There is something powerful about turning the calendar to a new year. People everywhere feel like this is the moment to turn over a new leaf and make some changes that are, perhaps, long overdue. Join the gym, change your diet, break an addiction, form a healthy habit, read your Bible daily, stay on top of your inbox… whatever personal or professional goal it might be, January seems like the ideal time to start.
However, perhaps we would do well to dwell on something else. Maybe we have lost sight of all that is new for us as Christians. Maybe some of our resolutions are birthed out of frustration and we might be helped by pondering more deeply all that is new for us in Christ.
We live under the blessings of the New Covenant: God’s great plan that was anticipated and predicted in the Old Testament, but has now been launched by Christ at his death and is the reality in which we exist as Christ’s people. As Paul puts it in 2 Cor. 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” (See also Gal. 6:15) A quick read through the epistles reveals many aspects of this New Covenant that are true for us today. Here are six to think about – three more individual, followed by three more corporate ones:
1. New Life
In Romans, Paul equates the resurrection of Christ with the newness of life that is ours to live today (Rom. 6:4). What does this mean? He writes that we are released from the law, no longer held captive, but free to serve in “the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom. 7:6). What would it look like if I sought to live in this new way of the Spirit, rather than by keeping myself in check via a written code? Would my life look different?
2. New and Living Way
In Hebrews, the preacher urges us to move forward into the presence of God by the blood of Jesus, that is, by “the new and living way that he has opened up for us.” How easily I can get caught up in an exercise fad, or a desired daily habit, while ignoring the wonder of being able to boldly enter into the presence of God in prayer! If I belong to Christ, then prayer would be the most natural feature of my life in 2020.
3. New Self
When Paul wrote about the new life we can live, he referred to it as putting on “the new self.” This new me is no longer hardened and calloused by sin, but instead, through knowing Christ, this new me is a heart, mind, and lifestyle-transforming reality that is “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10) That New Covenant promise of a God-given new heart is exciting! I know myself and how easily I can focus on my attempts to tweak a small issue in my life, but ignore the wonderful privilege of true holiness that is mine in Christ.
4. New Covenant Ministry
Jesus declared the inauguration of the New Covenant at the Last Supper, as Paul describes in 1 Cor. 11:25. He picks up that theme and really develops the wonder of participation in the New Covenant in 2 Cor. 3:6 where we see that we are actually ministers of this New Covenant – no longer ministers of the letter that kills, but now of the Spirit who gives life. (See also Heb. 8:8, 13; 9:15; 12:24) Whatever the size of my ministry might be, big or small, the real issue is the quality – and I don’t mean just a comparison of my preaching against yours. I mean the spiritual quality that makes my feeble efforts in ministry quantitatively different from the impressive work of a highly equipped unbeliever.
5. New Unity
What Christ has accomplished is not just individually transforming. It goes much broader than me and my spiritual life. We are brought together, Jew and Gentile, into “one new man in place of the two” (Eph. 2:15) How easily I take for granted the opportunities to worship with other believers. Sunday has become a steady part of my weekly routine. But there is nothing “routine” about unity among a fallen humanity. What opportunities is God giving me this year to experience this new unity that Christ has made possible on a local and on a global scale? How can I contribute to the beautiful unity of believers?
6. New Commandment
It might be good to lose a few pounds, or be a bit more efficient, but I would do especially well to prayerfully pursue the new commandment from Christ in the coming months. As the light of God’s good news breaks into the darkness of this fallen world, what could be more distinctly Christlike than his followers following his instruction? How many times every day will I be given opportunity to love others as he has loved me? (See 1 John 2:7-8; 2 John 5)
So, as we head into this New Year, let us consider all that is new for us in Christ. Individually we have a new life, with new access to God’s presence and the privilege of godly righteousness that we could never achieve by our own natural inclinations and efforts. With that we have the privilege of a new Spirit-empowered ministry, united together and loving one another. If this is the new me that is going into 2020, then the year ahead is already exciting to anticipate. Any other little tweaks are nice bonuses, but they can’t come close to the wonder of what God has done for me and wants to do in me.
One bonus new…
New Heaven & New Earth – our life is not all wrapped up in the details of 2020. The truth is that we are waiting for the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. (See 2 Peter 3:13)
The life we have to live this year is a life with a new heart, a new and special access to God, a new privilege of holiness, a new Spirit-empowered ministry, a new controlling principle, and a new hope. We live in a world that is fascinated by what is new and exciting, but let’s not allow that artificial and temporary newness to take our focus away from the wonder of all that is new for us in Christ.