Fireworks explode in the sky above Sydney Harbour during the New Year celebrations in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013.
Welcome to the holiday hangover. One more helping of optimism served with a dose of regret is the typical prescription…otherwise known as New Year’s resolutions.
In the world of marketing, this time of year is known as the “new year, new you” phenomenon, and you’ll see evidence all over the place. Self-help books show up on the bestseller list, magazine stands tout the latest diet fad, and cardio machines will be hard to come by at the gym. Even in the church we see a surge in attendance every January.
The general consensus is clear: we could all use some work, and this year might finally be the year when everything changes for the better. We try exercise. We try to eat right. We try to kick our bad habits. We try positive thinking. We try religion. We try a new schedule. We all know too well, however, that the “new you” usually doesn’t survive beyond the Super Bowl.
I’m not at all opposed to healthy living, getting organized, eating right, and all of that. But the rejuvenated identity we’re hoping to gain through self-improvement will eventually disappoint because it never lasts. It may take days or it may take years, but the battle ultimately goes the way of all mortal efforts.
Despite the fact that failure trumps resolve on an annual basis, we continue “striving after wind” in search of that elusive fresh start, new beginning, and better identity (Ecclesiastes 2:11). Today, I have good news: the search is over. The answer isn’t anything new, but it does make everything new.
“Therefore,” the Bible says, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The reason why life keeps not working is because we need a new life. As Jesus himself described, we need to be “born again” (John 3:3).
Due to the curse of sin, we are all born alive in the physical sense but dead in the spiritual sense. Even for all two of you who actually keep your New Year’s resolutions, just try to do everything else right for the rest of your life and it will become painfully obvious that we’re all hopelessly enslaved to sin. Resolutions can’t rescue us; we need to be reborn entirely.
By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be born again through faith (trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus) and repentance (turning from our sins). Anyone can admire the life of Jesus, but those who are born again experience the life of Jesus and all of its benefits, including:
1.New Lord: If you’re born again, your highest authority becomes Jesus rather than yourself. He is a good king who loves his people.
2.New life: If you’re born again, you finally get a fresh start. You can’t meet Jesus and not change.
3.New identity: If you’re born again, you receive an identity rather than trying to achieve it. A fresh start doesn’t mean we’re perfect from here on out, but it does mean that the thing that defines you is Jesus—his love, his forgiveness, his steadfast presence—rather than your success and failure in life.
4.New power: If you’re born again, you get the Holy Spirit. No true change is possible without the work of God’s supernatural presence.
5.New mind: If you’re born again, you start to think differently. You begin seeing the world in relation to God and his plan and perspective.
6.New community: If you’re born again, you get a new family. God adopts you as a Father, Jesus is a saving big brother, and the church is his family.
7.New desires: If you’re born again, your deepest desires change. You start doing things you never wanted to do and stop doing things you used to love. For me, I knew something drastic had changed when I started wanting to read my Bible. It was a miracle.
8.New destiny: Finally, if you’re born again, you’re saved from your sin and reconciled to the sinless God, adopted into his kingdom of peace for all eternity. “Truly, truly,” Jesus said, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Go to the gym. Eat your veggies. Stop looking at porn. Use a day planner. But don’t settle for a new version of the old you when you can have new life forever in Jesus.
Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church, based in Seattle, WA. This article is adapted from his latest book, “Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ.”