Unlike some, I enjoy the practice of making New Year’s Resolutions. Though January 1st comes to us like any other day, there is something psychologically freeing about starting over with a brand-new year; it feels fresh and gifts us with a renewed sense of hope that the year to come will bring with it something more than the previous year’s disappointments (which were many).
January is also an ideal time of year to slow down, be reminded of big picture life goals, and get realigned. It’s very easy to “miss the forest from the trees,” as the saying goes. We can become get so bogged down in the details, we forget why we even woke up that morning. For the Christian, regular self-assessment is critical; we are commanded to “make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). Now is the time to make sure our time, goals, and plans for the year are completely aligned with the chief end of man – that is, to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1).
As creatures subjected to depravity, we are constantly in need for a such realignment; the flesh is weak and our hearts are prone to wander from the Lord we love. Thankfully, there is no shortage of places in scripture we can turn to for some inspiration to recalibrate our lives with the Christian’s ultimate objective. In fact, a simple google search will yield you dozens of (often eisegetically presented) verses meant to propel you into a new year. Having said that, I think John 8 is a great place to start. It provides some of the clearest and most practical advice for anyone wanting to start the new year off right.
Early in the morning he (Jesus) came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. (John 8:2-11, ESV)
For many, the story of the woman caught in adultery is about sin, forgiveness, and the errors of self-righteous. This is true; these are some clear meanings gleaned from the text. Lamentably, however, many read this story and forget with whom they should most often identify. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone use this text to condemn others for being judgmental – assuming the role of Jesus in our text. There are instances for this. Nevertheless, I don’t think that’s the primary point of the passage. When rightly understood, almost all us should closely identify with the adulterous woman. Without exception, we are all broken, addicted to sin, and deserving of hell. As Romans 3:23 says, “we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – which is our ultimate end. Yet, as this woman found out, in Christ, there is forgiveness and hope for change.
As Christians consider New Year’s Resolutions to improve our lives, families, and health, we should not forget the primary lesson learned in this story: the charge given to the adulterous woman. For, if we are to fulfill our calling and chief end (to glorify God and enjoy Him forever), we will only do this if we heed and do as Christ commanded – “go and sin no more”. Holiness ought to be the aim of any person who professes the name of Christ. We are to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Ridding ourselves of sin is no easy task. It is something that will not fully achieved until we are made new in heaven and will sin no more. Even so, as Christians, we must forsake sin because Christ has paid the punishment in full and we owe him all that we are. Though difficult, there is immeasurable joy in fellowship with Jesus!
Puritan Matthew Henry has this to say on the text in his commentary: “Christ will not condemn those who, though they have sinned, will go and sin no more. He will not take the advantage he has against us for our former rebellions, if we will but lay down our arms and return to our allegiance. Christ’s favour to us in the remission of the sins that are past should be a prevailing argument with us to go and sin no more. Will not Christ condemn thee? Go then and sin no more.”
Christian, if you do not make a single New Year’s Resolution this year, then at least be resolved to fight sin this year. Think and pray about the sins that have dug their claws into your to heart. Do you struggle with anger, bitterness, greed, lust, pornography, selfiness, etc.? Spend some time today and search your heart for the sins that plague you. Then, pray, confess and repent. Find help and encouragement in God’s word and your local church community. These are proven methods to wage war on the sins of the flesh. Seek Christ while He still may be found. In doing so, you will take a big step in aligning your life with its chief end. Use this new year to “go and sin no more.”