The new year can often become about all things new. We tend to spend extra money buying new things. We take up new classes and create new commitments. We act like the upcoming year is our ‘refresh’ button and kind of hope that it will make us brand new.
The thing is that no time that passes can make us new. Our own efforts are so futile that even when we really try to change ourselves, we fail. We say things like “this year I will be more generous” or “this year I am going to stop lying”. But generosity begins in the heart and no matter how much of your stuff you give away, you will still be reluctant in doing so, and generosity is then lost. And no matter how we try to punish ourselves into not sinning, by creating a lying jar or biting our tongues, we are sinful by nature, and that sin will constantly manifest in different areas of our lives.
That’s human nature. Futile. But God is the heart-changer. He doesn’t aim at stopping your sin, He changes your heart and puts conviction in your mind, and that leads to a changed action. That is being truly made new.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
And so our hope should not be in the new year, but in the God who makes all things new.
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)
When we accept Christ as our Savior, deny ourselves and follow Him, we are instantly forgiven of our sins and instantly receive our new spirit: the Holy Spirit. But we are also being constantly made new by the work God has started in us, making us holy, sanctifying us.
So as much fun as it is to plan all these amazing things that we’re going to do and achieve in the new year, we need to take time to reflect on all that God has done in our lives, especially looking at the year that has just past. Think about the trials you were in the middle of and how God brought you through them, or how God opened your eyes to sin in your life and how, with His strength and comfort, you might have overcome it.
We have no idea what the future holds for us. In fact, James calls our life a “mist that appears for a little while and then disappears” (James 4:14). And so we do not have the future in our hands, but that’s okay, because our future is in the hands of the Creator of all things, from whom all good things come – our God.
So instead of trying to create a new slate for yourself at the start of the year, try to look back on how God has shaped you – making you stronger, more humble, more patient, more kind, less sinful, and more like His son, Jesus.
Think about the year that has just passed and reflect on how God has been working in you.