Happy New Year! For most of us, the New Year is indeed a happy time. Each New Year brings the promise of new hopes and dreams. Our family ritual on New Year’s Eve is to celebrate into the dawn with family members and friends. Then on New Year’s Day we reflect. We begin each New Year with an evaluation of our past and a promise to improve in the future. The promises we make, whether to do an act of self-improvement or a kindness for others, are called our New Year’s Resolution. The New Year’s resolution is a widely popular secular tradition. Yet surprisingly, there may be some religion in your resolution.
Historians acknowledge that the practice of making a New Year’s Resolution has religious origins. Religious parallels of this ritual were evidenced in the worship practices of the ancient Babylonians, Romans, Christians and Jews. The Babylonians and the Romans both made promises to their gods at the start of each New Year to repay past debts. The Christians and Jews prepared for the year ahead by reflecting on wrongdoings and pledging self-improvement.
In our culture today, the pledge for self-improvement typically involves a plan to become physically fit. According to the website USA.gov, the most popular New Year’s resolution in the United States is to lose weight. We sacrifice enormous amounts of time and money becoming self-obsessed with the plan to improve our appearance. At the end of the year we may look better, but good looks do not improve our actions. So, why not add a small dose of religion to your resolution. Let’s consider adding spiritual fitness to our resolution list.
As we discussed in my foregoing e-newsletter, praise was defined as one of humanity’s many responses to God’s revelation of Himself. I also outlined seven-forms of praise.
The first form of praise is:
Offering a Sacrifice
We can easily offer God a sacrifice of praise in the New Year. Our self-improvement plan can include a process of spiritual enrichment. In ancient Israelite worship the priests would sacrifice a lamb as the daily offering (Ex. 29:38). Today we no longer need a lamb to slaughter since Jesus Christ became the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). King David shares that his sacrifice of praise was not burnt offering or sin offerings but the law within his heart that he expressed with his lips (Ps. 40:6; 8-9). Like King David, each day we can study the Bible and make the practice of living out the principles in God’s Word a part of our spiritual fitness plan. We can improve our appearance to others by letting the presence of God be seen and heard in us as we sacrifice ourselves through acts of Christian kindness. Then, we can offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing, which is our spiritual worship (Rom.12:1 NIV). Take time to worship God and let His presence be seen in you. Make religion a vital part of your New Year’s resolution.