Each new year brings with it new resolutions, different goals, and special terms to encourage and challenge us. Social media feeds are bombarding us right now with advertisements and friendly targets for 2022. A typical pledge in the new year is to adopt some type of exercise and/or diet regimen, a promise to get healthy in the new year! The holidays can certainly take its toll on our waistlines! Physical health and fitness should always be a priority for us, but as with any new year’s resolution, many struggle to stick with it as the winter months settle in. I wonder if this could have anything to do with our perspective.
Every goal worth reaching takes work. How we approach the work – as a privilege or a punishment – could be the difference between success and failure. Let’s take exercise as an example. When you think of exercise, do you see it as a privilege or a punishment? How many of us, and I’m talking to myself right now, overeat and then say to ourselves, “Now I have to go exercise to try to undo what I just did to myself!” This type of thinking views exercise as a punishment for something done wrong. Instead, what if I saw exercise as a tool that made me stronger, boosted my energy, and helped me sleep better?
Do you think this perspective would make a difference?
Let’s look at a student example. Have you ever provided enrichment activities for students who finished an assignment or project early? As educators our intent is to expand their learning and broaden their understanding, desiring the best for them. We hope students will consider the enrichment a privilege, but often times the opposite is true. Students may perceive the “extra work” as punishment, which frequently impacts their level of effort. Perspective makes all the difference!
I couldn’t help but apply the concepts of privilege and punishment to my spiritual New Year’s resolutions. As believers, we are all on a journey toward spiritual maturity which involves Bible study, prayer, and service (Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Peter 2:1-3). Just like physical exercise, it is critical we see spending time with the Lord as a privilege and not a punishment for sin. All the prayer and Bible study in the world will not wash away our wrongs. This is only done by Jesus and His work on the cross.
One of the verses I have really held onto the last few months is 1 Peter 2:24. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.
As I have meditated on this verse, I have thought about how much it must grieve God for us to view Him as a punisher. His love for us is undeniable. Jesus endured extreme pain and death so you and I could be free from the power of sin. Charles Spurgeon says it this way.
“He who bore my sins in his own body on the tree, took all my debts and paid them for me, and now I am dead to those debts; they have no power over me. I am dead to my sins; Christ suffered instead of me. I have nothing to do with them. They are gone as much as if they had never been committed.”
It is difficult for us to wrap our minds around this concept. We know from God’s Word that we will never measure up. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). How can we let go of what we deserve (punishment) and view God’s gift of grace as a privilege? How can we change our perspective? Let’s read on in Paul’s letter to the Romans, and do so slowly; don’t skip a single word!
Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus (Romans 3:24-26).
There is so much we could discern from these verses, but I want to focus on the very first sentence. God FREELY makes us right in His sight when we believe. Because of Jesus, you and I don’t have to approach God in a cowering, fearful position. In fact, the Bible says we can draw near to God with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). What a privilege! Because of Jesus we have been given a special right, an advantage in the sight of God! We can come to Him just as we are, and He welcomes us with open arms.
This privilege should create a desire in our hearts to know Him, seek Him, and commune with Him. When we see God as a punisher or see ourselves as deserving to be punished, we have forgotten the cross. Because of the cross God doesn’t see you as one to be punished but one to be cherished. When God looks at you, he sees someone who is forgiven, chosen, and brand new (Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 2:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17)! This can be our perspective, too!
So many Christians today are living defeated lives because they’ve confused privilege and punishment. Yes, we are sinful beings. Yes, we will fall short. However, when we are repentant and seek God with all our hearts, the Bible says we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 6:33)! Oh, what a privilege it is to be accepted, loved, and protected by Almighty God!
In 2022, let’s change our perspective. Don’t deny the privilege you have through Christ’s sacrifice. He died so we don’t t have to live under the veil of punishment. We are protected under the veil of privilege!
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:3-4