Well, as I am writing this post, it is January 2, the day after New Year’s Day. And as I am writing, I am wondering how many people are suffering from what I call; the Reversed Cinderella Complex. Do you remember what happened at the stroke of midnight in the story of Cinderella? The Fairy God-mother had already told Cinderella that she had to be back home before the stroke of midnight because, at midnight, the magic spell would wear off and everything, including her beautiful gown and the golden chariot would turn back into what they were before the spell was cast. Well, you know the story, Cindy was having such a good time at the ball, that she lost track of time! She was barely out before the stroke of midnight, when her beautiful gown turned back into rags and her grand chariot reverted back into a pumpkin!
The Reversed Cinderella Complex is the opposite of the Cinderella story. For some strange reasons, many people believe something magical happens at the stroke of midnight at the beginning of the New Year. They are energized with new resolve and new determination! They think there will be a substantial (almost magical) change in their situation when December 31 turns into January 1. But alas, after the midnight balls and the midnight church services, even as early as January 2, reality sets in! They discover there was no magical or miraculous change, their dream-gown is still a regular dress and their grand chariot in their dreams is still the same old pumpkin they drive every day! Yes! For most people, the only change that occurs between the last day of December and the first day of January is the change on the calendar!
As much as we like to believe in the Cinderella fairy tale, the truth is; real change is not magical, real change is work! As I’m writing this post, my social media feeds are still flooded with wishes of a Happy New Year. But, I understand that the New Year will not be happy just because of ‘wishes’ for it to be so! The New Year will not even be ‘new’ if there is no effort to make it new! Neither will the New Year be happy if that happiness is only determined by what happens! My point is, there is really nothing magical about the New Year! If we want the New Year to be ‘happy’ and ‘new,’ then we must, in the words of Captain Picard of Star Trek; “Make it so!”
Changes do not magically or mysteriously happen! Changes do not occur by themselves; changes do not make themselves, we must make them! Do you really want a Happy New Year? If you do, then you must work to make it so! You must change to make it so! Perhaps, one of the reasons we often fail so quickly in our New Year resolutions of change, is because we try to do too much at once! We try to tackle more than we can handle at one time. Let me show you what I’m talking about! Some years ago, I made a startling discovery that transformed the way I look at life! I discovered the fact that life can only be lived one moment at a time! There is a gospel song in which the singer asks the Lord to teach them to live one day at a time, but I discovered, that is impossible! We don’t live one day at a time! We don’t live one hour at a time! We don’t even live one minute at a time! We only live; one moment at a time! Therefore, instead of focusing on the year, it would be more practical and beneficial to focus on the moment! Instead being overwhelmed with what we can do this year, focus on what changes we can make in the present moment. The old proverb says the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step! Ask yourself: “What changes can I make right now?” “What can I do differently, in this present moment?”
If we consistently make the effort to change our moments, we will change our minutes! Those moments and minutes, will change hours and days! The changed hours and days, will transform weeks and months! The transformed weeks and months will translate into a transformed year! No! It’s not magic; it’s work! Are you willing to put in the work to actually ‘make’ the New Year a ‘new’ year? You can do it; one moment at a time!
“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . . .”
Revelation 21:5 KJV
As we approach another new year, I am sure many are already talking and speculating about what their New Year resolutions are going to be. But, if the truth is to be told; many who are doing this now were doing the same thing at this time last year and much of what they proposed to accomplish then did not come to pass! In most cases, resolutions for the new year lose their resolve in just a matter of weeks! So, what can be done to make the promises we make to ourselves and to others more resolute and definite?
Well, I was looking at this text the other day and I saw something that might be helpful to us in our quest to make things new. You might have noticed, that while the text says: “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . ,” the title of this discourse is not about making ‘all’ things new, but rather just making things new. I did that because; only the LORD GOD can make ‘all’ things new! However, because we are made in His image and in His likeness, coupled with the fact that we were given the Dominion Mandate, I believe if we look at how He that sat upon the throne makes ‘all’ things new, we can discover a blueprint, a pattern, or a guide to how we can make ‘some’ things new!
