Monday, January 2, 2012

Reflections on the New Year

I don't make new year's resolutions, at least, I haven't since I resolved never to make them again. It's the only resolution I've managed to keep. But the turning of the year is a good time to think about the future while reflecting a bit on the past. In many respects 2011 was quite a mixed bag for me. I lost my brother unexpectedly. My family finished the year coping with some unexpected stress. On the other hand, I was elected president of the Association of Baptists for Scouting ( and both my older son and my older daughter have excelled in their respective Scouting activities (Boy Scouts and Venturing Scouts, respectively). I've enjoyed being part of a great praise team in my church and have launched, by God's grace, a wonderful Bible study class of very caring and devoted people. Memories of the past are a great gift because they anchor us--give us a context in which to face the future. There is a danger, however, in dwelling too much on the past. An anchor can give stability in times of storm, but it can also become a burden that impedes progress.

In his letter to the church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul wrote, "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3: 13--14, NASB). Paul, here, is clearly not saying to forget completely the past, for in this very chapter he reviewed his past in Judaism and his role in persecuting the early church. So what is he saying? He is saying that the past doesn't have to define our future. We who are followers of Christ have been called by God through his Spirit and his Word to become more and more like Christ. That is the goal of our salvation (Rom 8: 28). Because God has called us to this, and because he both works the will to be Christlike in us (Phil 2: 13) and dwells in us by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8: 9), then we are both willing and able to strive to be more like Christ in our daily lives (Phil 2: 12). What Paul is saying here is that we should not become fixated on the past in such a way that it keeps us from reaching for the goal of becoming like Christ. Don't let your past sins and failures define the limits of your future growth in Christian maturity. Rather, with gratitude to God for his indescribable gift, press on toward the goal of being like Christ.