According to Roman mythology the month of January is named after a god who had two faces, one looking forward and one looking backward. I think probably in our contemporary culture that sort of reflection takes place between Christmas and New Year, when people are attempting to wind up the old year and make resolutions for the new year, if not the whole year! How should we as Christians deal with this time of year?
I believe that it is good and right to make time to review and to reflect, but as humans we do not have two faces, therefore we can only look in one direction at a time. As Christians we are not to indulge in morbid reflection or introspection, rather we are to follow the example of Philippians 3:13,14 “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul was not going to let any mistake, misunderstanding or shortcomings of earlier life hinder his growth and progress as a Christian. His forward focus was a life in Christ that would eventually climax as a life with Christ in eternity. As Christians we are to deal with the mistakes of the past year and if necessary heal breaches in relationships, but we are to leave the past in the past.
This year as an Annual Text I have chosen Titus 2:11
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people”
Paul makes this wonderful statement after he has encouraged both old and young, men and women within the church to focus their lives so that they would reflect the glorious teaching about Christ that had totally revolutionised their lives. For Paul, the grace of God is not a commodity that is available to God to dispense at will, but the Grace of God is in fact the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who has come from heaven as the only means of God showing His undeserved love to the peoples of this world. Jesus appeared on earth as the means of saving people who rightly deserved the judgement of God.
Jesus Christ is the One through whom God has saved His people and at the same time He is the goal and focus of our living. As Christians we are not to look back to our failures and mistakes, if we have confessed them then they have been given to Christ who has taken full responsibility for them suffering God’s righteous judgement in our place. We are saved and will be saved, therefore we are to live as saved people. We are to live daily, knowing that as we encounter personal failure we have the assurance that we can confess our sin and enjoy the ongoing forgiveness of God.
This however is not simply an experience to be indulged in as private individuals; this salvation is to so motivate our lives that people will see the difference in us and want to know the source of such assurance and joy. It is then that we will have the opportunity of telling them the hope that we have within ourselves which reaches into eternity.
It is my plan to look at the letter of Titus on Sunday mornings as well as Wednesday evenings so that our lives might “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour” (Titus 2:10).
As we begin a new year together may we each leave the regrets of the past with God; rejoice in all our past experiences of grace and set a focus in our lives that will make it our desire to enjoy and glorify God as our chief delight in life.
Yours in God’s undeserved, but extravagant Grace,
Bernard Lewis Jan 2018