There are a few times in life when you wake one morning a completely different person than you were the morning before: the morning after the wedding day, the morning after the birth of a child, the morning after the death of a spouse- are all examples. I suspect, however, that for most of us we woke up on January 1, 2014 as the same people we were on December 31, 2013. Most of us started 2014 with the same issues, struggles, job and family situations that we had at the end of 2013. Others of us began 2014 with joys, prosperity and successes that we hope will continue throughout the New Year.
Some of us do have habits and lifestyle changes that we want to make, whether it is to eat healthier, exercise more, kick a bad habit or cultivate a good habit. We typically call these “New Year’s resolutions.” Since January 1st I have seen innumerable blog posts on the topic of New Year’s resolutions. The posts range from “Should we make resolutions?” to “How to keep your resolution to exercise more,” to “Resolutions for a better financial 2014” and everything in between.
The thing about resolutions is that they are the goals we hope to achieve by the time the year has ended. In other words, they are not immediate goals. Nobody makes a resolution to loose weight and wakes up the next day 30 pounds lighter. Most of our resolutions are big, painful and hard and that is why most of us fail in our resolutions within a couple of weeks and go back to living the same way as we did before. In reality, there really isn’t anything new about New Year’s.
For the Christian, however, there can be something new, not only about New Year’s, but about every day. This newness is not developing a new habit, ceasing a harmful habit or making any number of resolutions. This newness is a newness of our very identities and it comes from new life that is in Christ.
The Apostle Paul writes about this new life in several of his letters, which we have in the New Testament. These include Romans 6, 2 Corinthians 5 and Ephesians 4. But here I want to look at Paul’s words in Colossians 3 because in Colossians, Paul tells us some specific traits that should characterize this new life. I want to briefly make four observations.
First, Paul reminds us where our new life comes from: “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” And where is Christ? He is seated at the right hand of God. Every morning when I wake up I am a completely different person than I used to be. My old self has died and my new life is hidden, covered, secured with Christ and in God.
Second, Paul tells us what characterized our old lives and emphasizes that these things are now dead within us. He lists immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech and lies. Paul says all these things were laid aside with our old selves and we have put on a new self.
Third, before Paul tells us the characteristics of the new self, he wants us to know that one new self is not any better than another new self: “There is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all and in all.” When we begin to talk about the new self, it’s easy to compare ourselves with others. We look at our pastors and other spiritual influences and we can believe that they got a better new self than we did. Paul wants us to know that in Christ there is no distinction and that the foundation and the standard is Christ. And guess what, our lives are hidden in and with Christ.
Lastly, Paul outlines the characteristics that should accompany the new self. “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other…put on love…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” There is so much that can be said on these verses and there isn’t time to exegete this whole passage but here is one question and one observation. How do we move from the characteristics of the old self to the characteristics of the new self? If we try to do it on our own we will fail. If we try to make resolutions to be more kind, humble or patient we will fail. These characteristics can only come from having our lives hidden with Christ and allowing the word of Christ to richly dwell within us.
What’s really new about New Year’s? It could be nothing. But it could be everything.
© Ryan Vanderland 2014