For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. –Romans 5:17
As we ring in the New Year, much ink will be spilled, again, on New Year’s resolutions and promises. Frankly, I gave up on New Year’s resolutions long ago, as I realized that they didn’t make much difference in my life anyway. I was never very serious about them. On the other hand, when I made a resolution in my own time and my own way to do something, I usually did it.
So in thinking about how to make this new year different, the question is what are some of the biggest challenges that we face? How can we face them with renewed vigor? One perennial challenge in the academic world is the pressure of performance. The university screams at academics to publish or perish, don’t get bad student evaluations, be on this committee or that committee, make tenure, ad infinitum. The temptation is to get caught in the performance trap, to think we are only as good as our last paper, our last set of evaluations, or how many people cite our work. It is the temptation to see ourselves only as the university sees us. (Those of us in the ministry have this temptation as well: am I only as good as my last performance review, or the size and success of my ministry?)
And yet, here in Romans 5 the Scripture is telling us that, through God’s grace we have the gift of righteousness. We are, completely and utterly as a free gift of God, in right standing with the Lord even though we sin every day. Another way to put this: God is completely pleased with us, not because of anything we have done, but because of Christ’s shed blood on the cross. We are covered in Christ and thus he sees us and treats us as he would his own Son.
This is not only good news, it’s fantastic news. Because it can free us from the performance trap. We are no longer only as good as our last paper or latest performance review. We can make a decision this year to see ourselves as God sees us, to not let performance pressure dictate who we are. Of course, I am not here excusing shoddy work, or saying, “relax, don’t work that hard.” Instead, I am speaking of an attitude: I do all of my work from an overflow of God’s grace. I work hard because I am already accepted in him, not because I am clawing for a new position, or trying to prove myself to my superiors. Criticism can roll off my back because my identity is in Christ, not in who the university says I am. I am first of all his child, and only secondarily my title or position.
This New Year, if we make any resolution at all, let’s resolve to see ourselves as God sees us. Let’s resolve to reign in life by reveling in God’s grace.
- Where could my life be made new by accepting God’s grace again?
- What would it mean to revel in God’s grace this year?
Oh Lord, Your mercies are new every morning. On this New Year’s Day, let us see that again as if for the first time. Renew us by Your grace, make us strong by Your mercy, and walk with us this year and in all our days to come. Amen.