|(This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, January 6, 2019.)|
God is all about fresh starts and new beginnings! In one of the saddest books of the Bible, Lamentations, the weeping prophet Jeremiah wrote these amazing words of consolation: “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam 3:21-23 NASB)
The King James Version translates the word “compassions” as “mercies” but either way we find the goodness of God is refreshed to us every day. What a magnificent promise, and how much more so in the new year!
Paul carries forth this theme when he declares the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor 5:17 KJV)
This is another way of describing what it means to be born again. When you believe in Jesus, that is that you believe that God raised Him from the dead, and you confess Him as Lord of your life, committing to live according to His instructions, He causes you to be born spiritually, no matter how old you are. And that’s when new life begins!
But even those who’ve been walking with the Lord for some time need to be occasionally reminded that each day is a new gift from God. No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, you get to walk in the newness of His mercies every day!
It’s easy to look back on our missteps and mistakes and feel like we’ve failed God so much that we’ve disqualified ourselves from experiencing His presence again. But we never qualified ourselves in the first place! Remember that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8b NASB) He extended His mercy to you before you knew Him, and He continues to give you new mercies every morning!
So now that we’re in a new year, perhaps we should all take to heart Paul’s words to the Philippian believers. From a Roman jail he wrote, “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Phlp 3:13b-14 NASB)
Some people are held back by their past. But Paul encourages us to forget the past, to not limit ourselves by our past failures OR successes! It’s time to press forward into the “new” that God has for you in this new year.
Many people start the year with resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, start a new hobby, learn a new language, etc. These are noble goals and I don’t knock any of them! And we know that to achieve any of these goals will require discipline and work. So I commend you and encourage you as you begin your new year.
But I also want to urge you to consider one more, slightly different, resolution for your new year. In the midst of all your work on yourself consider Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Tim 4:7b-8 NASB)
If you truly want a new you in the new year, consider making the spiritual disciplines a priority in your life! Sure, losing weight will make you feel better, and getting in shape will bring you some compliments from others. But spiritual discipline has eternal value! So commit yourself to regular Bible reading and memorization, prayer, worship, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines. And you will truly find a new you in the new year!