is about four chapters a day, which is really about 10 minutes. We can all find about 10 minutes a day to be in Scripture, right? Take time to pray in ways that you open your heart and soul to God, so that you might see where God is at work in showing you the way back to God.
Encourage one another. We cannot be committed Christians without the support and love of other believers. When times are tough, or even when times are good, we need each other to support us. The church is a great place, but we also need people who we trust that we can be open with about our walk with Christ, and whom we can be praying for and who can be praying for us.
Be persistent. Our walk with Christ will go through moments where we are on the mountaintops and seeing all that Christ has for us. There will be moments where we will be valleys of despair wondering if God truly loved us. In the times of highs and lows, continue the race and press forward in the goal of becoming like Christ and being transformed in the likeness of Christ. When you do, you will see God using the highs and lows to bring you to a deeper relationship, one that you might have never imagined.
As we commit ourselves to Christ today, I want to make a comment on how this is important for us as a church and a charge. If we dedicate ourselves to growing in the image of Christ and to being faithful followers in our lives, it will have a positive impact in our communities and in the life of this church. Amazing things happen when a body of believers dedicates themselves to being used by God in ways that bring glory to God. We will grow spiritually, and we will grow in ways that brings people to the community, because they will want to know what is different about us.
So on this first day of 2012, let us commit ourselves to being holy, because God is holy. God is peace. God is love. God is grace. God is justice. God is reconciliation. God is hope. God is all of this and more. Let us take on the life of Christ and become holy witnesses of Christ’s love, because of the blood of Christ that has redeemed us all.