It's a new year. It feels fresh. It holds possibility. And with renewed energy, you are probably gearing up for practical change in your life. Maybe you've already made resolutions to better yourself and pursue impressive activities—exercise more, eat less, read more, learn a skill, volunteer. These are all good goals. But we must take care that by focusing on these practical, helpful, outward activities we don't miss out on what is even better. "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8).
As we Christians seek to make godly resolutions this new year, we must contemplate what it really means to pursue godliness. Is it enough to make "Christian" goals, resolving to participate in a Bible study or read through the Bible in a year? No, even these endeavors can be limited in value. Even spiritual disciplines can be twisted by our sinful nature, tempting us to chase after our own praise and honor through righteous works rather than to pursue God because He is God. We must follow the example of Mary, who knew her deep need—the same need we all have—to sit in the presence of God, just as Jesus affirmed, ". . . few things are needed—or indeed only one" (Luke 10:42).
At the end of the day, all of our concerns and longings for self-improvement are met in God in the best way: through self-forgetfulness as we dwell on the greatness of God.
In contrast, our Western culture focuses on the self—self-help, self-care, self-improvement. It wants quick, practical answers that serve the self. And sadly, many churches cater to this self-centered view of the world, offering sermons with quick tips to turn your life, marriage, or kids around or books to get the best out of life—what you really deserve. While such promises may draw struggling people through the doors, they do nothing to bring eternal, life-giving transformation. That alone, from beginning to end, is the work of God. For, though Christianity is indeed practical, calling believers to serve, give, and love, all of these actions, if they are to have any lasting effect, must flow from one source: God in all His majesty. It is utterly impractical for us to try to improve ourselves in an eternally meaningful way apart from knowing the one who alone can do this work in us—the great I AM.
Have you ever found yourself frustrated in church as your pastor delivers a sermon about the character of God when you just want some practical help? Perhaps you are happy to dive into the Word to find an answer to your present problem, but do you read Scripture to simply soak in the character of God—to study His matchless nature? It can be easy to forget that all the practical help we need for this life and the life to come emanates from a personal God who has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ—God made flesh (see John 1:14)
There is nothing else in all the universe that can anchor you and give you hope like the unchanging God who is love. We must not neglect to study the perfections of God; they are life-giving because He is the source of life. As Oswald Chambers exhorted students at the Bible Training College in London:
It is not the practical activities that are the strength of this Bible Training College—its entire strength lies in the fact that here you are immersed in the truths of God to soak in them before Him. . . . if you waste your time in overactivity, instead of being immersed in the great fundamental truths of God's redemption, then you will snap when the stress and strain do come. But if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in Him, which may appear to be impractical, then you will remain true to Him whatever happens. (My Utmost for His Highest)
RETURNING TO THE ONE THING
This year, let's focus on knowing God instead of seeking how-to. And let's not limit our experience of God to favorite passages of Scripture or thoughts about Him. Let's feast on the inexhaustible glory of God and all His attributes—His self-existence, eternity, goodness, jealousy, love, sovereignty, omniscience, and more. Because, when we do, we are transformed from the inside out. Our pursuit of God through prayer and His Word naturally leaves us in awe of Him and develops a desire to live godly lives that glorify Him. At the end of the day, all of our concerns and longings for self-improvement are met in God in the best way: through self-forgetfulness as we dwell on the greatness of God.
What might happen if churches simply invited people to come and know God, to be immersed in the wonder of who He is? What if we lived like the study of God and His character, perfections, and majesty were of supreme importance and relevance for life, immeasurably worthy of our time? What if God Himself became enough for us? We might witness a revival that the West desperately needs. For, true revival comes through a personal encounter with the incomprehensible God who has made Himself known. He alone is unchanging and sure in all the universe. His promises stand. His love is steadfast. His Word can be trusted. Because of who He is, you can be eternally rooted in Him, living out a peace and contentment that nothing else in all the world can provide. So, this year, let's sit at the feet of Jesus and know God.
Start your day with God's Word.