20/20 Foresight

It seems this year has gone by so fast. As another year fades into the background, most Americans focus on the future. We want to know what’s coming next so we can prepare for it. Our national culture “bakes in” the reluctance to visit the past.

But it keeps us from enjoying the moments of our lives. We’re too busy to enjoy the beauty and simplicity in every moment. We ignore the present for the future on our overloaded calendars. If only we were fully present in every moment. Every New Year’s approach forces many of us to live in the past regrets or push to the future to ignore the present.

One of our cultural phrases states, “Hindsight is 20/20.” Truly seeing ourselves is easier looking into the past from the future than living it in the present. We see mistakes, victories, missed opportunities, and relive the past year.

Looking back causes heartache at the losses and pleasure in the gains. We use this retrospection to assess ourselves and it becomes the foundation for the changes we wish to make this coming year. This isn’t the most accurate and healthy evaluation of ourselves.

Many rely on their emotions as a gauge of progress. The good and bad of the last year rule our focus as we weigh ourselves on a moral scale. Our brains are wired to dwell on the negative and remember it more than the positive.

We fixate on past failures. No matter how many New Year’s resolutions we make year after year our character doesn’t improve. Other priorities swallow up family time we set aside.

So reset the same goals and resolutions as last year because we gave up by the end of January. Humans are creatures of habit and it takes massive willpower to change ourselves. And it never lasts.

Enter the New Year’s resolution, the tradition that helps us change who we are after all the negative press we give ourselves. We focus on everything from weight loss to time management. How many self-help books will it take for us to transform our lives?

The underlying issue is that almost no one likes themselves. The world influences our thoughts, desired appearances, tastes and fashions, and values. And even Christians are prone to listen to this propaganda. Sounds pretty negative doesn’t it? But I know I’m speaking the truth, at least for me.

This tradition is fraught with pitfalls for followers of Jesus. It blinds us to the positive things God has done and is doing in our lives and character. It doesn’t make us megalomaniacs to note the great changes Jesus made when we committed our lives to him. He’s doing good things, conforming us to him and making this like him.

When people tell me I did a good job, I hang my head and mutter, “Thank you.” It’s hard to figure out how to acknowledge improvement without becoming conceited. But false humility isn’t the way either.

The Bible doesn’t speak about New Year’s resolutions. Believers in Jesus must reevaluate their identity in Christ! Don’t get sucked in by the world. Perceiving ourselves in this way ignores God’s supernatural work in us. How can we live in victory when we focus on every negative thing we don’t like about ourselves?

Such traditions remind us of our old selves, those bygone creatures we used to be. You aren’t like that anymore. Paul talks about the new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and being dead to sin (Romans 6:1-4; Ephesians 2:1-3). If we stumble into momentary sin in our walk with Jesus, we ask for forgiveness and get right back on the path (1 John 1:9).

Resolutions promise that we can remake ourselves based on our ego rather than God’s continuing work. It places willpower above the Holy Spirit’s power. We don’t remake ourselves. God changes us into the holy people he wants us to be.

When we look back we should focus on the miraculous event of Jesus making us new. We attribute every positive change to Christ. It’s not because of our willpower we are different. Jesus changed us from the inside out and continues our sanctification.

The Holy Spirit guides us into God’s truth and holiness, and only when we obey him do we resemble Christ. We must take the long view of eternal values rather than the temporal values of this world.

Instead of committing to sinning less, eating less, shopping less, and all the other “lesses” we want for ourselves, we must pray and seek God for what he wants to do in us in the coming year. What character traits does he want to address? What does he think of us? Nothing else matters.

Jacob wrestled with an angel before he realized what God wanted to change in him. God gave him a new name to show his new nature, no longer a deceiver. Isaiah met Jesus, the Lord of Glory (Isaiah 6). God changed him so he could speak for God and to minister to a wayward Israel.

If we could change ourselves by our own willpower, what was the point of Jesus coming to the earth and suffering on the cross to take away our sins? Why do we need the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit?

Let none of us forget that God does all the work in our salvation. We obey the Holy Spirit as he changes our character and lives. We haven’t arrived yet. Only God can change the human heart. I would rather trust my Creator to mold me into what he wants me to be.

If we must set resolutions, may they be more like these:

  • Strive to obey the Holy Spirit even more.
  • Listen to God and spend more time in prayer and his presence.
  • Focus more on Jesus and the sinful environment around us.
  • Bask in God’s view of who we are and our identity in Christ.
  • Trust God for his plan in our lives and follow his plan.
  • Seek God in desperation each day.
  • Surrender ourselves to God and let him take control.

I want the One with ultimate 20/20 vision to rule my life. He knows better than I do. Leave a comment and tell me the things you want God to do in your life in the coming year.

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