Traditionally in preparation for the New Year people make themselves wonderful promises of how they will be different in the coming year. While perhaps sincere the vast majority of our New Year's Resolutions are quickly sacrificed on the altar of same old, same old. The truth of the matter is outward reform is pretty difficult if there is not first an inward transformation.
Perhaps as you read these words you are hoping for a real change in 2010. While no one can deliver on the promise that our country is about to experience a positive surge in economy, that the dark clouds of our recent recession (if not depression) will suddenly part and the sunshine of recovery will flood our land, it is possible to promise and deliver real change on the personal level. The wonderful promise of God to you is, "Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new" (2 Corinthians 5:17, CEV).
Let me take a moment to examine that promise with you. "Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person." Read that again, "a new person." You are not the same old person with a brand new start, much more than that! God declares you totally new. Jesus called it "born again." When a person is born, he or she is a brand, new, unique individual.
So it is when someone comes in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. They become a brand new person inside. That is the inward transformation that can help bring about the outward reformation that one may so desperately desire.
Look at that next phrase, "The past is forgotten." Now that doesn't mean that God has amnesia. When the Bible speaks of God forgiving us (on the basis of Christ's sacrifice) and forgetting all our past (and we can add present and future) transgressions, it means simply that he will never bring them up again or hold them against us. One writer said, "He buries our sins in the deepest seas and then posts a ‘no fishing' sign."
I think this is one of the hardest realities of the Christian life for most to grasp. We are so used to earning things. We earn our wage, we earn respect and on a human level, when we blow it we have to re-earn the trust of people by proving ourselves over a period of time - sometimes a long period of time and sometimes unfortunately no matter how much we've changed there will still be those who cling to the past and won't forgive us. Not so with God. He forgives us freely. The Bible says, "You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God's gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. It isn't something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about" (Ephesians 2:8-9, CEV).
God's forgiveness is based upon who he is, not on who you are. He can forgive us freely because Christ paid dearly for that forgiveness. Christ's willing death on the cross and resurrection from the dead satisfied fully the righteous demands of the Holy God. What love!
If all this is not enough, the God who totally forgives us and makes us totally new people beginning from the inside out, also makes "everything new" for us. We all know the excitement of getting something new. We want to show it off. God's promise to those who will put their faith in Jesus Christ is that they are made new. One of the saddest realities of the Christian faith is that which should be vibrant, exciting and free many times is ruined by perhaps well-meaning but misguided people who want to saddle the new believer with a laundry list of do's and don'ts. They steal the liberty of the Christian, and heap upon them old rules and regulations and in the process the excitement of the newness is lost. (More on that next week perhaps).
If you are looking for change in 2010, may I suggest that you seek real change at the foot of the cross? From my house to yours, May you have a happy and blessed New Year.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.