Happy New Year!
January is often a time of thinking about new habits, new goals, turning over new leaves (even though we live in Wisconsin and there’s not a leaf to be found underneath the snow outside), and trying to improve upon ourselves in general.
New. Let’s think about that theme in Scripture for a moment. There is a lot of hope and comfort tied up in that word.
We hear about the New Covenant that is given when Jesus first institutes the Lord’s Supper (recorded on Luke 22 and 1 Corinthians 11). The first covenant was given to Abraham and passed on through the Nation of Israel throughout the entirety of the Old Testament, but we hear the promise of a New Covenant from the prophet Jeremiah. Paul references this prophecy, and there are many other New Testament teachings that assure us of this New Covenant through Christ–we have this beautiful promise in Christ who FULFILLS our end of the covenant for us, restoring our relationship with God completely and eternally!
When Jesus knows that his time on earth is limited, he gives his disciples a new command “…, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Romans 6 beautifully describes the new life that we are given in our Baptism when Paul writes “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life..”
We have further reassurance in 2 Corinthians Chapter 5 when Paul writes: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
We have encouragement from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to take our Christian walk seriously, and to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” He gives very similar instructions to the Christians in Colossae when he urges “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col 3:8-11). How beautiful is it that our identities before Christ are wiped away, with all of their baggage and sinfulness? We are simply beloved children whom God has chosen to be His own!
We are given many assurances of what Christ as already done to make us new. Our sinful condition has been resolved by His blood on the cross, and we no longer bear the burden of that eternal punishment through Christ’s sacrifice, but it doesn’t end there. Not only do we have hope of the promise of the resurrection, but we also have the promise of a new, fully perfect life, to come!
In 2 Peter, Chapter three, we are warned of the coming of the Lord, and given a wonderful piece of comfort in verse 13: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” Peter affirms Paul’s previous writings and speaks of the destruction that will come when Jesus comes again, but believers need not fear any of this because of God’s sure promise: For us, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. God’s perfect design will be restored, and we will be blessed to experience it!
We have this promise reiterated once again in Revelation 21:1-5: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”
When we experience this new heaven and new earth, we will not only be bystanders, but we will be that beautifully adorned bride! We will be honored as God’s perfect and wonderful creation – not because of what we have done, but because of Christ’s final and complete victory over sin, death, and the devil!
All of this — the new covenant, being new creatures, promised the new heaven and new earth — is God’s amazing and undeserved gift to us. We have done NOTHING worthy of this privilege and honor. Frankly, we have done a whole lot that should disqualify us from it. That is what makes it so amazing, and so beautiful. As we walk into a new year, together, please join me in choosing gratitude for God’s grace every single day. Please join me in seeking to live a life worthy of that to which we were called (Eph 4:1), as children of God, made new by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Please join me in not only remembering the fresh start that Jesus gives us daily in our baptism, but reveling in it! Here’s to a new year!
Your Sister in Christ,
Tara Barrett, DCE
(Or possibly Tara Darling, depending on how quickly you’ve gotten to your newsletter. 😉 )