Welcoming the New Year: A Time for Second Chances
New beginnings, second chances, mulligans…. That’s what we envision each new year granting us. It’s an opportunity for things to go better for us. Or, probably more often, it’s an opportunity for us to do something better. Creating a new good habit, breaking a bad one, or improving ourselves in some way are things that come to mind.
Biblical Theme of Renewal
These new beginnings or do overs are nothing new. In all actuality they are a Biblical theme. As we read the Old Testament, we see the Israelites flounder in following God. I’ve heard people sound amazed that after seeing God’s provision and protection repeatedly, they still failed to trust God and did things their own way. And each time they did, they suffered the consequences.
And yet, God had mercy and grace and allowed them a new beginning. He repeatedly had mercy for them and put His protection and provision over them once again.
The Ultimate New Beginning: Christ’s Birth
Of course, we celebrated the ultimate new beginning a week ago. Of course, I’m referring to the birth of the Christ child, the arrival of the Messiah. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NASB95). I love that verse. We were/are captives by our own doing. We are not free.
We see the same theme in John 8:31-38. That’s where we see the well-known verse, “the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32). And who is the truth? Of course, we know that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life! (John 14:6) In John chapter 8, Jesus continues to say that whoever sins is a slave to sin. Worse yet, he points out that the slave is only in the home for a while. It isn’t his to inherit. So as long as we stay slaves to sin, we will not inhabit the eternal kingdom. But since the Son is the direct heir to the Father (for illustrative purposes) then the Son has the authority to change our status from slave to free men! He lends us His status as sinless as long as we cling to Him. (Yes, I believe that we can walk away on our own even if nobody can pluck us from His hand. John 10:27-29)
Striving to Draw Closer to Christ
How do we embrace that new beginning? How do make the most of Christ’s saving grace? In Philippians 3, Paul is talking about being like Christ and hope of the resurrection. Remember that a focus of the Pharisees was looking forward to being resurrected and Paul had been a devout Pharisee until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. The concept of eternal life or the rapture are really the same thing. So, starting in verse 12, Paul says that although He has not yet obtained perfection through the resurrection he says he “presses on to lay hold of that (resurrection) for which also I was laid hold of by Christ.” (verse 12) Note that he is striving to lay hold of it, but Christ HAS ALREADY laid hold of him for that very purpose. That’s why in verse 13 he says that he no longer looks back. He knows that salvation is done. Christ laid hold of Him for that purpose.
If Christ has laid hold of us first, then why do we need to bother to strive? We strive to draw closer to Him, to know Him and revel in His presence. He’s very clear in Romans 6 that we don’t continue to sin just so that God’s grace is even greater. And we don’t strive to gain salvation, but out of gratefulness and to continue to build our relationship with Him.
A Resolution Worth Keeping: Growing Closer to Christ
So, as we begin another year, I want to encourage you to join Paul and me and grab onto the one that grabbed onto you first and strive, not looking back at the much and mire and mess that we’ve all made in our lives, but look forward with expectation to an eternity with Him, whatever that will look like. Please join me in committing to growing closer to Him and reveling in His love and relationship. That’s a new year’s resolution worth keeping!