New Year - New You!
Published on 23 February 2021
It is officially a brand-new year! 2020 has finally ended and we are well into 2021.
With the passing of an old year, we often feel energised by the hope and expectation that accompanies the possibilities of the new, and actively embrace the sentiment of the familiar coined phrase, New Year - New You! Hopeful resolutions —though often unrealistic— are made and announced proudly on social media. The world fills itself with hope for what the new year may bring and what may be achieved in the 365 days ahead. Sadly, often after just a few days, weeks or months, many of these new year promises are thrown aside, with Bible reading plans abandoned and treadmills given away. The shiny new hope that we once clung to is discarded as we realise that the new year is turning out to be much like the last.
What if there was a fresh approach to new year resolutions? What if instead of looking for ways to achieve personal success, we instead, committed the year to God and let HIM direct the course of our change? What if we made a promise to Him to yield to HIS desire to activate the kind of inner transformation that moves us continuously towards wholeness and becoming more Christlike? Think of the hope and expectation that would bring! Unlike us, He is 100% faithful to fulfil His Word in our lives and ALWAYS finishes what He starts (Philippians 1:6)!
Out With the Old, In With the New
It is safe to say that 2020 really left its mark on history. The devastation and grief that followed the many and varied losses, disappointments and broken dreams, left a scar in many lives. It is no wonder that most were glad to see the year end and another begin! In some ways, the world let out a collective ‘sigh of relief’ when the clock struck midnight and 2021 began.
In the natural, as another year passes, we become older and hopefully, more mature. Our bodies grow and age as time passes, beginning in infancy and continuing to grow into a fully matured adult. The human body was designed to adapt with age. Our skin was created to be like elastic in nature, expanding as we evolve and develop. However, not all animals were created like this. For example, as snakes grow they must shed their skin completely. This process is repeated over and over again during their lifetime as the old, outgrown skin is shed and discarded so that the new can form. Without shedding, they cannot grow into adulthood. This is such a great image of what our heavenly Father requires of us as in order to mature and become more like Him.
Spiritually speaking, God created us to shed our old ‘flesh’ so that we do not become confined, entrapped and unable to grow larger. Keeping us contained and immature goes against His nature and character. He is a Redeemer and Saviour who is always looking for ways to enlarge and strengthen us. As we yield to the process of shedding the flesh which is keeping us limited and uncomfortable, He gives us a fresh new skin to grow into.
As the old year passes, we must intentionally shed those things that limit us in readiness to embrace the new things that God has planned for our lives. We must prepare for growth and maturity, expecting to progress from infant-faith to strong and unshakable adult-faith as our walk with God continues.
Spring cleaning is another popular goal when we are embracing a new year. The clutter that we have allowed to build up and become a burden must go and order be re-established. Think about your closet. Sometimes we hold onto clothes longer than we need to because they have some sentimental value or cost us a lot of money. The reality is that they are usually well worn and often have stains or holes, or simply no longer fit—a common bi-product of lock-downs! You may stand in front of your wardrobe each day looking at a mound of clothes and searching for something to wear, but be unable to find anything that makes you feel good or fits well. It can be the same with our spiritual growth.
After a year like 2020, we cannot expect to emerge the same way that we entered it. In the natural, we are constantly evolving, expanding and enlarging— mentally, spiritually and even physically! The same is true of our spiritual lives.
What we were once ‘wearing’ in a previous season, may not be appropriate to wear any more. For example, we cannot allow ourselves to be clothed in heaviness, hurt or disappointment, indefinitely. God is not glorified when His children walk around in old, dirty and damaged clothes. He is a good Father! He knows when we need a change and helps us to let go of the old, familiar garments so that we can embrace the new. God is ready to give us all a brand new spiritual wardrobe in this new year so that we can be clothed instead with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12). However, we will never be able to wear the new until we have intentionally removed the old. For example, try pairing a new coat of compassion with the jeans of offense. They don’t look good together! In fact, they CLASH!
The truth is, we are not bound to our old ‘self’, or ‘wardrobe’ forever. God has provided a new one through our identity in Christ. Our job is to remove the old clothes and put the new ones on!
Becoming More Like the Father
Colossians 3 gives us keys to putting to death our old self and taking on our new identity in Christ. Here are the five keys we can use to become more Christlike in the next year:
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
1. Repent and Turn Away from the Old Ways
When our natural circumstances are challenging, it is easy for sin to take hold in our lives— especially when we are isolated and neglect the disciplines of our Christian walk such as prayer, praise and worship, reading God’s Word and meeting together with our church family. A new year provides a fresh opportunity to confront and let go of the old destructive mindsets, attitudes and habits that we have inadvertently allowed to take hold. Again, we cannot embrace the new while we hold on tightly to the old, so it is critical that we allow God to ‘spring clean’ our hearts and minds today. We must allow Him to cleanse and purify us from the inside out as we intentionally take off our old self and put on the new self which is being renewed daily in Christ.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
2. Clothe Yourself
As we have discussed, as believers, we have full access to a brand new ‘spiritual wardrobe’ which reflects the character and nature of our heavenly Father. Clothing covers us and offers protection. By clothing ourselves with God’s ‘virtues’, we position ourselves under His covering and protection. However, dressing ourselves with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience is an intentional action that doesn’t happen by accident. It is done by faith.
Can I encourage you to put on the character of Christ today!
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
We cannot move forward if there are grievances that are pulling us backwards. Actively forgiving the people who have hurt us allows the Father to forgive us (Matthew 6:14) and leads us to become more like Him. Our heavenly Father demonstrated mercy and grace when He sacrificed His son so that we could have a relationship with Him. In the same way— however difficult it may be— we must forgive those who have acted wrongly towards us. If we don’t, we cannot live freely as God intended us to, but instead, will remain trapped in a ‘skin’ that disables our ability to grow and mature, and creates a barrier between us and our Father.
4. Have Peace
Alongside the fresh hope that comes with a new season, there can also be anxiety and concern for the unknown. Perhaps the disappointments of the previous year have left us questioning God and His plans for our lives. Maybe we are afraid that the new year will turn out to be the same or even worse than the one before.
If we desire to grow and mature in God, we must dial down our cynicism and doubt, and instead, allow God’s peace to rule our hearts and our minds, by faith. We must stop holding our breath and expecting the next wave of bad news. We know that God works all circumstances together for our good (Romans 8:28), so why doubt Him now? We must hold onto the peace that surpasses all understanding and have faith that God is going to do the unexpected in the days and years ahead!
“And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
5. Be Thankful for 2020 and the New Things that are Coming
God’s plans for each one of us in 2021 are for good and great things are on their way! While we must acknowledge that 2020 was very difficult in the natural, we must also accept that many good things were birthed in the fire; resilience, strength and character.
Let’s be thankful for what God did and believe that He will continue to build on His good works in the year to come. Thanksgiving is a key for breakthrough so let’s enter His courts with thanksgiving today and believe that He will continue to pour out His favour in our lives as the year unfolds.
A new year can bring forth a new you but it won’t happen by trying to obey weak, poorly thought through, man-made resolutions. It will come as God renews us and draws us closer to Himself. An intimate daily relationship with the Father enables us to become more like Him. The new you is coming, but the old must be discarded first.
Here’s to the new year and a new you!
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