If there’s one word that dominated the headlines in 2020, it would be: Covid-19. This deadly virus changed the way we lived last year, giving us nationwide lockdowns, bans on air travel, mask-wearing, and the TraceTogether app.
Unfortunately, we will continue to see more of such changes in this new year. Home-based learning, for example, will become a part of life for many students, and many of us will be vaccinated.
As we enter 2021, perhaps you may be wondering: How can we adjust to these drastic changes?
The early Christians in the time of the New Testament, too, had to grapple with many challenges in their lives. Many were persecuted, many suffered, and many struggled to reconcile their new faith in Jesus with their old ways of living.
As I read the book of Galatians, I found the Apostle Paul offering three life-transforming truths for me to live by:
1. We can live in the grace of God
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father . . . the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ.” —Galatians 1:3–6
Many Christians have probably made these resolutions for 2021: Spend more time reading God’s Word, be more prayerful, and share the gospel. While all these are important and needful, however, they do not earn us salvation. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Living in the grace of God sets us free from performance-based Christianity. Martin Luther, the church reformer, was once a performance-based Christian. He tried to do everything he could to be a “good Christian”. Yet, it did not ease his troubled conscience nor remove the thought that he was not good enough for God. His breakthrough came only when he realised that Christianity was not about what he had to do for God—but about what God had done for him in Christ.
Isn’t it liberating to know that we do not have to do anything to make God love us more? In this new year, let us remember that we don’t have to try to earn God’s favour, because we are loved. We don’t have to be afraid of failures, because we are accepted. We can serve, work, rest, and enjoy life in the abundant grace of God.
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2. We can live by faith in Christ
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” —Galatians 2:20
Few of us like to have our plans disrupted. But that’s exactly what happened to all of us in 2020, when we had to cancel our travel plans and adjust to working and studying from home. The changes were a stark reminder that we are not in control, and that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Things don’t happen at our pace, on our terms, and certainly not according to our preferences.
To be sure, this is a challenging truth. Yet, that’s exactly what our lives have become, as followers of Christ. We have died to self—“it is no longer I who live”—because God has given us a new life to live for Him. This is a life of faith that we live in response to His sacrificial love for us. We live in Christ, by Christ, and through Christ for the glory of God.
The word “faith” has been described this way: “Forsaking All I Trust Him”. How true! Living by faith means trusting in Jesus to keep every promise He has made, and letting Him set the pace of our lives.
As we enter 2021, let us trust Jesus for guidance, for He will show us the way to go. Let us trust Him for providence, for He will take care of whatever we need. And let us trust Him for deliverance, for He will bring us through times of trial. We can trust Him for everything!
3. We can live by the Spirit
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” —Galatians 5:25
Besides God’s abundant grace and Jesus’ faithfulness, we have another powerful resource to help us live well in 2021—God’s Spirit.
We do not face each day’s challenges and opportunities alone. God’s Spirit is with us every step of the way. Though we may still wrestle with our old nature, the Holy Spirit will produce in us a desire for God’s way, and enable us to walk in God’s statutes. He will help us overcome our selfishness, laziness, pride, and anger, and help us to be more loving, peace-loving, patient, kind, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled.
Christian writer John Piper has this encouraging note:
“Let us acknowledge from our heart that we are unable to please God without the Spirit’s constant enablement. Let us pray for that enablement. Let us trust confidently in the Spirit’s power and promise to give that enablement. Then let us do what we know is right. And having done it, let us turn and say with all the saints, ‘Not I, but the Spirit of Christ within me.’ Thanks be to God! To Him be glory forever and ever! Amen.”