“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
There’s a lot of talk this time of year of beginnings and endings; of reflection over the past year and anticipation of the next.
Some people criticize those who make New Year’s resolutions (and oftentimes abandon them in February) , but I’m not one of those naysayers. I think it’s nice, you know? The fact that hope still pulsates across our world; that despite the heartbreaking headlines, hope is alive, undefiled by grief or cynicism.
We both crave hope and are carried by it—it’s in our very fabric. It’s what allows us to get up after we fall face-down, it’s what compels us to love, even though our hearts were once shattered by it.
So when I think of resolutions, I think hope—because to have goals means to have hope. It shows that a person believes he or she is capable of change—of transformation.
Typically the talk that surrounds New Year’s Resolutions is along the lines of personal development: of being your best self, of “creating the life you want,” of discovering who you really are.
I’ve seen countless guides, books, and tutorials that demonstrate the best goal-setting strategies, the most effective ways to develop good habits, the sure-fire ways to stick with a new fitness program. One concept I’ve come across is the strategy known as a “vision board.” The vision board consists of images that depict the life you want to have and the person you’d like to become. By frequent exposure to these images, the likelihood of achieving your goals is said to increase.
The central concept behind this method—and others, like the sports psychology method of visualization—could be whittled down to a simple idea: that your life is shaped by your thoughts—that people become what they behold.
Countless times, my New Year’s Resolutions have centered around self-transformation. I’ve poured time and energy into myself, investing in myself, working on myself. I’ve toyed with vision boards and visualization, imagining myself minus ten pounds, plus a salary and benefits package. I’ve envisioned and beheld myself, 2.0.
Please hear me when I say that personal development isn’t wrong—having goals isn’t wrong—wanting to learn something new isn’t wrong—but there’s a kind of transformation we all need to experience and it can’t be measured by a bathroom scale or a rung on a company’s ladder.
We anxiously seek this kind of transformative peace through journeys of self-discovery—when what we really need is a journey to the cross.
And dear one, if you’re searching for something to behold, some purpose to direct your life: know that your greatest calling isn’t to be thin and beautiful, or wealthy and powerful; it isn’t to behold yourself or another person; no, beloved, your greatest calling is this: to behold the cross and to be transformed by it.
From the moment sin cast us out of Eden, we’ve been wandering in a broken, restless world, in need of rescue—a Savior to lead us back into communion with God. The Lord answered the cries of His people with his Son, a Sacrifice, a Messiah that took on the sins of all mankind and became crucified on a cross so that they may live and not be destroyed by their own sin.
This is it, dear one. This is the image we are to behold: Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, beaten, bruised, and battered, hung on a cross to die the death we deserved. To behold sweet Jesus, nailed to the cross—to continually behold this sacrifice, this love—this is the kind of image that transforms.
At this cross we learn who we are: children of God who are fiercely loved, desperately sinful, and in critical need of a Savior.
We’re called to behold the cross and be changed by the gospel—not just for our own benefit, but to bring this love to others. We are called to be image-bearers, light-bringers, hope-carriers; to love as he loved, serve as he served, to give as he gave. We’re called to carry this hope into the dark parts of the world so that others may behold his glory.
As you find yourself in the midst of resolutions and expectations, remember this:
Your greatest purpose isn’t to search for happiness but to serve with joy.
It isn’t to live according to what the world says but what the WORD says.
It isn’t to chase glory but to glorify Him.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10)
Though sin drove us out of the garden, the Lord continually beckons us back in with love. He invites us to be changed by His Word, to be saved by His Son, to walk in step with His Spirit—He invites us into new life.
As we welcome this new year, I want to invite you to behold the cross, again and again. For this, my friends, is a hope that sustains. It’s a love that redeems—it’s the kind of love that transforms.