Today is the third day of 2011, a new year. But what is new about this year, other than new calendars? Some are relieved that their tax rates will not go up. In many states new laws are taking effect. There is a newly elected congress in Washington. There will be a new Super Bowl champion. But these things are not really new. They are repeats of recurring events and traditions.
Sometimes excitement about a “new” year is based on a desire for things to be better than last year. If there are relational struggles in a family, perhaps they will be calmed. If things have been difficult financially, perhaps there will be more money this year.
The Bible, too, speaks about new things. But the Bible’s “new” doesn’t come around once a year. The Bible offers true newness of a person’s whole life, and it is available every minute of every day. For those lost, without Christ, a new life awaits them if they ask for it. Why don’t more people reach out for the wonderful new life offered by Christ? Perhaps one reason is that too few Christians are leading the way. Too few Christians are pursuing things that are truly new. Those outside of Christ too often see Christians in pursuit of the same things for which they themselves live. When Christians live for the same “new” things unbelievers do, things that are destined for destruction, then ultimately we have nothing of substance to offer to those who are lost.
What about your children? Do your children see you living for new things, for new circumstances that are in reality the same in substance as the world lives for? Are your wishes for a new year different from those who have no hope? Do your children think that having better grades, keeping their rooms cleaner, choosing to abstain from sex and drugs, and reading their Bibles every day constitute hope for the better “new” year? These were the kind of decisions that the rich young ruler made—and kept—every New Year! However, these goals, as good as they appear to be, are not about newness of life; they don’t lead to a new life in Christ. The rich young man of the gospels was depending on the old; his hopes were set on the old promises of this world. When Jesus offered him what was truly new, he turned away—entrapped by the allure of newness, caught by things doomed for destruction.
So, what is truly new? That which is truly new is directly connected to the new earth that will never be destroyed. In that world pain, misery, death and longing for the world’s version of “new” will no longer dominate our lives. Paul says to put off the old ideas of newness; these old ideas are in the process of being corrupted even as they promise new and satisfying things (Ephesians 4:22-24). These longings and desires are deceitful at the core. We all know this if we know Christ. The corruption of sin grieves us, but we still struggle with it.
Hopes for new and better circumstances in this New Year, hopes which are connected only to this world, are self-destructing even as they are embraced. The corruption of these new resolutions is so thorough that they will ultimately bring disillusionment, even when they are achieved. Parents, do you see the danger to your children? Better grades and clean rooms, apart from serving Christ, lead away from Christ and true newness of life. Abstaining from drugs and sex without living for Christ will lead to a heart as hard as that of the rich young ruler’s.
Living for Christ is what is really new. It can be done each moment of each day. Living for Christ transcends the corruption of this world and establishes a vital connection with the new heavens and the new earth. This is the “new” that we must offer our children and those who don’t know Christ. This is the new life that will never wear out or disappoint.