2 ways to avoid forgetfulness in the New Year

January 1, 2019

As we welcome another year, our attention naturally turns to the future. We ask questions like, “What will the new year hold?” Or, “What will I accomplish this year?” And even, “What will God do in 2019?” Such future-oriented questions are right and good when marked by humility and dependence upon God. Yet, when the former mercies of God in previous years are forgotten, our confidence in the future grace of God is shaken. So, how can we avoid such forgetfulness in the new year? How can we remain confident in God for the future? I have two suggestions based on Joshua 4, which tells the story of the Israelites crossing over the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

First, we must remember that all future plans and resolutions are dependent upon the Lord and should be submitted to his will.

As the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, the Ark of the Lord’s covenant went before them. The Ark represented the presence of the Lord among His people. As the priests entered the waters of the Jordan River with the Ark, the water was “cut off before the Ark.” The miraculous presence that the people would need in the years ahead was preceding them. This principle reminds the reader of what Solomon teaches us in Psalm 127 regarding how “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

As we enter the new year, whatever our goals and resolutions may be, we must recognize that we are fully dependent upon the Lord to bring them to fruition. The satisfaction of our needs, the fulfillment of our goals, the success of our efforts must be humbly submitted to the will of God, who goes before us in all things. Practically speaking, this means that we must be more concerned with the will of God in our lives.

Moreover, while we might not always know the specific details of God’s will in every situation, we are able to know the principles of His will that should guide our goals and plans in the New Year. As we make resolutions, we must remember that God’s will for us is sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). When we think about the future, whether it be the satisfaction of our needs or the fulfillment of our dreams, growth in holiness should be our priority. Such growth in holiness is completely dependent upon God working in our lives to conform us to the image of his son, Jesus Christ. We do not move on from holiness with each year that passes. Instead, we grow deeper in holiness, just as we have in past by the grace of God.

Second, we must be intentional about remembering the mercy of the Lord in the good times and the bad times.

If you read Joshua 4, you will notice that there are two sets of stones in the story. There are stones taken from the Jordan River to be placed as memorial stones at the place where the Israelites crossed over into the Promised Land. These stones were taken from the river during the harvest season. We know this because Joshua 3:15 and Joshua 4:17-18 tell us of the overflowing banks of the Jordan during this time. Thus, the memorial stones taken out of the river would be a reminder during the harvest season. Another set of stones, according to Joshua 4:9, were to be placed in the Jordan River. Unlike the stones on the banks of the Jordan, the stones placed in the river would only be visible during the low seasons.

The Lord was giving Israel two reminders of his mercy at different seasons of their time in the land. During the harvest, they would be reminded of God’s abundance. During droughts and famines, they would be reminded of God’s faithfulness. Whatever the season, they could remain confident that God was good and faithful to his people. Similarly, we should also be intentional about remembering the mercy of the Lord. Maybe this year will be the year that alongside your resolutions, you take time to reflect upon and remember the mercy of God in your life.

One of the most practical ways to pursue such remembrance is through journaling. This practice helps us remember God’s work in our lives. As the psalmist tells us, “we must recount the wondrous deeds of the Lord” (Psa. 9). If you are not already journaling but would like to start, I would recommend, if possible, keeping a handwritten record in a nice journal with a nice writing instrument. Take the time to slow down and reflect upon the months, weeks, and days that have passed. If you are inclined to write in your Bible, you can also make notes in the margins as you meditate on God’s Word. Think about how God has sustained you, answered your prayers, given you wisdom, and helped in your times of need. When you are down and discouraged, write those burdens out in a form of petitions to God. Ask him to prove his faithfulness to you in the midst of the crisis and the sorrow.

When the Israelites saw the stones that had been placed in the Jordan River to be seen during the seasons of droughts and famines, there is no doubt that they were living through difficult times. Yet, the stones in the Jordan, much like the words in our journals, can serve to remind us that God is the God of our yesterdays, our todays, and our tomorrows. He will not leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He can be trusted!

In summary, these two simple yet profound principles for the New Year can provide the direction that we need to not only start well but finish well. May the Lord help us all recognize that we are fully dependent upon the LORD for the satisfaction of all of our needs and remember that God is good and faithful in every season of life. If we spend some time this year reflecting upon God’s former mercies, then I believe we will be better prepared and more confident in his future grace.

Casey B. Hough

Casey B. Hough (Ph.D., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as lead pastor at Copperfield Church in Houston, Texas, and assistant professor of biblical interpretation at a Luther Rice College and Seminary. Casey and his wife, Hannah, have three sons and two daughters. For more ministry resources from Casey, visit his … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24