By Rev. Mark Creech
Christian Action League
Mankind considers the vast regions of the universe and calls it “space.” Then he divides it into miles, millimeters, rods and years, feet and inches. He contemplates eternity and calls it “time”. Then he breaks time into millennia, centuries, years, days, hours and seconds. He calls time the past and the future. He not only gives the years numbers, but also gives them names – the Jubilee Year, the Leap Year, the Bicentennial Year. He calls time the old year and the new year. All of this is an effort to get one’s head around something too vast to comprehend in the simplest way possible.
But consider the concept of a new year. What about the prospect of a new year sends us around wishing each other a happy new year? Can there really be something new or happy about it? Or, will it strangely be like the year just completed?
The great apostle Paul appealed to that One who really can make something new and happy out of the forthcoming 365 days. He said, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Cor.5:17).
In this text the apostle introduces something that for many may be very difficult to comprehend, but is true nonetheless. Using one of his favorite expressions, “in Christ,” Paul says the old person can be put away and a new person can come into being. One may leave a life of drudgery and unhappiness and enter into days of genuine purpose and meaning. The apostle implies that finding happiness can be just this simple.
It’s easy to be cynical about anyone changing their life. Many years ago a man rhetorically asked, “Can the leopard change his spots?” (Jer. 13:23). The answer is “yes”, says the apostle Paul. “In Christ”, one can really be changed. A personal relationship with Christ transforms everything.
For years, the opening of “The Wide World of Sports” television program illustrated “the agony of defeat” with a painful ending to an attempted ski jump. The skier appeared in good form as he headed down the jump, but then, for no apparent reason, he tumbled head over heels off the side of the jump bouncing off the supporting structure.
What viewers were unaware of was that he chose to fall rather than finish the jump. Why? As he explained later, the jump surface had become too fast, and midway down the ramp, he realized if he completed the jump, he would land on the level ground, beyond the safe slope landing area, which would have been fatal.
As it was, the skier happily suffered no more than a headache from the tumble.
To change one’s course in life can sometimes be a dramatic and very painful undertaking, but change is still better than a fatal landing at the end. The recognition that one is on the wrong track can be the first step toward experiencing joy.
The Bible teaches that outside of Christ everyone is on the wrong track. Outside of Christ; one is the enemy of God. In Christ; one becomes the friend of God. Outside of Christ; one is an alien to the things of God. In Christ; one becomes a citizen of the kingdom of God. To be outside of Christ is to be outside of the family of God. To be in Christ; one is made a royal son or daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Everything is changed and brightened when one receives Christ in simple faith.
Change in life is not needed for some and not for others. Instead it’s needed for everybody because “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). Some have sinned against God in greater ways than others, but all have transgressed His laws and rebelled against His sovereignty. Therefore, all are estranged from Him and in need of the change that comes from being “in Christ.”
When a person receives Christ, that person finds the power to live as God requires. The alcoholic finds power to overcome the addiction to booze. The drug addict finds the ability to overcome substance abuse. The materialistic person finds the grace to be sacrificial. The adulterer, the sexually promiscuous and the homosexual find the ability to turn away from immorality. The profane learn to speak purely. The selfish start becoming selfless. Moral failures are forgiven and behind the individual. A new life with a new spiritual strength is ahead.
In another passage, the apostle Paul summarized the need for change and the promise of it in this way: “Be not mislead; neither profligates, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor partakers in homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the avaricious, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And some of you were just that; but you were washed and you were made holy and you were made righteous by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:9-11).
Without the change of life that comes from knowing Christ, no matter how seemingly successful, life has a certain emptiness and failure to it. Circumstances may change, but the meaninglessness continues year after year. It’s when a person turns to Christ as Lord, seeking the change of heart that only He can bestow, that a new reason for living starts to emerge. The world begins to make sense and takes on divine dimensions.
How can someone really have a happy new year? The ultimate answer to that question is “in Christ” where all of life begins to take a new direction – where one’s hands start to do the work of Christ’s hands – where one’s influence, testimony, and footsteps become the extension of God’s purposes.
For many the concept of happiness in a new year may be as difficult to comprehend as “space” or “time.” But it can really be broken down to something as simple as being “in Christ.”
If you would like to take this step of faith and ask Christ to change your life to one of profound happiness, perhaps this prayer might help:
God, I recognize my life has been on the wrong path. I need a change. Forgive me of my many sins. I believe Christ died on the Cross to redeem me from my offenses and rose again from the dead to give me new life – eternal life. I pray Jesus Christ will come into my heart and change me. I want to be everything you desire. I want Christ to be the Lord of my life. Give me, O Lord, the joy of your salvation. Amen.
If you sincerely prayed this prayer, contact us at the Christian Action League. We want to provide you with some materials that will help you continue in your new life with Christ.
Christian Action League
809 Spring Forest Road
Raleigh, NC 27609