“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
Each celebration of New Year’s Eve brings new resolutions. Some ring in the New Year with a drunken stupor designed to help one forget the past year’s life events and resolve to start anew. Others get drunk to celebrate the previous year’s life events and resolve to make the New Year even better. Many are fed up with who or what they are and use New Year’s Eve as a kind of line in the sand landmark to begin change. We proclaim many hopeful ambitions. This is the year I find a spouse. This is the year my marriage will get better. This is the year I get a job. This is the year I get a better job. This is the year I pay off my debts. This is the year I go to school. This is the year I apply myself in school. This is the year I get my weight down. Some even go so far as to assert, “This will be the year I find the meaning of life.” Or, “This is the year I start going to church.” Or “This is the year I’m going to settle things with God.” There’s a lot to resolve in our lives and New Year’s seems to bring those issues to the surface.
Unfortunately, most studies show that resolutions don’t last too long and usually don’t work. That’s because resolutions usually rely on self-motivation and our own self-reliant resources. The failure of resolutions exposes the fact that we just don’t have what it takes on our own to bring about lasting change. That’s bad news for anyone seeking to change in some positive way. The good news is that there is a way to experience real lasting change; eternal change; a real new beginning. The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers a time tested and people proven way to really change.
In the New Testament it states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). That is an incredible verse with a tremendously comforting promise. And notice it is available to “anyone” who wants it. Anyone who is willing to be, “in Christ,” can experience a new beginning. Sound good? Read on.
There is a way to cancel your debt of sin. There is a way to erase ALL our sin. All our old sinful ways that separate us from God. All the junk in life that destined us for hell and eternal separation from God can be forgiven and cast away. We can have a fresh start in life. The Bible states that God casts our sins in the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). He removes our sins as far as east is from west (Psalm 103:12). Your sins can be removed like a burden off a laborer’s back. How can this be? How can this happen? What is the way to a fresh start and new life?
This blessed and gracious offer of God is true “if anyone is in Christ.” Notice the condition or expression of possibility made in these inspired words. “If” this is true, that a person is “in Christ,” then it will necessarily follow that “he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” “In Christ” refers to a relationship with Jesus. It refers to a person who genuinely accepts Jesus as Savior and Lord. When we enter such a relationship, we become a “new creation.” Interested?
How can we experience this “new creation”? The Greek word (ktisis) this phrase is translated from is a construction term that refers to building. It was a word used to describe the founding of a new town or colony or place that hadn’t existed before. The idea is not renovation, but a completely new structure. We aren’t talking about a remodeling job here. This isn’t a coverup. This is a complete demolition and rebuild! This is a new thing; a new creation. This experience starts with a willingness on our part to by faith, repent or turn away from, to leave our sins and to turn to God in Christ. We begin with a willingness to let God tear down and demolish anything and everything He sees as counterproductive to what He wants to do in us. God is a Master Builder. He has the best resources. He ahs the best references. He knows what He’s doing. We have to come to Him and be willing to surrender to Him; to give Him free reign to build us up His way.
Jesus said you can’t put new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:17). That is true because the fermentation of the new wine produces gases that cause the wineskin to stretch and bloat. An old wineskin has already been stretched to its limit and will crack and break when new wine is put into it. In terms of salvation the message is, you can’t live in the old ways of sin if you are genuinely a new creation in Christ. And if you are genuinely saved from your sin through faith in Jesus Christ, you won’t want to live in sin. You’ll want to please the Lord.
You can’t stay the same when you come to salvation through faith in Christ. People who make professions of faith in some way and then never change or show any tangible visible change for the better, are likely not saved at all. Jesus said those who are actually saved would be fruitful (Matthew 13:23). A good healthy tree bears fruit. A fruitless tree is a dead tree.
The gospel is powerful and able to make literal actual change in a person (Romans 1:16). If you truly accept Jesus as Savior according to the gospel, you can’t stay the same. Those who say they believe in Jesus and yet remain unchanged have been deceived into trusting in a false “faith.” The Bible would go so far as to say, a changeless faith is a demonic faith.
