As we set out into a new year, with new goals, hopes, and endeavors, may we root ourselves firmly in the truth laid out for us by Paul in Philippians 3:20-21. Let us remember that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” As we wrap up a season of advent, may we continue the practice of examining our hearts and aligning our vision for the new year with Christ’s promise of redemption. Petition the Spirit to remind us that hope placed in anything other than Christ leads to hopeless circumstances and so, seek to submit all things to Him.
As I reflect on the many blessings bestowed by the Lord this year, I am certain I am not alone in saying The Crown, a historical dramatization of the Royal Family, is a gift, especially during those stay-at-home orders. As I watched The Royal Family’s misplaced identities and their struggles in a broken institution play out, I was challenged to examine my own heart. In the season finale (Episode 10: War), we see Prince Philip’s attempt to placate Diana in her turmoil as she describes the Royal Family as a “cold, frozen tundra… [a] loveless cave with no light, no hope, anywhere, not even the faintest crack.” (I think 2020 has been described in a similar fashion.) As Diana suggests giving up, Philip’s exhortation gives a glimpse into our own adulterous hearts:
“Everyone in this system is a lost, lonely, irrelevant outsider apart from the one person, the only person, that matters. She [The Queen] is the oxygen we all breathe, the essence of all our duty. Your problem if I may say, is you seem to be confused as to who that person is.”
What does any of this have to do with a New Year, midnight toasts, or even well-intentioned resolutions? Many of us cannot wait to close the door on a year that will be remembered for illness, injustice, division, and unemployment. A new year can bring hope for a new season and that these unique challenges might be made beautiful in God’s time. So often as we enter into a new year, the “oxygen” that gives us life is not the unchanging truth of the gospel, but rather a new job, renewed health, fresh relationships, promises of vaccines, or newly elected officials. Yet, unless God is what our soul thirsts for, we will find ourselves in a dry and weary land. Our thirst will remain unquenched. Our hearts, much like the Royal Family, can quickly attempt to replace the very meaning of life itself (Philippians 1:20-21). Jesus affirms that if we “eat of [his] bread, we shall live forever” (John 6:51).
Augustine notes in Confessions, “My sin was that I sought not in God himself, but in things he had created – in myself and the rest of His creation – delights, heights and perceptions of what was true and right, and in this way I collapsed into sufferings, embarrassments and erring ways.” Pastor Brian addressed this issue when he mentioned our society’s tendency towards “decrying symptoms” rather than trying to fix the “heart of man.” We must remind ourselves daily that our obedience flows from a citizenship “not of [our] own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:9). Only through His righteousness dwelling within us do we become reconciled to Him, holy and blameless and above reproach (Colossians 1:22).
Paul encourages us to reach for what lies ahead, which is illustrated for us in Revelation 21. We can believe Philippians 3:20-21 because we have been given a glimpse of God dwelling among his people, removing pain and suffering with the promises of “making everything new.” This hope influences our obedience and fuels our endurance as we press on toward the goal that is before us. As we set our vision for the new year before the Lord, let us throw off the things which hinder and entangle us: jealousy and selfish ambition (James 3:15), sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires and idolatry along with anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk (Colossians 3:5-7).
When we are firmly planted in the hope of the transforming power that comes through faith in Christ, we can withstand the uncertainties that we will inevitably face, and we will remain unshaken. Our delight shall be in His name all day long, and our boast will be in His righteousness (Psalm 89:16). As our hearts cry out, “Come Lord Jesus!” we can experience eternal rest and joy due to the confidence that He will appear again (1 John 2:28, 3:2).