New, Clean, & Better
The good thing about beginnings is that they offer so much hope. There’s no past. No remorse for those you’ve hurt. No regrets for what’s been done. No shame for poor decisions and errant judgment. Starting at the beginning promises a clean slate, an empty page upon which to have your story written. So, too, do New Year’s offer glimpses of hope. We’re encouraged by reminiscing on the incarnation to tackle the new year with fervent resolve and courage. The New Year beckons us to meet it head on and try, with all our might, to shake off the shackles of the past and embrace the power of the present and the promise of the future. And if you fight through all the empty resolutions and vain vows of change, you’ll find the inner resolve that drives us: the need for more.
Addicted to More
Our world is fascinated with “more.” More this. More that. More everything! More money, more power, more pleasure. There’s no such thing as “enough,” always (and only), “what else,” “what’s next.” What keeps this society going isn’t the programs and the jobs and the government, it’s the need for more, the need to find resolution and purpose and meaning — the need for life. But, as a believer in Christ Jesus, you’ve been delivered from the enslaving power of “more.” There’s no, “what else,” only, “It is finished!” There’s no, “what’s next,” only, “He has done it!” The gospel is the ultimate resolution, that’s been met and exceeded by the Son on our behalf. We no longer need anything else, only Jesus. He’s all we need. Jesus is everything!
What we need to be reminded of is that you don’t have to wait till the New Year to have a clean slate. Chances are, you’ve already messed up on a resolution, you’ve already gone back on a promise. And now the hope of starting fresh has waned, diminished, and, indeed, gone out. But you, Christian, you wake up every morning to something better than a “clean slate,” or a “fresh start.” You meet every morning being perfectly loved and fully forgiven because of Christ. You wake up to new mercies and fresh grace that meets you where you are, despite and in spite of your very unclean slate. You wake up every morning in the divine garb of the Godhead, Jesus’s robe of righteousness, which he adorns every new child of his Kingdom. The hope of the redeemed isn’t that you get a clean slate every morning, every year; it’s that Jesus is your clean slate. His account is yours. His work is yours. His righteousness is yours. His death is yours. His life is yours. Jesus is yours!
Christ condescends, not just to the world, but to individuals. The Creator of the universe is yours. The Sovereign of the stars and heavens is yours. The God who’s able to save to the uttermost is yours. (Heb. 7:25) The God who declares, “Behold, I make all things new” is yours. (Rev. 21:5) The “God of all grace” is yours. (1 Pet. 5:10) “O the bliss of this glorious thought!”
The glory of the gospel is that you get God, regardless of your religious performance. You get God. And it wasn’t you that found him, but he that snatched you. From of old, he was on your trail, as that “Hound of Heaven,” who seeks and saves the lost. “Before the foundation of the world,” he chose you, “to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Eph. 1:4) In love, he formed you. In love, he exiled you. In love, he redeemed you. Love made the way. Grace established it all. “Divine love — everlasting love — redeeming love — unchanging love has done it all!” (Winslow, Day 13) No need for anything else.
God’s gift is his own life . . . the purpose of God is not simply to make you happy, but to make you happy with God’s own happiness; — not simply to give you joy, but to give you the joy of the Lord; — not simply to make you drink of the rivers of pleasure, but to make you drink out of the rivers of God’s own pleasures, and out of the fountains of God’s own happiness, that your joy should be the very same as his, springing from the very same source, and produced by the very same cause. God’s best gifts are no portion for man. He himself is the soul’s only portion. (Bonar, #3)
In this gospel, “we have redemption in him through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph. 1:7) In this gospel, you have “everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pet. 1:3) Because of God’s goodness, you’re made righteous. Jesus’s grace enables and mobilizes our holiness. And in this, we are clean. In this gospel, we’re made new. “So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away — look, what is new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17)
You Are New
As you face new roads, new challenges, new beginnings in this new year, don’t forget that you have everything you need in Christ. There’s no need for more, Jesus is all, and all of grace. He is everything. “He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17) You might be timid, hesitant, scared for what this new year holds. You’re worried about something, perhaps, everything. But my encouragement to you, dear reader, is that you wouldn’t be distracted and enslaved by “more,” but would be ever-enraptured by all that is in Christ, by his fullness, his grace, his everything.
Believer, you are clean, you are new! In Christ, you have everything you need. Make your one resolution for the new year this, and this alone: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the trace that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Heb. 12:1–3)
Horatius Bonar, Kelso Tracts (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1851).
Octavius Winslow, Thus Saith the Lord: Words of Divine Love (London: John F. Shaw & Co., 1872).