The New Year is upon us. 2021 will be full of new opportunities to grow, to serve and to be a blessing to others. But, of course, it will also be full of new challenges that go right along with all the old ones we’ve been dealing with lately. There are tons of things that will not change as the new year begins. But I thank God for every event that takes place in life that reminds us of the ability we have to start over again. If you think about it, one of the greatest themes of Christianity is that one can have a fresh start, a clean slate and a new beginning. The very fact that our start as Christians is called a new birth should shout that message to us. Besides that Paul described our conversion as all things being made new in 2 Corinthians 5:17. The command in the Bible that has been called the hardest command ever given is also one that shouts you can start all over. That command is to repent of the sins in our lives. It is one of the most common commands ever given. Jesus even said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
What is really involved in repenting of our sins anyway and why would anyone regard it as the hardest of all commands? The word literally means to change one’s mind. It typically carries with it the notion that one is changing their mind from a wrong way of doing things to a right way. It isn’t ever a flippant kind of thing in the Bible. It carries with it the idea that one is turning around and heading in a new direction. When Paul was preaching to the people in Athens in Acts 17 he told how people generally had gone in the way of idolatry and declared that the times of such ignorance God had once overlooked, “But now he commands all people, everywhere to repent because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
Repentance always involves our taking responsibility for our own actions or inactions. Instead of following that normal course of looking at every mistake we have made and seeing who we can blame for it, repentance demands that I own my own failures and accept all the blame for them. Sin of every kind involves submitting our lives to Satan and his control. When I repent of my sins, I’m taking the responsibility and determining that I will change my loyalty from Sin and Satan, to God and following His will. Repentance should be a normal, regular part of our lives.
Think for a few minutes about habits, attitudes or actions that have become a part of your life in this last year that aren’t good for you, for your family and certainly not for your relationship with God. What a tremendous time to make a list of all such wrongs and then burn the list. Repent before God of each wrong, confessing it to the Father and asking for both forgiveness and assistance from God in helping you live a whole different life in this coming year.
After doing that, take some time to make a list of a few very important things you will do differently during 2021. Consider things like daily Bible Study, reading through the Bible this year, being in a Bible study group, pray regularly, and making a prayer calendar in which you ask a different person to be a prayer partner for every day on the calendar. Then either you call them or they call you on that day and pray with each other. Make worship a regular part of your life this new year. Gathering with God’s people to worship, praise God, and build each other up are extremely important parts of Christian living. We need each other to help us live as we should before God. Think of some ways you can serve others this year that hasn’t been true of you in the past year. It could be simple things like calling, visiting, writing cards, or emails. It could be to make a sincere commitment to witness for Jesus to someone every week this year. It isn’t hard to be a witness for Jesus. It simply involves speaking up for Him in daily life. Offer to pray for people in their struggles. Tell them what God is doing in your life. Invite people to worship with you. Or share some verse of the Bible that has touched your life.
If I could offer one powerful suggestion that has been a tremendous blessing in our life it is to have a family devotional time every day or if you can’t every day, try three days a week. But have a time that fits your family when you read from the Bible together, talk about what you see in the reading that affects your life for God and perhaps read from a devotional book or one online that you have found. Sing together in praise to God and pray together as a family. If every Christian family practiced this one thing it would make a huge difference in the future of the church of the Lord. It will ground our children in the faith and prepare them to be witnesses for Him in school or in their activities daily.
In a time when so many grow up to give up on their faith and go in a totally different direction, it is extremely important for every Christian and especially Christian families to bring up their children in the training and discipline of the Lord. When our children see and hear us study, pray, sing and worship God it helps them to build their personal faith and relationship with God. Let’s truly make 2021 one of the greatest years for God’s people ever.