by Dianne Neal Matthews
Some people celebrate the arrival of the new year with parties, dancing, blowing horns, or maybe drinking something that’s going to give them a heck of a headache the next morning. Me? Not so much. One of my favorite things to do on December 31 is to hang my new calendar on the kitchen wall. Not just any calendar, like the ones handed out at the tire store. This one will have been carefully chosen to make sure it has artwork I’ll enjoy looking at for twelve months.
Maybe that sounds boring to you, but I think there’s something special about taking down the old calendar with all its inky marks and notes, and replacing it with a brand new one. I like seeing all those blank squares waiting to be filled month after month. Filled with appointments, birthdays of loved ones, meetings, special events. A whole new year stretches ahead, offering endless possibilities. A fresh start.
I find this little ritual is also the perfect time to meditate on one of my favorite verses. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul exclaims “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Even after so many years, I still feel a sense of wonder at that truth. When I accepted Jesus as my Savior, God didn’t simply recycle, repackage, repurpose, or improve me. He re-created me. A new person with a fresh start in life.
Being born again through the Holy Spirit meant that I was free to leave my old life of slavery to sin and selfishness behind to enter into a personal relationship with God as His dearly loved child. To help me live out this new life, God filled His Word with illustrations and instructions that show what a new creation in Him looks like, especially in regard to three key areas.
Through Ezekiel, God promised to put “a new heart” and “a new spirit” in His people. He would replace their stubborn, hardened hearts with tender hearts able to respond to Him and to love others (Ezekiel 36:27-27). This promise is fulfilled in us when we enter the New Covenant, made possible by Jesus’ sacrifice.
As a new creation, we have God’s laws written in our minds and on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). This heart transplant gives us the ability to understand God’s will; it also transforms our desires, goals, and attitudes to more closely align with His thinking.
The New Testament reminds us that we have taken off our “old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9) and are to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). As we mature spiritually, we discover that even sins we formerly considered minor, such as gossip, jealousy, or gluttony, have no place in a believer’s life. Although we’ll never measure up to God’s standard of perfection while we dwell on this earth, His Holy Spirit living within us empowers us to live a more righteous lifestyle.
Freshness in Praise and Worship
In the book of Psalms, a number of verses instruct us to “sing to the Lord a new song” (33:3, 96:1, and 98:1, just to name a few). In 40:3, David reveals the source of this new music as well as the result: “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.” Once we allow God to reshape our thinking and behavior, He takes us to a new level of communion with Him. Our worship and praise transcends mere words or motions. We sense His majesty and power in fresh ways as we enter His presence. And our sincere worship can be a powerful witness to those observing us.
Every single moment of every day represents an opportunity to live out the fact that we are a new creation in Christ. But if we compromise with sin, refuse to obey God’s will, or neglect to nurture our relationship with Him, we can fall back into old patterns.
The beginning of a new year is a time when people typically take stock of their lives. As you hang your own new calendar this year, why not take a few quiet moments to check for old stuff you need to throw out to make room for the new ways God wants to work in your life?
Are you hanging on to an old habit that hurts you or your loved ones? God wants to help you replace it with a healthier way of living.
Have you lost your interest in spiritual things? Ask God to give you a renewed desire to know him.
Do you feel as though you’ve messed up so badly that the best part of your life has already passed? God has wonderful plans in store for those who commit to seeking and doing His will.
Whether or not you make New Year’s resolutions, the best commitment anyone can make for the coming year is to spend daily time in God’s Word and prayer. You might be surprised at the new beginnings that God will bring into your life. After all, the Ancient of Days is the One who said, “See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:19)
Dianne Neal Matthews is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible (Tyndale House) and Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books). She also writes regularly for websites and blogs (such as CBN.com and FindingGodDaily.com), contributes to compilations (including Guideposts’ 2013 Mornings with Jesus), and enjoys teaching at writers’ conferences. She and her husband, Richard, currently live in Salt Lake City. To learn more, visit www.DianneNealMatthews.com.