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“You have been forgiven, washed clean, given the Holy Spirit, and made a child of God. You don’t have to manufacture your fresh start. You already have it in Christ!”
It comes every year at this time: that desire for a fresh start. Maybe it’s the clichéd tradition of new year's resolutions, maybe it’s the time between Christmas and January first when everyone is out of their regular routine, maybe it’s the fact that you’ve eaten sweets for a month and it’s time to get back on the discipline bandwagon. Whatever the reason, we all long for a new beginning this time of year.
While the turning of the calendar can provide the opportunity for something new, it rarely sticks. It’s a manufactured “fresh start”—a psychological manipulation, not transformative change. Don’t get me wrong. Psychological manipulations can be helpful for all sorts of different purposes in our lives. Sometimes new years resolutions can stick.
But if what you’re looking for in 2016 is more than self-manipulation—if you want something truly transformative—then we must not try to create a fresh start. Intead, we have to set our gaze again at the fresh start we already have in Christ. In fact, the best way to renew the process of transformation in our lives is to meditate on the clean slate we have as God’s children. You don’t need anything new this year. You just need help remembering what you already know, but so often forget:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” –Colossians 3:1-4 ESV
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” –Romans 8:1-2 ESV
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” –Romans 8:9-11 ESV
“In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” –Galatians 4:3-7 ESV
The miracle of the gospel is that you don’t need a fresh year to get a fresh start. Every morning you wake up to a fresh start through Christ. You have been forgiven, washed clean, given the Holy Spirit, and made a child of God. You don’t have to manufacture your fresh start. You already have it in Christ!
When you already have your clean slate, you can make transformative changes in your life not in hopes of a fresh start, but in response to a fresh start. The beauty of the transformation Christ has wrought in our hearts is that he not only gives us the clean slate we are desperate for, but he also sets the agenda going forward. We don’t have to earn the fresh start we desire, and we don’t have to figure out what to do with it once we have it. So many new year's resolutions focus on our external life. We want to eat less, work out more, re-balance our time, re-organize our closets. But the transformed life manifests itself in far more internal ways. We get a sampling of the types of changes God has in mind in Colossians:
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” –Colossians 3:12-17 ESV
As the new year begins, may you reflect again on the fresh start you’ve been given in Christ. Not because it’s January again, but because you woke up this morning as a child of God. And may you allow God to establish the agenda for change in your life—an agenda that stems not from the outside in, but from the inside out.
Happy New Year!
Scott serves the church by overseeing leadership, development, global ministries, and counseling/discipleship.
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