Angels were the first messengers from God to announce Jesus (Luke 1). Demons, angels’ evil counterparts, also knew who Jesus was and why He came before we humans did (e.g. Luke 4:31-41). The head demon, the devil, knew who Jesus was and opposed Him from the start (Luke 4:1-11). So, it takes more than mere ascent or acknowledgement of who Jesus is and what the gospel is to experience a new creation life change.
Demons acknowledge God. Demons believe Jesus is real and is who God and scripture say He is. But their heart is not in what they believe. Saving faith is more than a mere ascent to truth and Jesus. Saving faith is a matter of the heart. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). Salvation is something we receive in the heart. Salvation is something, a gospel, good news, we believe in, trust in, accept by faith. Salvation is Someone, Jesus we trust in.
The closest example of this in life is marriage (e.g. Ephesians 5:21-33). Paul spoke of his concern for church members saying, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2). Paul was like a best man who was protective of his Groom’s bride. Salvation is marrying Jesus. We are wed to Him in faith as we pledge ourselves to Him “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.” The only significant difference is that this marriage to Jesus is not “till death do us part,” but in a very real way, death brings us closer in our relationship with Jesus, eternally and heavenly closer. “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Salvation is something we receive in our heart, we give our heart to Jesus, we fall in love with Jesus. This love is not casual or superficial. It isn’t a love that thinks, well, if it doesn’t work, I’ll just get a divorce. No, it’s a love that is faithful; full of faith. It’s a love of life commitment. It’s a love that develops in relationship. When we are wed in this way to Jesus, just like at a wedding, we are presented for the world to see. When we trust in Jesus as Savior, it’s a development, a rite of passage, a life altering, life changing experience in our life that we just can’t keep to ourselves. When we wed Jesus, we’re filled with joy. Were joyful because “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” No more loneliness; Jesus is here! And He promises to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). A well-known hymn expresses this joy with the words, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine!” Such joy bubbles forth from us, from our mouth. When we truly give our life to Jesus, we want the world to know!
James in describing faith said the demons believe there is a God, and they shudder (James 2:19). Demons shudder because they live to oppose God. Demons shudder because they live to sin and promote sin. Sin is at the root of everything bad and hurtful in this world. Sin hurts God’s creation. Sin hurts and brings pain to people. God loves people. Therefore, God’s wrath and just judgment is on all sin and those who choose to indulge in it (e.g. John 3:36; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6). The worst part about sin is that sin separates people from God and that’s what demons and the devil want. Human fulfillment and meaning are inextricably connected to their Creator. Sin keeps us incomplete, disconnected from the One and only One who can right our wrongs, provide the missing pieces to our life puzzle, and answer our questions. Sin keeps us from experiencing the love of God.
But even though we live in sin, God loves us. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We are lost in sin, but God loves us so much that He makes a way for us to overcome and deal with this horrid sin and its effects. This is grace; God’s riches at Christ’s expense; God redemption at Christ’s expense; God’s reclamation of us at Christ’s expense; God’s reconciliation with us at Christ’s expense.
Salvation by God’s grace does not give us a freedom to sin but it frees us from having to sin. When a woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus, He did not pile on condemnation, He let her go with the words, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:31-36). Sin is what causes all our problems. Sin is what hurts us and hurts others. Sin is evil. Sin is the root cause of every evil and injustice in this fallen world. Therefore, salvation, becoming a new creation in Christ, empowers us to not have to sin.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you” (Romans 6:14). We will be temp ted to sin even after we accept Jesus as Savior. But God promises to help us and show us how to escape in such situations (1 Corinthians 10:13). Saving faith involves repentance or a change of heart that leads to a change of life (2 Corinthians 7:9; 2 Peter 3:9). We turn from our sinful life of ignorant rebellion against God and turn humbly to Him for forgiveness of our sins through faith in Jesus (Acts 2:38-39; Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:13-14).
