Throughout this past week, we’ve heard the expression “Happy Near Year!” countless times. The celebrities from our favorite programs have done 30-second spots wishing us a “Happy New Year.” Many of us watched the ball drop in Times’ Square and heard the expression “Happy New Year.” Many of us were with family and friends when the clock struck midnight Monday evening, and as the clock struck 12:00, we shouted, “Happy New Year.”
For many the new year is really not happy. While thousands shout “Happy New Year,” they awaken to the same burdens as before: not knowing how to meet their financial obligations, not knowing if their marriage can be saved or if it’s even worth saving, not knowing how to escape the bondage to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, or countless other addictions. There is no magic moment at midnight that suddenly ushers in utopia.
Instead of a “Happy New Year!” we need a “HAPPY NEW YOU!” What is it that makes a “HAPPY NEW YOU”?
THE NEW BIRTH
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3).
Birth is the way we made our entry into this physical world. Spiritual birth is the way we make our entry into the spiritual world. Nicodemus and the other Pharisees believed that their physical descent from Abraham entitled them to acceptance in the kingdom of God – Jesus makes it plain that it is spiritual birth, not physical birth, that entitles one to acceptance in God’s kingdom.
Notice the necessity of the new birth: Jesus said that unless we are born again we cannot see the kingdom of God. Jews understood seeing the kingdom of God as participating in the kingdom at the end of the world. Seeing the kingdom of God would mean that one is resurrected. Unless we are born again, we shall not be resurrected.
As we examine other passages, we learn some things about this new birth. This new birth comes from God – we “were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:13). This new birth is possible on account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ – God “has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). This new birth takes place through the word of God – we have been “born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).
At this time of the year, so many dream of starting over – starting a weight loss program, spending more time with family, finding a new job. In Jesus, it is really possible to start again. As we are born again, we have a new identity as a child of God, we have new opportunities to serve God, we have a new hope that we shall be with God in eternity. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
THE NEW WALK
“We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).
When we were buried with Christ in baptism, we were raised to live a new life; we were not saved to live the same lives we lived before our conversion. Notice some requirements of this new walk.
We are to consider ourselves “to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).
“Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24).
Jesus “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24).
THE NEW GOAL
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” ( Phil. 3:13-14).
Before his conversion, Paul had one primary goal – to be the best Jew he could be: “We are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God[b] and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:3-6).
When Paul became a Christian, his ambitions in life drastically changed. He forgot those things which were behind him. That Paul forgot those things behind him did not mean that he obliterated his memory, but it means that he did not allow these things to consume him to where he could not keep his eyes on his goal. We, too, need to forget out past lives – we need to forget our past sins, our past failures, our past successes, and focus on serving God as well as we possibly can.
Scripture implores us to have goals for ourselves:
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Lk. 13:24).
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed” (2 Tim. 2:15).
What new goal are you going to set for the is new year? Will it be to be faithful to God? Will it be to move closer to heaven? Will it be to attend the services of the church? Will it be to obey the gospel? Just what will you accomplish in this new year?