I have never been very good at New Year resolutions. Whether it's pledging to work out more consistently, eat less junk food, or even read through the entire Bible in a year, I seem to fall flat on my face sooner rather than later. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever made it past February in any of my New Year resolutions.
Sometimes that lack of commitment scares me.
I know it's just a New Year's resolution. It's not like it's a job responsibility. Or a marriage vow. But I can't help but wonder: What's that saying in regards to my commitment in Christ? I'm not talking about my Faith, here. It's not like I believe in Jesus until February and then let it free fall the rest of the year. I am talking about the nature of my Faith.... What I'm doing because I believe.
I've been pondering on the significance of celebrating the New Year for a couple of days now. We celebrate the passing of the old year and the adoption of the new year. We symbolically put the past behind us and consider January 1st a fresh start.
I am not condemning such perspectives at all. I too perceive the coming of the new year in the same way. But as a Christian, I should be practicing those principals every day of my life. The ideas that we must wait until the New Year to start anew, get off on a good start, and try to remember the past no more are all very pertinent spiritually. God's Word speaks of such a profound transformation in a much greater and grander sense than New Year resolutions and festivities could ever bring about.
When we turn our lives over to Christ, something dramatic and encompassing comes about. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." In Ephesians 4:24, it talks about putting on "the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
A new creature.
A new man.
What is this old creature? Who is this old man? It is our own selves when we are living apart from Christ. The Bible tells us that the one who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34). But in Christ, we are released from that bondage of sin. Galatians 5:1 reads: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." When we accept Christ Jesus in our hearts and begin a personal relationship with Him, we are set free from the sin which is the old self and become new men and creations in Christ. Sin no longer has any power or dominion over us (Romans 6:14). God is transforming us to become Christ-like in righteousness and holiness. The Apostle Paul echos this uplifting promise in Philippians 1:6 when he writes, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ".
Becoming a new creation and man in Christ is not something we can leave alone and forget about for months or years at a time, however. We must continually die to self and kill the sinful flesh that lives within us. This isn't something that as Christians we are called to do once a year. Rather, we must daily take up our cross and put on the new self in Christ. Paul tells us that he dies daily to kill the flesh (1 Corinthians 15:31). Our entire lives need to be offered up to Christ Jesus - all of it - every single day. Christ himself instructed his disciples to take up their crosses every day (Luke 9:23). The apostle Paul explains this utmost form of devotion and commitment to the Almighty God in this way:
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." - Romans 12:1-2
Our example is found in Christ Jesus, not in New Years resolutions or self-help guides (1 Peter 2:21). We are called to live holy lives, not according to the flesh and the world. Our commitment to become better people, or to lose more weight, or to learn a new skill are not sufficient in themselves. We are nothing without Christ Jesus. God "knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). We need to be dying to self, taking up our cross, putting the old self away, and become anew in Christ every moment of every day. Why? Because of love. "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
I encourage you today, brothers and sisters, to join me in dying to my sinful desires and ways of life. Put your faith in Christ Jesus and live your life in all that you do according to His will, starting today, tomorrow, and forever-more. God is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:24) and we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).