I used to buy into the whole “new year, new me”. At the end of December, I’d be full of hopes about what the next year would look like and make a list of my resolutions for the year: I’d spend less time on my phone and read more books. I’d drink more water, eat healthier, and be more active. I’d finally get fluent in the new language I was trying to learn. I’d start meal planning and prepping and keep my house more organized. I’d be a better mom and wife. And of course, I would read my Bible every day too.

But, probably two or three days into January, I’d find that I had already fallen short of at least a few of my well-intentioned goals. Maybe I even made it a month or two with some of my goals, but I certainly never made it a whole year. As good as my intentions were to meet my goals, I would always end up falling short. And I know I’m not alone in this.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, recounts the story of the first man and the first woman. God had given Adam and Eve free reign of the beautiful world they lived in and gave them only one rule – they must not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and if they did, they would die. This seems like it would be a pretty easy rule to follow, but when Satan (who appears to Eve in the form of a serpent) talks to Eve, he deceives her into trying the forbidden fruit. She in turn gives some to Adam and he tries it too. This was the first act of man disobeying God – the first act of sin. And the result? Humanity (and the rest of creation) was changed forever.  

And while Adam and Eve didn’t die right away, two things happened when they disobeyed. Instead of living forever in perfection, their bodies would now be faced with aging, decay, and eventually, death. Secondly, their relationship with God was damaged because they were no longer perfect. You see, God is holy, which means He is absolute purity. He cannot have sin in His presence. When Adam and Eve sinned, their sin separated them from a relationship with God. In addition to eventual physical death, Adam and Eve were now destined to spiritual death - eternal separation from God.

So what does this have to do with my failed new year’s resolutions? If we take Adam and Eve’s story into consideration and understand how this influences humanity today, then we can understand why no matter what we do our efforts don’t lead to perfection. A quote I read recently said, “The world would have you believe the problem is that you can’t seem to get your act together, but the reality is that you can’t get your act together. Not in the sense that your sink always seems to be piled high with dishes, or you’re not getting to the gym as often as you should…No, you can’t get your act together because you’re a sinner in need of a Saviour.” (Risen Motherhood Deluxe Edition, page 24). We can’t beat the curse either – but we can be freed from it!  

The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) – in other words, no one can measure up to God’s standard of perfection. And the result? Death. But God in His love gave us a promise filled with hope: God told Eve that through her line would come a man that would eventually crush the serpent’s head. God wasn’t just talking about any man – he was talking about Jesus, His son – fully God and yet fully human.  

Someone needed to take our place and that someone needed to be perfect. When Jesus was killed, He was standing in the gap for our sins. For your sins. For my sins. Isaiah 53:5-6 says, “[Jesus] was pierced for our transgressions…the punishment that brought us peace was on Him…and [God] has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.” And when He rose from the dead? He was telling Satan and death that God has the final word. This is the God we can put our hope in. The God who loves us so much that even in our disobedience He made a plan to rescue us so that we don’t need to live in separation from Him. If we choose to believe in Him and follow Him, we can live forever with Him after we die.  

This is good news. Is it wrong to set goals and want to be a better person? No! But I will never be good enough on my own. You will never be good enough. Maybe you’re the kind of person who sets goals and actually keeps them. Maybe you’re not. Maybe you feel like your life is pretty together and things are good. And maybe you’re fully aware of what a mess you can be sometimes. But no matter how you see yourself, you can’t beat the curse. What happens when you reach physical death? Are you confident in what eternity holds for you? Your attempts to be good or even perfect can only get you so far – eventually your human efforts will fall short. So what hope do we have?

My hope is not in my human abilities. My hope is in Jesus who has done what I could not do and taken my place and my punishment. My hope is in God who is renewing me and changing me as I seek and follow after Him. I know that in 2024 I will continue to see God’s goodness in my life. But it won’t be because I’m a great person. It will be because He is a great God.  

-Jess Wang