“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” Romans 7:18-19 ESV
“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV
When we were much younger, we used to be really excited about the new year! Perhaps some of you still are! I mean, after all, it is a time when everybody is on the same page. We are all thinking about making a fresh start! We are all thinking about starting all over again! We are all thinking about setting goals and making this new year better than the last year! But wait a minute! Weren’t we all doing the same thing this time last year? And the year before? And the year before that? Haven’t we all been doing the same thing every year, for as long as we can remember? Perhaps the reason some of us are not as excited about the new year as we used to be is because we have lived long enough to experience the disappointments of countless new year’s resolutions that are never kept! For no matter how excited we were and no matter how good our intentions were, not matter how determined we were, by the middle of January, and if not then, certainly by Valentine’s Day, the thrill, the excitement, the determination, the resolve that was present on New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s Day was long gone! No! Some of us are not particularly excited about the New Year because we have discovered that what is needed is not a new year, but rather a new person! No! I don’t need a new year; I need a new me!
This is exactly the experience that the Apostle Paul shares with us in the Roman text. Now we look at Paul’s experience, I would like to suggest to you that Paul is not relating a pre-conversion experience but rather, this was a post-conversion experience for Paul. Some think that what Paul shares in Romans 7 is the struggle he experienced before he was saved, but a careful look at the text will prove otherwise. Let me prove my point: First of all, when we look at the grammatical structure of the text, we note that Paul does not use the imperfect or the aorist tenses to describe this ordeal, but rather he consistently uses the present tense. Paul is not describing what he used to go through, he is talking about the struggles that he is presently experiencing. Secondly, the person who is not saved, has no real struggles with trying to do the right thing! It is not even on his mind to do right! Doing wrong is so natural, that doing right doesn’t even cross his mind. Now there are some who would appeal to the fact of the conscience. But even the conscience of an unsaved person doesn’t want to do right. The Bible says that there is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death. Paul says later on, in this same letter, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”
So, Paul says, I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” Now, the flesh that Paul is referring to is not his physical body, but rather the unregenerate sin-nature that was present within him. You see, when we are saved, God does not eradicate or remove our sinful nature, instead He places His Holy Spirit within us, which is His very own nature. One of the purposes of God’s Spirit within us is to empower us to bring our sinful nature under control. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. “But, walk (live according to) by (the power of) the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Paul said that he died daily. Everyday, the flesh (the sinful nature) has to be crucified. Crucifying the flesh is not something that God does for us, we have to do it ourselves by the power of His Spirit that dwells within us.
Therefore, Paul says, there is a struggle that is going on within me! The will to do is present within me! I want to lose weight! I want to come to Sunday School every Sunday! I want to become more active in my church! I want to be more than just a bench-member at my local church! I really want to; the willingness is there, but the how to and the actual doing of it, is absent! Not only do I struggle to do the things I want to do, but the things I don’t want to do seem to over-power me! I eat too many neck-bones and too much pork! I eat too much and don’t exercise enough! I talk about folks instead of praying for them! Oh! Sometimes I don’t even like myself, because the things I really want to do, I don’t do them and the things I really don’t want to do; I end up doing them! That’s why I’m not really very excited about this new year! Because unless I do things differently, this new year is going to be just like last year and the years before that! I don’t need a new year; I need a new me!
Well, before we get all depressed and give up all hope, there is some good news! Paul said that though it is a struggle, there is an answer to our dilemma! The answer is found “in Christ.” He said, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away: behold, all things are become new.” Yes! That’s the secret to success for the new year! You must be “in Christ!” What does it mean to be “in Christ?” The term, “in Christ” was a favorite expression of Paul used over seventy times in the Pauline writings. It refers to status and position. It’s a good place to be! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ! We have been justified freely by the grace that is in Christ. God causes us to always have the victory in Christ. We are sanctified in Christ. We are all the children of God by faith in Christ. We shall all be made alive in Christ. The dead in Christ shall rise first. Yes! Everything we need is in Christ! And so, if we abide in him and his word abides in us, we can ask what we will and it will be done unto us. In Christ is a good place to be! Paul says, here in this text, that if any many be in Christ, he is a new creation! That is, if you are in Christ, you are a new you! The answer to the dilemma is to translate the position into experience! I am a new me in my position in Christ and through the power of the Spirit of God that lives within me, I can be a new me in my experience in life!
And, if you are a new you, you really don’t need a new year to start something new! For I heard Paul saying on another occasion that though the outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day! Do you see that? The new you don’t need a new year to make a fresh start because the new you is being renewed everyday! Yes! That’s why I don’t really get excited about the New Year, because I get excited every morning! Every morning when I wake up and find myself not dead, that’s like New Year’s Day to me! Every morning that I’m able to get up out of my bed and dress myself; that’s like New Year’s Day to me!
So, if you really want to have life and have it more abundantly, don’t wait until the New Year to start over again! It doesn’t matter what day of the year it is, if you just meet Jesus, and get in him, he will make you a new creation! He will make you all over again! He will fix whatever is broken, he will mend all of the broken promises and dreams! When you’ve met him, you really won’t need a new year because he will make you, a new you!