Now, it is interesting to note, as we look at the text, that God did not say He was making all ‘new’ things; He said He was making all things new! The two Greek words most commonly translated as; ‘new’ in the NT are ‘neos’ and ‘kainos.’ The word; ‘neos’ primarily denotes something that is recent in time; or something that was not there before. Whereas ‘kainos’ refers primarily to quality; something that is of a better quality and nature than the old. Neos is new in time; kainos is new in nature. ‘Kainos’ is the term used in the text. The text is not saying that God will make ‘new’ things which did not exist before, but rather that God will refurbish, renew, or make better the quality and nature of all things that already exist! The New Heaven and the New Earth will be the ultimate make-over job!
Isn’t that what we seek to do when we make our new year resolutions? We seek to make our lives and things better than they were the year before! But alas! Most of the time, the new year ends up being a repeat of the year before! Why does this happen? Why is it that our new year resolutions rarely stick? Well, I think the primary reason is because most of us don’t understand how we are programmed to function! Let me show you what I’m talking about: By nature, we are creatures of habits! We learn by repetition; doing things a certain way; over and over again. Do you remember how hard it was when you first learn how to tie your shoe laces or how to write? You had to concentrate and focus and it took time and much repetition to master those new skills. But now, you can tie our shoe laces and write your name in a matter of seconds, without much thought or effort! Why? Because you programmed yourself through repetition to the extent that tying your shoe laces and writing your name are automatic-habitual skills! Most of us can do them with our eyes closed without any thought at all!
Well, just like we learned how to tie our shoe laces and write our names, we learned every other skill and function in our lives. And just as we now tie our shoe laces and write our names without any effort or thought, so do we perform every other skill and function in our lives! Most of us, when we got dressed this morning, we stepped into one particular pants leg before the other and we put on one particular shoe before we put on the other! We don’t really think about it, but chances are, we step into the same pants leg first and put on the same shoe first every time we put on our pants and shoes! Now, as an experiment to illustrate the principle I’m talking about, the next time you get dressed, make a mental note of which pants leg you step into first and which shoe you put on first. Then the next time you get dressed, consciously make an effort to step into the opposite pants leg and put on the opposite shoe first! First, you will have to stop and think to even remember to do this exercise. Then, if you succeed in remembering, you will experience some awkwardness or even difficulty in making the attempt! Now, here’s the kicker: Chances are, you will try this experiment only once or twice, if at all. And if you try it at all, most likely, you will revert back to putting on the same pants leg and same shoe that you’ve always put on first! Why? Because you are not willing to continually go through the awkwardness and difficulty of doing the opposite of what you’ve always done! But here’s the super-kicker; should you continue with the experiment, in a matter of time, the opposite pants leg and shoe will become your automatic choice and easy and the choice that was once automatic and easy will become the difficult one! That’s how we are programmed to function and that’s how life works! Most of our new year resolutions fail because we are not willing to go through the awkwardness of remembering and the difficulty of learning to put our leg through and put on the opposite pants leg and opposite shoe first! When we don’t persist with a conscious effort to endure the initial awkwardness of doing things differently, we automatically revert back to the comfort and ease of doing things the way we’ve always done them!
But in the text, the One who sat upon the throne says: “Behold, I make all things new. . .” All things will not automatically be new, in order for all things to be new, the Lord will have to ‘make’ them new! The word ‘make’ implies effort and work! Now if the Lord will have to put forth an effort and work to make ‘all’ things new, then how much more should we be expected to put forth effort and work to make some things new? But that’s our fundamental flaw; we want a maximum return with minimal effort! We want something for nothing! We want a ‘new year,’ but most of us a not willing to put forth the necessary effort and work to ‘make’ the year new!
If we were to look at the verse that just precedes our text, we can gleam another principle in making things new. The last phrase says: “for the former things are passed away.” There it is: In making all things new, it was necessary for the ‘former’ things; the things that were before, to pass away; to cease to be. It’s impossible for the former things and the all things new to co-exist! In looking again at our experiment; we might have missed the fact that it’s impossible for anyone to put both legs through and put on both shoes at the same time! No! One leg and one foot always goes before the other; both cannot be first! Therefore, in order for the experiment to work; the one that used to be first, must pass away from being first and the one the used to be last, must be made new into being first! As we said earlier, that will not automatically happen, because the former thing was automatic; the new thing must be made new! That’s the way it is with anything in life! The things we desire to be new or different in our lives will not be new or different just because we want them to be new and different; they will only be new and different if and when we ‘make’ them new and different! Changes do not make themselves; changes must be made by us! I know we say it all the time, but is it really true? We always say: “Prayer changes things,” but is really prayer that actually changes things? I would like to suggest that in most cases; prayer doesn’t and isn’t designed to change things, but rather prayer actually changes us, and is designed to empower and motivate us to change things! I’ve noticed, as a pastor down through the years; particularly with church folks; when people don’t want to do something, they often veil their obstinacy and resistance with prayer. They say things like: “Pastor, we should pray about it!” But when they really want to do something, they don’t even mention prayer; they just go ahead and do it! In most cases, they pray about and refuse to do the things they should do, while they don’t pray and do the things they shouldn’t do!
