Walking Wisely in the New Year

By Pastor John Crotts

           With the coming of a new year usually comes a time of personal evaluation. Many people take time to reflect upon where they are in life, and where they would like to be. Often we make New Year’s Resolutions to begin the year refocused on our goals (one of which is to lose holiday bonus pounds!).


            In the history of the Church, one man is especially noted for his personal resolutions. Jonathon Edwards made a series of resolutions when he was a teenager, and added to his list throughout his lifetime. These resolutions are very challenging, especially in light of his young age.


            His twenty-eighth resolution was: Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same. 


            One theme in Edwards’s resolutions, which is foreign to us, is reflection on his own death. Number seven was: Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life. Two resolutions later are these words: Resolved, To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances that attend death.


            His seventeenth resolution was: Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.  


            While it may seem morbid or strange to think about one’s own death, it is actually a wise practice. Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Thinking about our death helps us sort out our priorities. If you knew you only had two weeks to live, you would probably not waste your time on unimportant things.


            These thoughts also remind us that this life is not all there is. Hebrews 9:27 says: “...it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Many sail through life supposing they can take care of the things of eternity later. Unfortunately, many face God at the judgment completely unprepared.


            The thought of death also leads us to question the cause of death. Why do people die? The Bible says that sin is the direct cause of death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

We die because of Adam’s sin in the garden, when the whole race was plunged into sin and its consequences. We also die because of our own personal violations of God’s laws.


            The most important question to ask in these regards is, “Am I prepared to die?” In Psalm 90, Moses prayed for the ability to number his days, to be able to have a wise heart. The entire psalm is a contrast between God’s greatness and man’s frailty.


            The first two verses highlight God’s character. He is eternal. He is an everlasting shelter and refuge to his people. He is God—king of creation, and unchanging in his faithfulness.


            He is also a holy and just God. Verses 3-12 of Psalm 90 demonstrate man’s frailty. They provide a striking contrast to God’s eternality. Our frailty is exposed in verses 3-6.


            Moses says we are but dust, specks on the time charts, and like grass in the desert that is scorched by evening. Our frailty is explained in verses 7-12.


           The reason we are so weak, and our lives are so short is because we are under the wrath of God. Many people underestimate the seriousness with which God takes our sins. Some think coming to Christ means our sins are all gone and thus no big deal. Be assured God takes every sin seriously.


           Even if you are forgiven, every single sin you have committed and will ever commit is directly against him and was purchased by the very blood of his Son. Moses questions, “Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?” (Psalm 90:11). If you don’t treat these matters earnestly, it shows your irreverence for God himself.


           If you are to walk wisely in the new year, you must do some important thinking. Think about God. Think about his greatness, eternality, justice, wrath, and everywhere-presence. Think about yourself. You are sinful, finite, and under God’s just condemnation.


          Numbering your days does not mean checking them off on a calendar. It means making every moment of every day count for God. Living like you would want to live when you come to die.


          Psalm 90 concludes with a prayer for God’s mercy and his blessing on our work. Though God is just, he is also merciful and offers forgiveness to those who will repent of their sins and believe on his Son the Lord Jesus Christ.


         Though God is the reason for our frailty, as he judges us for our sins, he is also the source of mercy. He is also the source of blessings upon our works. If anything good is to come out of our lives in the new year it will be because of God’s blessing. Begin this year with a fresh commitment to follow the great and glorious God.