Well, we have arrived at the dawn of 2020. How did that happen? It was just yesterday when the nation was freaking out about Y2K, as opposed to our current freak out: vaping (one among many freak outs, I know). There is something arbitrary about the calendar driving our desire for change and improvement. I mean, time itself is a construct. It is a useful construct to be sure, since we have clocks and calendars, we don’t have to say things like “meet me for lunch 3 sun downs after the winter solstice, when the sun is at its high point”. Nonetheless, it is somewhat arbitrary to seek renewal and a clean slate at the turn of a calendar year.
That being said, any reason to seek improvement and focus is a good one and we should not wish to squash enthusiasm. The reality for us as Christians is that God offers us a clean slate, every day (or even intraday) as long as we are truly penitent. However, if we seek to do this on January 1, then it’s all good. Now, we should recognize that every year, if honestly evaluated, will bring disappointment. As for my goals in 2019, let’s just say I came up a little short. It’s alright, I always come up a little short. We all will. Nothing we could ever do would put us right with God. It takes God to put us right with Him, as He did through His Son Jesus. Our part is to give it our best shot.
To that end it is worth looking at the Ten Commandments as a target list. Jesus clearly points us toward this in various parts of the New Testament, so we are on solid ground here. As always, we must keep in mind that we use this as a template for our behavior, not to get saved by God but because God has already saved us. You know, Believe and Obey. We should also keep in mind that Jesus goes beyond the letter of the Commandments to their spirit and in the process raises the bar.
Truth be told, the Old Testament gave us a list, mostly of to don’ts. Except for the Third and Fourth Commandments (keeping the Sabbath and honoring father and mother), the list is made up of a series of “thou shalt nots”. Jesus, as with so many things turns this on its head. He turns the “to don’ts” into a series of “to dos”. Let’s see where this takes us.
To embrace the call of God means we will of course have no other Gods before Him. There is only one God and we worship Him though His Son Jesus Christ. We will do so gladly and with great joy. It becomes, so much easier to then turn away from the false Gods that the world presents us with every day; anger, hate, lust, greed and all the rest once we have positively embraced the oneness of God our Father.
The positive embrace of God means that you will stop even thinking about using God’s holy name in a profane manner. You will of course jump at the chance to go to worship on the Sabbath. But more importantly, you will seek out Sabbath moments everyday to give worship and praise to God. Also, you will take the other “to do” honoring your father and mother and go beyond just your actual father and mother but honor and respect all relationships with those in your world that have authority.
Also, if the Gospel has penetrated your heart, you don’t need to be told not to kill, because you have no more hate in your heart. It will become easier to turn this to a positive desire to build up all those in your world, yes even, if not especially, your enemies. Further you don’t need to be told “don’t commit adultery” because you are completely grateful for the significant other God has placed in your life and will seek to do all you can to lift up that relationship.
Why would you steal, when you are satisfied with what you have? Why then would you covet when you are grateful for those things already in your possession? And how could not all of this result in bearing true witness to the love of God, manifested by the striving to look upon all of His children in the best possible light?
Seen in the light of what Jesus taught us the Ten Commandments become a powerful, positive guide for our lives. To see this teaching in much clearer detail we should of course turn to the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus lays out for us what a positive view of God’s call on our lives looks like. When in Matt 5:17 Jesus talks of fulfilling the law, the best way to interpret this is that He lived it all the way, every day and completely obeyed the will of the Father. He did this by turning the “to don’ts” into “to dos”.
We all want a better world. The way to change this world for the better is to begin with the person in the mirror and radiate this change outward. Embracing the call of God in a positive way can begin this process of change (remember repentance means to turn around). Whether we have a wide-ranging influence or a much smaller one, we can influence the world around us for the better. Why, if we change enough people by way of our positive embrace of God’s call on our lives, we just might begin to break apart the false religion of hate, death and envy that is the government.
None of this is easy and Jesus knows this. We will fall short and Jesus knows this as well. That does not mean that we should not try. There is joy awaiting us in submitting ourselves to the will of God. Yes, that joy is eternal, long after our time on Earth is done but we need not wait for eternity to embrace the joy of following the One True God who so freely (and expensively) gave us His Kingdom. The joy in a positive change in the world, or just our little corner of it is a joy that need not wait until the calendar changes.
Praise Be to God