As we come to the end of a most eventful year, we will read many reviews of the year past. Individuals also lo back to see how they kept their resolutions made a year ago. The thought of unkept resolutions is a source of year-end laughter. An introspective lo back is a good thing. As Christians we join in the levity of resolution making. But our year-end review will also take on a serious bent.
Honesty compels us to do that which we don’t like to do, namely, measure our past in the light of God’s holy will. Have we always and without fail loved God above all things? Have we always shown respect to the name of God? Have we always and regularly heard and learned His Word gladly? Have we always respected authority? Have we never spoken an evil word against our neighbor, and always befriended him in need? Have we led a chaste and decent life, a life free of sexually perverted thoughts, and maybe even acts? Have we never sought to take advantage of our neighbor instead of helping him to improve his property and business? Have we never spoken evil of our neighbor, or coveted that which belonged to him? Are we ready even now to confess to sin, or are we trying to find some excuse for it? Are we thinking that whoever wrote this must be a killjoy, or be one who delights in making people miserable? Honesty can create misery, a misery however, from which there is release as the Christian remembers with thankfulness the grace of a lifetime past and a year past.
That grace is the grace of God Who gave His only begotten Son into death. The Son Who came to earth kept the Law in our stead. He bore our sins and gave us His righteousness. He who died and rose again delights in forgiving the sins of those who in honesty say, “I have sinned.” He delights to speak these words to those who call upon Him, “My son, my daughter, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” Indeed His name is Jesus “for He shall save His people from their sins.” The Heavenly Father no longer counts our sin against us. They are drowned in the depth of the sea; they are removed as far as the east is from the west. The Christian’s glory as he los back is not that he is without sin, but that His sin is forgiven. And as Luther said, “Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” A lo back for the penitent Christian is a joyful lo as he remembers the words of Scripture recorded in Romans 8:31-39. In these words as we honestly lo into ourselves, and then out from ourselves to Christ, we see that the embrace of grace is even greater than our sin, “For where sin abounded, there grace did much more abound” (Romans. 5:20).
The resolution that is meaningful is not that which we make at the beginning of the year, but the resolution that God made in eternity and kept!
Warmed by this assurance we enter into the New Year. Drawing on the accomplished commitment of Christ and energized by Him in whom we can do all things (Philippians 4:13), let us make a commitment unto Him. He will Himself be with us to accomplish it. “Have not I commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Whatever resolution you choose to make, let it be first a commitment to the Lord. “Commit thy way” therefore “unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5). In oursuit of our commitment there will be the inevitable lapses and sins, which do not diminish the striving after, but lead us again to rejoice at the end of the day and the end of the year that God is gracious and forgiving.
With Him as Lord to lead our way God, Father, Son, and Spirit hear!
In want and in prosperity To all our pleas incline your ear;
What need we fear in earth or space, Upon our lives rich blessing trace
In this new year of grace. In this new year of grace.
(Worship Supplement-2000, 716)