New Years is a time of fresh starts. As a Christ-follower, we have both some special super resolutions as well as some special super powers. Our resolutions are not just to improve ourselves, but to BE THE NEW for others. We become the hands and feet of Jesus. We can't do it on our own - We have God's strength. God uses us to accomplish His plans.
Today I want to remind you of five important truths of fresh starts...
#1 - If I'm a Christian I already have a ___________________ .
The fresh start has already begun within you! You BE THE NEW because...
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
The Bible does not present this as a hope, or even as a promise. It is fact! It is done! It is accomplished. If you are a Christian you are not the same person anymore. You are new! And all things in your life have also become new! It's important to know this AND to act upon it because...
It's possible to live life in the old, in the defeated. We can allow our past to drag us down. To be like a weighted chain we carry around. The chain is broken, but we carry it like we can't part with it. No more, because...
#2 - If I'm a Christian I should leave the ___________________ .
Not only have you become a new creation, but "the old things have passed away." Those chains are broken. If you're carrying them around it is because this is your choice. It is the opposite of what God wants for you.
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV
Sometimes we think that we are doing the noble thing by remembering our past, by "dwelling on our past." But the Word of God tells us not to do it. If you feel the need to keep thinking about your past failures, that's not God talking to you. That's either you or the evil one tempting you / holding your back / keeping you from being effective.
God wants you to focus your attention and your energies on the NEW YOU! Notice the graphic way He describes it - "a way in the wilderness" and "streams in the wasteland." That is you being the hands and feet of Jesus here on Planet Earth. You can't do that if you're carrying the weight of guilt.
So HOW do you leave the past behind?
#3 - To free myself from my past I must ___________________ .
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV
This verse has the whole plan in it. "You were taught... put off the old self..." That's the old way. Selfish. Thinking about yourself. Even in our resolutions, if we are thinking about how we can make ourselves better for the sake of US, then we're missing the boat.
We want to put the past behind, and put on the new so that we can help others, so that we can be the hands and feet of Jesus. That's what "put on the new self" means. The whole purpose - "to be like God in righteousness and holiness."
So how do we get from the first part (v.22) to the last part (v.24)?
"To be made new?" Isn't it by the attitude of our minds? In other words, by what we think about? By what we focus upon? By where we allow our minds to go?
We are talking about a discipline of thinking. We change our attitudes by changing what we think about. By changing what we read. By changing what we feed our spirit. By replacing the old patterns of thinking and guilt and failure with the new patterns of God working in our lives. By knowing His promise is sure and true. That we can count on / have faith in what He says.
By thinking differently about ourselves. We are no longer failures weighted down by sin, failures, disappointments, and past actions. Nothing we can do about those anyway. And they no longer define us! We are new creations. And so we think like new creations! When we think like new creations, we act like new creations!
#4 - To become what I want to be I must ____________ .
To begin acting like these new creations that we have become, we have to work at it - practice it. Sometimes we allow our salvation theology to mess us up. Becoming sons and daughters of God, SAVED from our past sins - that's all the work of Jesus on the cross. We don't earn our way into God's good graces.
But LIVING LIKE the new creations we've become? That takes work. Practice!
"What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you... I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:9,13 NIV
This is the combination of / the cooperation of God's power with our practice. We start it with our thinking, our attitudes, our wills, our desires. We ask God for His help, for His power. And then we practice becoming the hands and feet of Jesus doing whatever He has given us to do.
Each one of us is different. Different S.H.A.P.E.s Spiritual gifts. Heart attitudes. Abilities. Personalities. Experiences. And that's good, because we wouldn't want too many Nursing Home ukulele players! Your SHAPE is not like my SHAPE.
What has God SHAPED you to do? That's what you practice. You give it your best shot. And you fail. You fall down. But God is not done with you yet. You pick yourself up and try again. And again...
#5 - Fresh starts require _______________________ .
"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
This takes effort! Hard work! Yes it's God's plan and God's power. But we mustn't think it's easy. Or we'll be disappointed thinking we're not good enough. And give up.
How does Paul describe it? STRAINING toward what is ahead, he PRESSES on towards the goal. Does that sound like someone who is sitting back waiting for God to perform a miracle? No!
In fact, the more convinced we are that God has saved us not just FROM something but also TOWARDS something, the more focused we will be on becoming the creature God had mind. The more focused we will be on being that unique, beautiful, talented, experienced, gifted creature.
We are headed heavenward, but on the way we change the world around us. What about you in 2020? Will this be the year you are focused 20-20 on becoming Jesus to everyone and every situation?
Let's pray for a fresh start and a new focus in 2020!