Out with the Old, In with the New
I dug out my New Year’s resolutions list from last year, which was buried in my hard drive. I half-chuckled, half-cringed at how ambitious it was, covering everything from decluttering to exercising more to getting my kids on a chore schedule. I still remember the crummy feeling I had around March or April when I realized that, yet again, I overshot my goals.
Whether you love or hate making resolutions, the New Year is a natural time to reflect on life. What do you want to change? What are your hopes for the future? We vow to get rid of old bad habits, and make aspirations to instill new ones. Out with the old, in with the new.
This brings to my mind something that, for believers, isn’t just a seasonal tradition, but a way of life:
“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 attitudes of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 22-24).
But unlike New Year’s resolutions, this change isn’t dependent on a “try harder, do better” mindset—though I do think we often mistakenly look at it that way. No, the promise of this transformation for believers is a “truth that is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21). His work—his life, death, and resurrection—is making us new.
This past year, I’ve been seeing with new clarity and confidence how the death and resurrection of Christ have accomplished these distinct but inseparable works of getting rid of the old and bringing in the new.
Christ’s Death: Out with the Old
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:6)
All of us have sinned—and the Bible makes it clear, the consequence of sin is death (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:22). That means we’re all doomed.
Except not for followers of Christ, because Jesus took our place and paid the price for our sins.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
The Bible says that when we believe Christ did this for us, we are united to him. He takes what’s ours (sin, death, punishment), and we get what’s his (righteousness, life, sonship and intimacy with God).
And he has completely done away with all that old stuff we used to be chained to and defined by. Sin is crucified. Shackles of slavery are broken. Shame is banished. And death is defeated. The old has gone. It’s no more, and you’re free from it, all thanks to his sacrificial death on the cross (Hebrews 9:26b).
Christ’s Resurrection: In with the New
“For if we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Romans 6:5)
Now that our old self has been put to death with Christ and we’ve been released from slavery to sin and death, we’re free to “belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead” (Romans 7:4). We know without a doubt that Christ’s payment for sin was worthy, because his resurrection is proof that God’s wrath was satisfied.
But Jesus is just the first of many! Christ’s resurrection opened the way for those who believe in him to also be raised from the dead, given immortal life, as well as intimacy with God forever (1 Corinthians 15:22-23, 51-52).
But that’s not the only way Christ’s resurrection is “bringing in the new.” His resurrection also means that we “might walk in newness of life” today, here and now (Romans 6:4, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Before his death, Jesus reassured his perplexed followers that it was a good thing that he was going to die, because when he did and returned, he would be able to send the Holy Spirit to them (John 16:6-7).
See, the Holy Spirit is the one who “makes us new in the attitudes of our minds” as he reminds us of everything Christ said and did. Now that we have died to what once bound us, we are released to obey and “serve in the new way of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6). In this way, God “saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:4-7).
A Sure Thing
It’s true, we can’t accomplish this change by “trying harder, doing better.” But our faith in these truths of Christ—a faith that manifests itself in our actions—is the method by which the Spirit of God accomplishes it in us (Galatians 5:24-25). It’s when we follow the Spirit, rather than our own best efforts, that we can finally begin to win the battle.
Unlike with our New Year’s resolutions, we don’t need to despair when this transformation isn’t quick, or when we recognize that we’re obviously not there yet. We know that he who promised this to us is faithful, and that he will complete the work he started in us:
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)
This New Year, whether you choose to make resolutions or not, I encourage you to drink deeply from these truths in Christ, which are for you. And if these truths are new to you, and you want to know more, please find someone who can help you understand them (we’d be happy to be that someone—just send a few questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll connect you to the right person). This year, you could be ringing in, not just a Happy New Year, but a glorious eternal new life in Jesus Christ our Lord!