Well, I’m just about through now, but there are a few more ideas I want to share with you about making things new, and then I will leave you alone. Notice in the text, the position of the One who said; I make all things new! According to the text, He sat upon the throne! The throne is the seat of authority and power. While some would suggest ‘authority’ and ‘power’ are synonymous terms; actually, they are not! Authority denotes legal right and privilege, whereas power denotes ability and might! In the world, there are some who have authority, but they don’t have ability and might, while there are others who have ability and might but don’t have authority! But He who sits on the throne in the text has both; authority and might!
Well, the good news this morning is that the offspring of the One who sat upon the throne have been given authority and might as well! In Genesis 1:26-28, we read: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” When God said, “Let them have dominion” that was the authority! When God blessed them, and said, “Be fruitful and multiply” that was the power! Now, I hear you! You’re saying: “Yes pastor, but that was before the Fall!” Yes it was, but Jesus came to fix up what Adam messed up! The authority and power that Adam lost in the Fall has been reclaimed and regained in the Last Adam; Jesus the Christ! Therefore, the Apostle Paul says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The Greek word translated as ‘new’ in the Apostle Paul’s statement is the same Greek word that is translated as ‘new’ in our text! Only ‘new’ people can really make things new!
How can we make things new for the new year? By changing our thoughts! The Bible says: As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” If you really think you can; you can, but if you really think you can’t; you never will! Don’t worry about what others think; what you think is much more important! Train your thoughts, look at the list in Philippians 4:8 and make a habit to only think on those things! And then, we must watch our words! We must train ourselves to only speak life, for the power of life and death is in the tongue. What we say to and about ourselves is much more powerful and effective than what anyone else says to or about us! And finally, we must understand that we can’t live our lives a year, a month, a day, or even an hour at a time! We can only live our lives; one moment at a time! Therefore, we shouldn’t worry so much about making the year new; but rather, just focus on the making the present and next moment new!
“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!
New Year’s Day: 2014 is only a couple of days away. But have you ever stopped to consider the fact that, in a sense, every day of the year is a new year’s day? On January 2, my wife and I will celebrate a wedding anniversary! In February, one of my sons will celebrate a birthday! In March, the church I serve will celebrate my pastoral anniversary and my wife will celebrate a birthday! In August, I will celebrate a birthday! Of all the things an anniversary or a birthday is, it is primarily a day that marks the passing of another year since the event celebrated or remembered occurred and the beginning of another year before it is observed again. Now, since there is not a day of the week in any month of the year when someone somewhere is not celebrating an anniversary of some sort, and anniversaries and birthdays mark the beginnings of a new year, then in a sense, every day of the year a “new” year’s day!
Now, many people make vows and commitments to do better, to be better, and/or to live better on New Year’s Day! In other words, for many people, New Year’s Day is a day to start over again! But, why wait until January 1 of the year to do that? Since every day of the year marks the beginning of some “new” year, why not celebrate New Year every day? Now, I don’t mean celebrating every day with fireworks and parades, but rather, celebrating each day with the understanding that with the dawning of each new day, there is an opportunity to start new! Each new day is an opportunity to reaffirm and renew dedication and commitment and each new day is an opportunity to start over again!
Therefore, why restrict yourself to just one day of celebration for a new year? Every day of the year marks the beginning of a “new” year of some sort! Therefore, every day of the year is a day to celebrate! Now for the sake of my wallet, I am thankful that the celebration of Christmas (buying presents and giving gifts) only comes once a year! But I am grateful, that life has been so arranged that with the arrival of each new day, comes the opportunity to start a “new” year! A new year of sobriety! A new year of marriage! A new year of loving relationships! A new year of business success! A new year of spiritual growth! You name it! Whatever it is you want to accomplish and celebrate in life; every new day presents the opportunity to inaugurate and celebrate a new beginning!
