Tonight is a night of death and resurrection. 2015 is dead and buried as of midnight. 2016 rises at that very moment. Every death, whether a day, a year, or a person, brings your death and your judgment to the forefront. Moses writes in Psalm 90, the years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews writes, it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.
Are you afraid of what comes next, or do you not fear death and judgment? Your answer depends upon whether you remain under the Law or under the promise. Do you seek righteousness, life, and salvation before God by doing the Law as God demands? Or do you trust in the promise of wanting to be justified and saved by faith in Jesus Christ? You are only able to enter into a new year with joy when you believe Jesus Christ has kept the Law for you, in your place, as your Savior.
You are righteous before God by faith in Christ. Outside of Christ you are and remain unrighteous. Either you are saved by works of the Law or by faith in Christ. There is no other option. Granted the Law perhaps can achieve external righteousness before your neighbor. Other people are able to look at your zealous attempt to keep the Law of God and compliment you on your upright life. Yet this is living in prison because the Old Adam despises doing the right thing. In time, all attempts at keeping the Law end in failure. The ultimate failure is death. Saint Paul understands these attempts at clean living when he writes in Galatians chapter three: before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
All external attempts at righteousness fail because the Law of God expects external and internal righteousness: perfect righteousness within and without. God expects perfect love toward Him and toward your neighbor, yet the Law gives no power for its achievement. Earlier in Galatians chapter three Paul writes, for if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. So the Law reveals your iniquity to all instead of being able to declare you righteous. The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
Follow the chain of passages through Galatians to Romans. Notice the Gospel “buts”. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. But Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
You are a child of God by faith in Christ. No one is a child of God by natural birth. You are a child of God not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. No one is a child of God in the way of the law, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. You are united with Christ by faith. Christ’s righteousness covers you because His blood, His water, and His Spirit cover you. So God does not regard you as you are, but in His Son, as His dear child. This gift of sonship is yours by virtue of your baptism, for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. When the voice from heaven says at Jesus’ baptism, this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; the voice says the same thing about you.
You are an heir of the divine promise by faith in Christ. The Law decides you as unrighteous and worthy of eternal condemnation. Paul recalls Hagar and Sarah in Galatians chapter four as allegories of the Law and the promise. What does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.”
You can’t earn your inheritance. It is a gift that comes in believing Jesus as your only Savior and Redeemer. If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. You are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
There will be suffering this coming year. Every Christian is given crosses to bear. Yet in all the crosses borne, you have a good conscience because Christ first bore the cross for you. Every burden is made light in His burden. Jesus has paid all your debt. Salvation is accomplished. The gift of forgiveness and life is put in your mouth, your ears, and your life. The old has passed. The new has come. The Law is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Who first shed blood for you this day that you are called His son, His heir, His righteous one.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!