At the start of a new year we often make plans for the upcoming year. Maybe there are things that we long to be different or maybe there are things that we want to cross off of our bucket list. Or maybe, we dread the upcoming new year because of the uncertainties in life that we are facing. With such thoughts, we can welcome the New Year with a mixture of anticipation and fear.
While we know that January 1 is just another date on the calendar, that there is no difference between December 31 and January 2, it still seems different. We may wonder, is there a right way to think about the New Year? While there are no Bible verses that speak about New Year’s resolutions, there are many that speak of the importance of “new.”
When we consider old and new in the Bible we find important imagery. From a New Testament perspective, old primarily refers to the way that was known before Christ (i.e. old covenant) and new speaks of what is ours after Christ (new covenant). We see this in passages like that of 2 Corinthians 5:17, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
In Romans, Paul offers us powerfully words concerning the difference between the old and new saying, “When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.” (Romans 7:5-6) Here Paul testifies of how the old is associated with death while the new brings us life.
Earlier Paul told the Romans that the new life that is promised was made possible when the old way was put to death on the cross with Christ. “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.” (Romans 6:6-8)
Because of what Christ has done for us, we can not only look forward to the New Year but to each new day as well. The Old Testament book of Lamentations anticipated the promise that was made complete in Christ saying, “The reason I can still find hope is that I keep this one thing in mind: the Lord’s mercy. We were not completely wiped out. His compassion is never limited. It is new every morning. His faithfulness is great.” (3:21-23) This is the mercy revealed to us in Jesus by the faithfulness of God.
Through Christ we have a hope that is not dependent upon our righteousness but on His. Listen to what else Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5. First he says, “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” (15) For what purpose? That we may receive the new life that is ours when Christ died for our sins.
Second, the meaning is made clear as Paul declares, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) It is from this place, knowing that we have been made right with God through Christ, that allows us to look to the New Year with hope and anticipation.
Now, rather than being burdened by our own lack of worthiness, we can rest knowing that when we place our trust in Christ’s righteousness we are made right with God. We can praise God saying, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3) In the New Year may you look to Christ and receive the gift of righteousness Jesus was born to bring you through his death and resurrection.