ALL THINGS BEING NEW – New in Christ
What a wonderful time the new year is—full of hopes and promises. New Year’s resolutions are loaded with the assumption that this year will be the best year yet, at least better than 2020 (let’s not talk about that, right?). We promise to remake ourselves into new person. This year I will be a new me, the best version of myself that I can be.
Yet, even if we manage to keep some of our resolutions, not too far into the new year it begins to look a lot like the old year. The same issues arise. The same gripes come up. The same temptations plague us. Maybe you already feel this way about 2021. How are your hopes for this year going so far?
It is a good thing that our newness in life does not depend on us, but who God has made us in Christ.
Read John 3:1–6
When Nicodemus came to Jesus with questions about the power of God at work in him, Jesus directed Nicodemus to the power of God that works in us to make us new people. Jesus told Nicodemus that to see God’s kingdom, he would have to be “born again”(literally “born from above”).
In verse 6, what does it mean that the Spirit gives birth to spirit?
What does it mean that God makes you new, acceptable, and holy, and that it is not something he demands you do for yourself?
We are born human from human parents, who themselves were fallen sinners. We are flesh and cannot change our sinful nature. Only the Holy Spirit can create new life in us. In baptism, the Spirit of God descends, and by the means of water, he creates in us a new spirit and we become part of God’s kingdom of grace. The Spirit grants us a new heart, and a new mind, with new desires. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, we have no spiritual life with God, only a fleshly, sinful relationship with him, for which we are condemned.
Read Romans 6:3–6
How does Paul describe the work the Spirit does in us in baptism?
Verse 6:. Our old self was…
In order that…
So that we…
In Holy Baptism God puts the sinful self to death, burying us in Christ’s tomb, so that he can raise us up as new people. God makes us his own dear children. The path to hell that our flesh was walking ceases to be. The fruit of sin is brought to nothing. We are new people, who live in new ways. We walk as disciples of Jesus, united with him in this life, and he promises that he will lead us though our death and bring us to eternal life. We walk in the newness of faith, trusting in our good and gracious God. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Freed from the condemnation of the law (Romans 8:1), we are free to love God and serve our neighbour. God has not set us free so we can do as we like, and again find ourselves slaves to sin which leads to death. Rather, we are free from sin to love God, to love his Word. We are free to give ourselves for the benefit of our neighbour. Paul sums all this up when he writes, for freedom Christ has set you free (Galatians 5:1).
Life as a new creation in Christ is different from life apart from God. What does that new life look like? How is it different from life without God? What is new about the way the Christian sees God, compared to the way the unbeliever sees God?
With our new identity, all things are new. God is not a distant deity that needs to be won over – he is our loving heavenly Father. Jesus is not just a historic figure who lived a good life and was tragically murdered – he is our Lord who gave his life so we can live. Worship is not us trying to impress God or others, but our Saviour serving us forgiveness and life. The Bible is not a helpful instruction book on life, but the life-giving revelation of God’s plan to save us all. Wealth is not what we can get for ourselves, but the gift of God to be used for the benefit of his kingdom. Relationships are not pursued for what we can get out of them, but the way God gives for us to serve others. Heaven is not for a few lucky or smart ones, but for the humble in faith.
In Christ all things really are new. It’s a new mindset, a new way to think about life and what God gives us now. The new life we have in Christ is a continuous growing into who God has created us in baptism. Daily, we might say with John the Baptist, He must increase, I must decrease (John 3:30).
How might this knowledge—Christ increasing, me decreasing—change the kinds of new year’s resolutions you make?
Happy new year! Happy new you! Go in peace knowing that Christ has saved you from your sinful self, from slavery to sin, from death itself, and daily regenerates you through the Word to follow him and walk in newness of life.
Pray LHS 122 O Holy Spirit, God’s Own Gift
Renew and cleanse our hearts and lives,
And make us pure and holy.
Help us to flee from every sin,
To love and serve God solely,
So that our faith in Christ our Lord
May prove itself in deed and word
Before the world around us.
Bartholomäus Ringwaldt 1530-99
Tr Oluf Hanson Smeby (1909), rev various