January first is the day that many people make New Year’s resolutions. This is the day we decide to make changes to help improve our lives. Some may decide to diet. Some may decide to begin an exercise program. Others may decide to stop smoking. Some may want to “turn over a new leaf” and may begin being more religious.
You may have considered the benefits of being religious and want to achieve them for yourself. That may mean praying more or attending church more often than just Christmas and Easter. That may also mean reading the Bible more, helping others, and doing good works. Will those efforts make a lasting difference, or will they be like others that fade within a few weeks of regular church attendance?
Consider the case of a single young man who sees how happy his married friends are. He asks them the source of their happiness. They tell him that they are happy because they are living the married life. He begins to consider the benefits of living the married life himself, so he decides to give it a try. He notices that since married people wear wedding bands, he decides to buy himself a wedding band. He also notices that they own homes, so he buys himself a nice house. Married couples often also drive two cars, so he buys another car. He also buys a queen-sized bed. He works hard, comes home after work, and saves money for a rainy day. In fact, he emulates everything his married friends do.
However, he discovers that he is not as happy as his married friends seem to be. Finally, he decides to talk to them. One of his married friends asks, “How does your wife feel about things?” “Wife?” he responds. “I have the ring, the mortgage, the two cars, a good job with a retirement plan. What more am I missing?” he asks. “A relationship,” his friend says.
Obviously, no one would believe they could enjoy the happiness of marriage without a relationship to a spouse, yet many try to find happiness as a Christian without a relationship to Christ. People hear testimonies of successful, happy Christians. They hear preachers extolling the benefits of being a follower of Christ. Many give it a try. They want Christianity without Christ, because he might make demands of them. So, they imitate what they see their Christian friends doing. They try to attend church regularly. They try to pray, but stop after a few minutes. They try to read the Bible but find it incomprehensible, confusing, and boring. They try to give some spare change in the offering once in a while, yet they never find the happiness they see in others.
The Bible calls the Church the “Bride of Christ” (See Revelation 21:9; 22:17). A married person is not the one who simply goes through the motions of being married. A married person is one who enters a lifelong relationship with another and makes changes that go along with that commitment. A Christian is not a person who merely goes through the rituals and ceremonies of the Christian religion, but someone who enters a life-changing relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord the same as entering a relationship with a spouse. The changes come about as a result of that relationship. They do not cause the relationship.
So, this New Year, as you contemplate making changes, consider what will truly make the greatest change in your life. Paul wrote in Romans 13:14, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh (NIV). Christianity is not about simply living the Christian life, it is Christ covering you completely with his righteousness. How does that happen? It happens as people confess their sin to Christ, repent of it and trust in his work on the cross for them. (See Mark 1:15). If you want to experience the Christian life, you need a relationship with Jesus Christ.