By: Steven Nelms
With the New Year comes the favored question of “What resolutions are you going to make?” What do you have planned for the next year? It also usually comes with some reflection on what the old year brought; what was learned, what was lost, what was found. The world over new beginnings are celebrated and we fixate on the hope for new attempts at old resolutions.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
A new creation. That’s something astounding. There’s that old physical law of the conservation of mass that says that matter is neither created nor destroyed, but merely changes its state. Other than the event of creation itself and the eventual passing away of both Heaven and Earth, all in all this law seems to accurately describe our physical reality. And so it is with our being made a new creation in Christ. My skin is no different. My organs haven’t been rearranged or transplanted. The most I can say is that in metaphor I once had a heart of stone and now have been given one of flesh. But there is something distinctly new about me that I can’t exactly put my finger on. Talk about a resolution to make something new.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6
A resolution that lies in God’s hands is a resolution you can take to the bank. Existentialism, consumerism, utilitarianism, socialism; they all have a claim on how you can bring to completion your own work that you’ve committed yourself to. Existentialism? Actualize your own human experience to the utmost. Consumerism? Attain for yourself that which you value toward a fulfilled identity. Utilitarianism? Do best by what society deems as virtuous, tolerant, and advantageous for the community. Socialism? Minimize your lifestyle toward the provision of each member of a society’s essential needs. Each of these requires you to strive toward the fulfillment of your own identity. But the beauty of what God has committed to completing in you is that the fulfillment is his responsibility; the participation toward that good work is our joy.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
Conformity is not what is undesirable. It’s the object of our conformity; that to which we’re trying to look like. Being conformed to the likeness of Christ is what God has set his purposes to. And he’s got a particular task to set us to toward that end. It’s the renewal of your mind. As a new creation, there’s a process we’re told to devote ourselves toward. What is promised is that this process will eventually be brought to completion. What isn’t promised is that God will do all the work for us. But the work to which we commit ourselves to exclusively is the renewing of our minds toward conformity with Christ. And what does the renewal of our minds look like?
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:2
It’s a deliberate action; a discipline toward changing the orientation of your thoughts. Orientation is descriptive of the relation of one thing to another. You could describe the arrangement of furniture as its orientation. Or the design of a city square in terms of its orientation. But orientation is also descriptive of a formal introduction to something. There could be a new hire orientation that introduces an employee to the on-boarding process. You might think of a college orientation that gives the freshmen a tour of campus and induction to the institution’s values. Setting our minds on the things that are above is orienting ourselves appropriately in relation to God both positionally and in a kind of induction to what he values.
“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Colossians 3:4
In the New Year, resolutions can have the tendency to become focused on actualizing a certain aspect of our lives that we’d like to think should bring us closer to fulfillment. If I can commit myself to working out every day, then I’ll be more content. If I can commit myself to reading the Bible every day, then I’ll have a better relationship with God. If I can serve once a week in volunteer work or a church ministry, then I’ll be more grateful in my life. Maybe each of these is an accurate projection of what output would come from the input. But neither self contentment established in circumstances, nor relationships with people, nor a lifestyle of thankfulness is a satisfying end in our lives. It is Christ who is your life. So when you’re thinking about a resolution to commit yourself to this New Year, think about committing to the process that God has tasked you with. It’s a resolution that has a guaranteed completion, but one that has the venture opportunity of our daily investment. It’s one that promises fulfillment and encouragement. This resolution is one that is not just for the New Year or those few proceeding months that maintain the initial momentum. It’s a resolution that is for each day as you persist as a new creation. It’s one that promises joy in all circumstances, strength in weakness, redemption through tragedy, and life in death. So resolve to renew your minds by orienting yourself on things that are above in a pursuit of Christ who is your life. This is a hope that can keep your heart alight through the darkest of trials.
Take heart and have a happy New Year!
By: Steven Nelms