Four ways to make each day count for eternity

Planning for a fresh start in the new year

December 29, 2021

Can one day really make that big of a difference? The calendar turns 365 times every year, but there’s something special when the last day of the year gives way to January 1. The New Year promises a fresh start. So we review, we dream, we plan, and finally, we resolve.

We do these things with the hope that the New Year will be better than the last one, but ultimately we don’t live for just one better year. Our purpose in life is not limited by time. God created time and placed us inside of it for now—but not forever. When time is no more, we will remain. So we live this moment, this day and this year with eternity in mind.

Annual goals are important, not because they are ultimate, but because they focus our lives on what is paramount. So with a timeless future in view, here are four suggestions for the New Year.

1. Make returning to Jesus a way of life.

When Jesus said, “Follow me,” he wasn’t asking his disciples for a one-time decision to put him on the top of their to-do list. Instead, he was inviting them to an ongoing relationship based on authenticity, intimacy and sacrifice. He was worth their lives, so he didn’t hesitate to ask for their full devotion.

For us, this devotion is expressed in a love relationship with Jesus where we communicate with him in daily Bible reading and prayer, where we respond to him through personal submission to his will, where we live in community with other believers and where we invite others to follow him through our witness and service. This relationship, however, does not come without a fight.

The world, the flesh and the devil war against us and attempt to siphon our affections away from God. The apostle Paul confessed this temptation in Romans 7. Daily victory required a daily returning to Jesus to set his mind on the things of God rather than the things of the flesh. So practically, repentance is not just for the wayward prodigal living in gross rebellion; it’s for the most devout followers of Jesus who battle with the prodigal still loitering inside of our hearts, tempting us to run away with him.

2. Make plans that build people.

When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, he made a plan to rebuild the wall around the city, then he got to work. Just 52 days later, he finished the wall. It was a remarkable accomplishment. However, Nehemiah’s ultimate goal was not to rebuild a wall, but to rebuild a people. With the wall complete and the city secure, the exiles could return.

God’s redeeming work is still to restore a people to himself for his glory. Any plans we make for any other reason become idols of our heart. Our health, relationships, finances, hobbies and our career are God’s provision for us to display the gospel as we invest in other people. God has not called us to make something of our lives. He has called us to die to ourselves and to live to make much of Jesus and the new life he gives to everyone who will trust in him.

3. Make room for unknown opportunities.

It’s wise to set goals and make plans, but it’s wiser still to place every plan under the subjection of God. The Bible says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps” (Prov. 16:9). The unmet goals from last year may be the result of a slothful lack of discipline and focus, but some of our so-called failures may be the result of us listening to God and obeying him for something much better than our best made plans.

We pray and plan for the New Year, but we recognize that only God is sovereign. As we seek him first, we make ourselves available to him and adjust our lives along the way. This isn’t a rationale for poor planning, undisciplined living or excuse making. Instead, it’s a humble awareness that our inflexible allegiance to our plan could lead us away from God rather than toward him.

4. Make obedience an action.

Plans are for paper, but listening to and obeying God moves us to act. After the whiteboard dream sessions for New Year planning are over, January 1 asks this question, “Now what are you going to do?” We soon discover that it’s easier to make plans than to act on them. The snooze button wins our attention or the Facebook status distracts us for just long enough to detour us from even the simplest of tasks.

Knowing God’s will, agreeing with God’s will and even celebrating God’s will are not the same things as doing God’s will. We must learn to think deeply on the things of God and to prayerfully seek Jesus first, but the Kingdom advances through those who take the time and make the effort to act.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23). Whether the work is majestic or mundane, celebrated or ridiculed, noticed or obscure, we do it with all of our heart. We manage our calendar, eliminate distractions, build relationships that encourage us to fulfill our calling, and then we keep our heart tender toward Jesus. Only he can produce lasting fruit through us. (John 15:5)

Can one day on the calendar really make a difference? When we join the Ancient of Days in his eternal work to redeem sinners and restore the world for the glory of God, every day makes a difference.

Daryl Crouch

Following 28 years in pastoral ministry, Daryl Crouch now leads Everyone’s Wilson, a community transformation initiative that helps churches bring the whole community around every school so that every student, educator, and family can live whole. He’s married to Deborah, and they have four children. Read More by this Author

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