All of this is the gospel. “Gospel” means good news. A genuine Christian has admitted their sin, turned from it in repentance and sought forgiveness from God for their sins through faith alone in Christ alone (1 John 1:9; Eph. 2:8-9). A genuine Christian has turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God and received God’s forgiveness for their sins (Acts 26:18; John 1:12). A genuine scripturally defined Christian is forgiven and renewed by God’s grace appropriated through their faith in Christ (Titus 3:4-7). They are indwelled by the Holy Spirit who has given them spiritual life, eternal life (John 3). And this is the critical difference between those who rely on human resolutions and those who rely on Jesus. This is the good news of the gospel.
When a person turns from sin to God in Christ, they are forgiven and they are regenerated. Regeneration refers to the spiritual life God provides us through the gospel. We humans were created by God with a physical body, a thinking mind, and a spiritual part referred to as our soul or spirit. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the trinity, comes to reside within us. The Holy Spirit comes into us to help us. He is the Helper (see John 14, 15, and 16). The Holy Spirit brings the presence and knowledge of Jesus to us (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit “helps in our weaknesses” (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit gives us an assurance that we belong to God in Christ (Romans 8:14), that God is working for our good in life (Romans 8:28) that He is helping us to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29), and that we can live victoriously in the love of Jesus (Romans 8:31-39). The Holy Spirit will produce this kind of spiritual fruit in us when He enters our life (Galatians 5:22-24).
Genuinely-saved-from-their-sin-Christians, have come to realize the new life they now have is not their own, it is a gift from God to be lived in praise and obedience to Him (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The genuine Christian realizes that “in Christ” they are a “new creation” and they have been given another chance to live life the way it was meant to be lived by God. When you come to Jesus and give Him your heart by faith, you’ll never be the same. That doesn’t mean you’ll never have any problems. What it means is that, when you encounter the inevitable problems of life, you won’t be alone, Jesus will be there with you.
So, don’t settle or succumb to the idea of resolutions for a new year. They won’t last. Look to God and His renewal; His fresh start and enabling indwelling Holy Spirit. The only way to secure staying power that really works change, is through the new life found in Christ. This is God’s greatest gift and is available to anyone and everyone who would receive it. If you want to receive Jesus as Savior and experience His life change, its only a prayer away. You can pray from your heart, in your own words. God understands the language of the heart. If you feel like you need some help, you can use this prayer:
Father in heaven, I come humbly to You in Jesus’ name.
I admit my sin and that I have allowed my sin to separate me from You.
I ask Your forgiveness. I don’t deserve Your forgiveness. I know I can’t earn it. But I believe Jesus paid my just penalty for sin on the cross.
I believe Jesus died for me.
And I believe Jesus rose from the dead. I believe His resurrection is proof You accepted His sacrifice on the cross.
Please forgive me. Please give me spiritual life.
Holy Spirit fill me and give me life. Help me to live for You. Help me to change for the better. Help me to live in a way that pleases You. Help me to live in a way that others will come to know You too.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer there are a few things you should do to grow in your relationship with Jesus. Start setting aside some time for just you and the Lord. During this time pray; just speak from your heart to God. You should pray constantly and have an ongoing conversation with the Lord. But it’s also good to set aside some special time for you and the Lord. Jesus did that, therefore, so should we (Mark 1:35). The Bible is God’s love letter to you. So, when you meet with Him, bring your Bible. When you read it, read it as though God were talking to you; He is. Learn to live by God’s word. Find a Bible teaching church. Fellowship, or getting together with other Christians is important. Jesus wants us to help one another (e.g. Galatians 6:2). Attend fellowship regularly. Get involved. Ask questions. Cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Rely on Him. He will get you through. Lean on Jesus all the time.
In the last chapter of the Bible we are given some hopeful words from Jesus. He says, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” Oh yes, Jesus is coming back! But that’s something you’ll learn as you get further into the Bible. Jesus continues, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. . .. I, Jesus have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. . .. And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” Revelation 22:12-13, 16a, 17). The Lord is inviting you to come to Him. His bride the Church is inviting you to come to Him. Remember, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” What are you waiting for? Come to Jesus! There’s a new life waiting for you!
 Blessed Assurance hymn by Phoebe Palmer Knapp. Public Domain