New makes me skittish.
While everyone else revels in the thought of a blank-slate New Year ahead, I’ve always anticipated a new beginning with a bit of fear and dread. When others see possibilities, I’m wondering what will go wrong? I know something is a little wonky in my thinking.
This morning I read Paul’s word to the Galatians who struggled with giving up old laws.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20; NASB
For the early church, the gospel of Jesus was radically new. It clashed against contemporary Gentile culture and totally turned the entire system of Judaism upside down.
Paul voices his surprise at how quickly the foundational message of salvation by faith in Jesus was exchanged for something different, a gospel tweaked to accommodate the establishment.
Every worthy goal, every hope for the believer springs from a revolutionary overthrow of the old self.
“I have been crucified with Christ,” embraces new birth in Christ, our true north.
Paul, knew this well. Wrenched from the religious DNA running through his veins, he encountered Jesus crucified, risen again. From that day, his race was set on a new course.
“…the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God…”
Steeped in the Jewish faith, Paul’s conversion spun him in the opposite direction, taking from under his feet a foundation of works and replacing it with the gospel of grace. Not only did the Galatians’ behavior cause division between Gentile and Jew, but like a slap in the face to Christ’s finished work, it undermined the complete gospel of justification by faith. Paul vehemently opposed any hypocritical mudslide back into religious requirements.
Without God’s transforming grace, we recycle futile forms of change.
And this is why I am ringing in the new with a grateful look at the old.
“…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
The Apostle Paul repeatedly came back to the roots of the gospel when he encountered a whole lot of new crazy teachings in the early church. Jesus’ finished work centers the believer. Although the gospel is not new, it makes everything new. It is our starting point and returning springboard for every new plan or purpose.
Paul was dead-serious-passionate about the sufficiency of the gospel of Christ.
“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” Galatians 2:21; NASB
With a New Year ahead the primary question isn’t what I will accomplish but whether or not I have been crucified with Christ. For if He is Sovereign Lord of my life, then surely all the new ahead shines in a different spotlight.
- Do my new goals stem from relationship with Jesus?
- Do my new plans compliment that relationship?
- Are my new purposes in synch with the gospel of grace in Christ?
- Am I adding or subtracting from Jesus’s finished work to please others?
- Is God’s Word my ultimate guide and teacher?
- Do my desires and actions reflect my new nature?
Every opportunity to embrace “new” reinforces a necessity to look behind to the cross, to review why we do what we do, and to anchor it with transformation of Christ in us. From this new life springs every tomorrow.