Beginning tonight people all over the world will intensify their celebration of newness. Below is a brief meditation from my book Do I Know God? on why Christians are the ones who should be celebrating newness louder than anybody.
When God saves us, we gain a new beginning, a new family, a new purpose, and a new power.
A New Beginning (Justification)
One of the reasons people celebrate the beginning of a new year is because it promises a clean slate. That's why we make New Year's resolutions, out of our desire to start over. Sadly, though, most of the resolutions we make on January 1st are long abandoned by the middle of February.
But God promises that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is, when we trust in Christ, God gives us a permanent fresh start, an everlasting new beginning, regardless of what we've done or who we've been. Our deep desire to "begin again" is satisfied once and for all because of what Christ has done for us on the cross.
A New Family (Adoption)
"You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household," Paul said. In other words, when God adopts us, we not only gain a Father, we gain a whole new family: the Church. The biblical word for "church" does not mean a building or institution, it means "the called out ones." It refers to those whom God calls out of slavery and into sonship. The Church, in other words, is people: people adopted by God, people who know God as their heavenly Father. When God saves sinners he saves them into a whole new community — the "family of God." As Frank Colquhoun wrote in his book Total Christianity, "When Christ saves a man he not only saves him from his sin, he saves him from his solitude." He brings us into meaningful fellowship with others who will help us along the way in our relationship with God.
A New Purpose (Mission)
Paul wrote, "Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we do it all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). When God saves us, we no longer have to settle for manufacturing our own fleeting legacies. He gives us a new reason to live—to glorify him. We live, in other words, for something huge and significant — to display God, to spread his fame, and to build his everlasting Kingdom. We become part of an infinitely larger story than our own personal history. We no longer have to work for our own puny causes, but for God's universal cause. Paul said, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).
In his book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesteron wrote, "How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it." Nothing makes you more aware of your smallness and life's potential bigness than being in relationship with the Living God. God promises a big purposeful life to everyone who knows him.
A New Power (Sanctification)
When God enters into an everlasting relationship with us, he not only promises to pardon us for the past, he promises us a new power for the present. Just before Jesus ascended back into heaven after his resurrection, he told his disciples, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8).
Most of us know we're imperfect and need to change. Most of us want to live better lives. But no matter how hard we try, we can't. We don't have the power to change.
But God does. In The Contemporary Christian, John Stott writes, "Is God really able to change human nature … to make cruel people kind, selfish people unselfish, immoral people self-controlled, and sour people sweet? Is he able to take people who are dead to spiritual reality, and make them alive in Christ? Yes, he really is!" And when God's Holy Spirit enters us, we receive all the power we need to become the people God always intended for us to be. The Bible makes it clear that in Christ, God provides us with everything we need for godliness.
C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: "God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature."
New, unimaginable changes await all God's children because God promises a new, unimaginable power.
Because God has given us a new beginning, a new family, a new purpose, and a new power, let us celebrate true newness tonight. And in doing so we will point a watching world to the only One who can "make all things new."
Happy New Year!