Millions of people across the world will be celebrating the start of 2015 at parties and firework displays. The day itself is arbitrary and derives from the Gregorian calendar which was devised in 1582 but wasn’t adopted in the UK until 1752, 170 years later. The Gregorian calendar is the one most used worldwide, however there are different New Year’s days in the Hindu, Chinese, Coptic, Jewish and Islamic calendars.
For most of us, apart from the date, not much is new in January. Yet the significance of each New Year is something that is embedded deep within our culture. For the first few weeks of the year you may struggle to write 2015 at the end of dates but it quickly becomes second nature. In fact that is true of everything new! We quickly become accustomed to a new job, a new phone, a new car, a new house. In time the novelty wears off, and we become aware of other opportunities for something newer
Often we associate this hankering after something new with materialism, and sadly it can all too easily be a manifestation of that disease. However, I wonder if even deeper down in our beings there may be an innate expectation of one of Jesus’ final promises in the book of Revelation. John has just been given a vision of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ when Jesus says ‘I am making everything new’. Consider the most wonderful sights you have seen on this present earth – they can be breathtakingly beautiful. Yet a day is coming when even these places will be transformed and renewed beyond our imagination. This new creation will never fade or wear out, and we will never become jaded with what we see through familiarity. Our desire for something new will finally be satisfied.
Because in this new creation God’s original intention to dwell among us will finally be realised. Paradise is not defined by beautiful surroundings, rather it is defined by the presence of God. The opening chapters of Genesis describe how Paradise was lost in the Garden of Eden. The closing chapters of Revelation show how Paradise will be restored on the New Earth.
As you reflect upon this glorious vision, allow it to give you hope. Hope that will lift your eyes above the brokenness of this present world in a way that trinkets like smartphones, flat screen TVs and new cars never will. Live each moment of today in the light of our glorious eternity.
This blog post featured in the January 2015 edition of Lifelines
As a schoolboy I did not have the neatest of handwriting and my exercise books quickly became messy and dog eared. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, I enjoyed getting a new exercise book at the beginning of term, or when an old one was full. Full of good intentions I would take great care to write slowly and neatly in the first few pages, but invariably would lapse back into bad habits long before I got to half way through, as I would start to rush my work.
Many people think that being a Christian is a case of turning over a new leaf, rather like getting a brand new exercise book and working hard to write neatly. They understand that God is loving and merciful and so come to him seeking forgiveness but promising to do better next time. The underlying thought process is that if they can somehow live a good enough life going forward, that will in some way make amends for all that has gone before. There are two flaws with this kind of thinking. Firstly at its root is the idea that we can earn God’s favour. However, the bible is clear that none of us can ever be good enough to earn God’s favour. The second flaw is that before too long, just like my wayward handwriting, we revert to old patterns of behaviour and can get trapped in cycles of guilt.
The true message of the bible is that we are powerless to change but God is powerful. PJ Smyth, a preacher in South Africa, expresses it like this: “Nothing I can do can make God love me more, and nothing I can do can make God love me less.” This is the ultimate in equality! No matter how good we might be we can never be good enough, but God offers us forgiveness through Christ anyway. No matter how bad we might be we can never be so bad that God will refuse to forgive us if we come to him through Jesus Christ. The bible calls the process of forgiveness in Christ being born again because, rather than turning over a new leaf, we embark on a new life. The remarkable thing about this transformation is that when we truly grasp that God loves us like that, and forgiveness is due to God’s mercy alone, then we can be set free from guilt. The motivation for living therefore becomes gratitude to God rather than seeking to win his favour.
This New Year, rather than making resolutions to turn over a new leaf, come instead and receive a new life in Christ – it’s freely available to everyone who will respond!
This blog post featured in the January 2015 edition of Hook Focus