As I said, January 1, 2014 is a just a couple of days away, but I’m not waiting until then! I’m going to celebrate a “new” year today and every day, because every day of the year marks the beginning of a “new” year!
As I sat down to write this post, I intended to write about: “How to Have a Happy New Year!” But then, I thought about it: We would be happy or happier only if next year was indeed really “new.” Let me show you what I am talking about! This time of year (the days after Christmas), people normally think about plans for the New Year. However, no matter what or how many new resolutions are made, most of the time, the New Year eventually ends up being a replica or a repeat performance of the old year! The reason is because, in most cases, nothing is truly new except the year! It’s a new year; but it’s the same old person! It’s a new year; but we do the same old things! It’s a new year but we think the same old thoughts! I preached a sermon once and I think repeating the title would be appropriate for the thought I am trying to convey. The title of the sermon was: “I Don’t Need a New Year: I Need a New Me!”
The point of the sermon and the point of this post is that we can’t expect next year to be a “new” year if we don’t do anything to make it new! The year will not be new if we don’t change! Next year will be just like this year, which was just like last year, which was just like the years before, unless and until we make a change! Well, what changes can we make to truly make next year a “New Year?” First of all, we can change our thinking! We can change the way we think and change what we think! Everything that happens in our lives is produced by what and how we think; our thoughts and thought patterns! Change your thinking and you change your life! Now some might think this is “new age” thinking, but it is not “new age” nor is it really new! The Biblical author wrote centuries ago: “As a man thinketh in his heart; so is he!” John the Baptizer and Jesus of Nazareth both preached: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” What many modern Christians fail to comprehend is that the Greek word that is translated as “repent” in the statements of John and Jesus means; “to change the way you think, or to change your thoughts.” What Jesus and John were saying was that God’s Kingdom is not a just a place and future event at the end of time, but rather it is also a present reality! And the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it was not Heaven in the sky, when we die, bye and bye, but rather the present reality of the rule and authority of God in our lives! So in order to have a “new” year, we must also repent! We must change what we think and change how we think!
What thinking and thought-patterns do we need to change in order to have a new year? Well there are several, but I’m only going to touch on a few. First of all, we must quit thinking of life as happening “to us” and realize that life is really what “we” make it! Everything that has happened in your life up to this point; you caused it to happen! You caused it either by what you did or what you didn’t do! You caused it by your actions, in-actions or thoughts! So, if next year is really going to be new, then you must accept personal responsibility for the circumstances and conditions in your life! You must also quit the blame game! I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say that somebody “made” them mad! But the truth of the matter is this: No one can “make” you angry! Your anger is an emotional response that is controlled by your thoughts or your thinking. Since no one can control your thoughts but you and your thoughts control your emotions, then if you got angry, it was not because that person “made” you angry, but rather it was because you chose to respond with anger! Your emotional response of anger was a choice you made! You could have chosen to respond differently! Quit the blame game! Losers fix the blame: winners fix the problem!
That’s another thing you’ve got to quit if you want to have a new year! You’ve got to give up the idea that you have no choice! You always have a choice! I’ve heard people say that they go to work because they don’t have a choice! But they do! They could choose “not” to go to work! It’s really not a matter that they have no choice; it’s really a matter of not liking the consequences of the alternative choice! By the way, if you are working a job only because you feel you have no choice, you really need to choose to do something else!
If you want to have a new year, then you must also quit complaining and grumbling about the circumstances of your life. Whatever your circumstances; you directly or indirectly created them! So, if you don’t like the circumstances of your life, accept personal responsibility for the fact that you created or caused them, and then change them! Whatever situation you’re in, accept the fact that you were the major cause, and then understand that you have a choice! You can change it or you can accept it! But by all means, don’t constantly complain and grumble about it! Constantly complaining and grumbling does nothing to help the situation, in fact it makes it worse! The more you complain and grumble; the more you’ll have to complain and grumble about!
The bottom line is this: If you really want next year to be a new year, then you’ve got to be “new” next year! You’ve got to do differently! You’ve got to think differently! You’ve got to respond differently! Things will not change unless and until you change! You can’t have a “new” year with the same “old” you!
Disclaimer: I realize that there are and have been circumstances and situations in which a person may have not been a contributor and/or had/have no control such as conditions of slavery or poverty. This post is directed toward those of us who have a fair amount of freedom in our lives. But, to any person who may be suffering because of the actions of others (such as an oppressive government) this post is not an attempt to blame those who are truly victims.