New Year’s creates the illusion of fresh starts and new beginnings. Like a lawn covered with freshly fallen snow, 2017 stretches before us without footprint or trail. We can choose anew the direction of our lives and the pathways for our feet.
On New Year’s Day, change seems possible as we resolve to make this year different from the last. So we make ambitious New Year’s resolutions about diets, exercise, habits, church, money, vocation, and more.
Resolutions born at midnight on December 31st, however, seldom survive the first few weeks of reality. Habit is a hard master to overthrow. Even if a rut is a grave with two ends missing, it is still OUR rut, comfortable and cozy.
By mid-January, the new and improved versions of our lives will greatly resemble the old and not so improved models.
After 33 years as a pastor, I have learned two polar opposite truths about fallen human beings:
- People don’t change.
- People can change!
The third chapter of John’s gospel describes how Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council, visited Jesus at night. Christ told the religious leader: I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.
Jesus revealed two vital truths in this passage. First, we MUST be born again. Second, we CAN be born again.
In Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, God has formed a new covenant/relationship with humanity. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son—and if God gave his only Son, will he not also give us all other things besides?
People tend not to change on their own, but God can radically transform people! Paul wrote: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17)
We serve a God of fresh starts, second chances, and new beginnings. Today can be different from yesterday; and tomorrow can be different from today. This year can truly be new in more than name alone.