January is seen as a time of New Beginnings. On the first day of a new year, we put the old year behind us and seek for better things. We begin our diets with renewed conviction, we make resolutions, and pause to look back as we turn resolutely forward. Turning away from the old and toward the new can be a repentance. The word we translate “repent” literally means to turn around, 180 degrees. You were once going in one direction, the way of the world, the way actually devised by the god of this world, whom Jesus the Christ identifies as satan.
Then one day, somehow, by an individual word, a particular church service, a quiet prayer, or a canonical event in the church year, we are confronted with our spiritual bankruptcy. We recognize our need of a Savior. We realize we are walking one direction, and we choose to turn around, following now the Risen Lord, taking up His cross daily to obey His Word.
Many church members—you notice I did not say Christians, because I was in a church for years and never turned around—think this singular event a one-time thing. They are so very wrong. Jesus calls us to a life of continual repentance, and our behaviors that didn’t bother us at all last year will prick our consciences this year, because we have grown. Two year olds throw tantrums, by the time they are eight or ten, we don’t expect them any more. Likewise as we grow spiritually, we should put away childish things.
Every day we repent of what we have done to cause others to stumble. Perhaps we have gossiped, perhaps we have lost our temper and said ugly things about someone else. Perhaps we have been selfish and demanding, not laying our lives down and preferring one another. Our children may stumble because of the way we behave; can your husband see Christ in you? Did your attitude at work draw people to the God you profess to serve? The Imperials have a song that says we may be the only Jesus some people ever see.
Sin is not a gross act of bombing the World Trade Center or killing or stealing, it is, simply translated, “missing the mark.” Look at your spiritual goals as a bull’s eye on a target. Did you hit the mark at the very center? If you missed the mark, which I do every day, turn to Him anew at this time of new Beginnings, for He has also called you to a life of continual forgiveness. Just as we pick up our babies when they stumble as they learn to walk, so God will pick you up on your spiritual journey time and time again. He will brush you off, whisper encouragement, and set you on your feet again. Turn to Him, let Him turn you around, and begin this New Year following hard after God. You will grow up, with God being your helper!