Every year, beginning around the holidays, everyone begins to think over their past scars, present struggles, potential new hobbies to pick up, rekindled ambitions, and ignited passions. Now, at the beginning of another year, we begin to strive for healing, victory, rest, joy, meaning, and significance. Yet, we attempt to establish such inherently innocent pillars in futile places, or what Jeremiah calls, “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13-19). Consequently, instead of establishing secure pillars to stand upon, we crash and fall.
Healing from past scars and victory over present struggles are not bad in and of themselves, but let’s not make them cisterns we pour our identity into. They cannot hold and contain the weight of the eternal, infinite, and unchangeable peace which we truly crave. Instead, let’s pour our identity in Jesus, who possesses springs of water that can satiate the strongest of thirst pangs and give us the peace we truly crave. He enables us to gain healing from our past scars and victory over present struggles.
These internal yearnings ought to drive us into greater thanksgiving and dependence upon God’s strength and presence first revealed in Creation. After the Fall, God made His strength and presence more intimately and extensively known, particularly at Jesus’ incarnation which paved the road of his life to the cross where He bore the infinite weight of the punishment we deserved. In his resurrection, He was our champion over the guilt and power of sin which we despise. He was the first-fruit of glorious transformative change which we can taste through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.
Creation: God Invited Mankind into Fellowship with Him
In eternity past, God dwelled in perfect sufficiency within Himself. The persons of the Godhead - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - selflessly oriented around each other in matchless community. Out of His selfless disposition, God desired to manifest His glory to creatures who could truly digest, relish, and praise His glorious name. Therefore, God started with creating a blank pallet of a shapeless, empty, and pitch-black earth (Genesis 1:2).
Every person of our triune God participated (Genesis 1-2). The Father declared His commands of creation by the Word, the Son. The Holy Spirit made the Father’s declarative commands fruitful. Suddenly, light filled the heavens. Vegetation covered the dry patch on earth, while water flowed near, through, and around the dry patch. Beasts roamed the earth.
With such perfect, flawless conformity to His awesome design, God crafted Adam from the dust and breathed the “breath” of life into his nostrils (Genesis 2:7). Consequently, Adam was not some masterpiece sculpture or mere beastl; he was an image-bearer with a particular animation to communicate with God and dominate creation for God’s glory. Likewise, You are hardwired for shalom - an infinite, eternal, and unchangeable peace found in vertical community with God.
The Fall: Mankind Rejected His Invitation
But, Adam failed to fulfill His God-given duties of protecting the miniature kingdom God gave him to cultivate and extend and abstaining from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Why? Namely, Adam glossed over God’s eternal power and divine nature, by which God exists within Himself and maintains control over creation (Romans 1:20). He forgot God’s love and goodness, which motivated Him to create Adam and to provide for his temporal needs (Matthew 10:25-34).
Thus, Adam allowed the serpent into the garden to deceive Eve into questioning God’s power, divinity, love, and goodness. Both Adam and Eve ate of the fruit. Rather than experiencing the peace for which they were hardwired, they experienced thorns and thistles. Except by the grace and mercy of God, our circumstances merely peek over the edge of tragedy. As partakers in Adam’s first transgression, we experience “tremendous” and “minutial” tragedy daily, for we share Adam’s guilt, his lack of original righteousness, and his corruption (Romans 1:10-18; 5:12). From our own volition, we partake in rebellion against God’s holy and righteous rule.
Redemption: God Restored His People to Himself
One glorious night, the virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, the eternal Son of God. Shepherds fearfully cowered. Herod shriveled with incensed anger and bitter jealousy. Angels joyfully worshipped and proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).
In the Holy Spirit’s conception of and Mary’s giving birth to Jesus, the Father revealed his exact image, the source of all riches, wisdom, and knowledge (Colossians 1:15). In Jesus’ incarnation, the Father began the revelation of his unsearchable judgements and inscrutable ways through the unfolding of Jesus’ salvific work to establish peace among His people.
As our perfect representative and sacrifice, Jesus lived a life of perfect communion with the Father and fellowship with man. On the cross, Jesus exchanged His righteousness for our sin against God and man (2 Corinthians 5:21). As the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s lament, the Father’s infinite, eternal, and unchangeable wrath afflicted, agonized, and crushed Jesus (Lamentations 3:1-20; Matthew 27:45-50). The peace Jesus fully enjoyed and cherished in the Father’s presence was stripped from Him in His humanity (2 Corinthians 8:9). His physical and spiritual pain became so unbearable that He gasped one last breath and died.
At the Father’s approval of Jesus’ ransom for our freedom, He expressed the immeasurable greatness of His power through Jesus’ resurrection. Now, the peace stripped from Jesus could be ours. Jesus’ glorious bodily transformation marked the beginning of the end of all pain, shame, and disappointment (1 Corinthians 15:21-23). One day, this transformation will be complete at his second-coming (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
Today: God’s Ongoing Project to Transform Creation
God is fulfilling Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian saints, who were faithful in the Lord, in us today (Ephesians 1:15-22). Not only does Jesus intercede for us. The Father has given us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to convict and comfort our hearts while we behold the intimate knowledge of the glorious gospel! Daily, the Spirit works through our fellowship with God and man to conform us into Jesus’ image.
So we enter into another year abundant with hills-and-valleys, feast-and-famines, and moments of contrasting joy-and-despair. Let us enter it now with confidence, knowing that God is bringing to completion that glorious work which He began in us. Know that your groans of sadness and pain will transform into praises of joy and pleasure in God’s presence. One day, the Father will unite all earthly and heavenly things under Christ’s firm and tender rule.
Until then, He has given us a taste of His presence through the Church with whom we gather for worship to experience His love and grace in fellowship, praise, confession of sin and reception of absolution, thanksgiving, the preaching and reading of His Word, and the sacraments. He has given us a taste of His strength as we cling to the gospel for humility and thanksgiving in our triumphs and comfort and healing in our failures. By the power of the Holy Spirit, take hold of these gifts.
Recommit to and pursue your New Year’s resolutions looking through the lenses of God’s constant, abundant, tender, firm, and loving presence and strength.