Summary: As we think about the new year, we need to see that: 1. God is always doing a new thing. 2. Only God can bring about real change. 3. God’s new name for us means a new beginning.
I love to read the comics, and one of my favorites used to be “Calvin and Hobbes.” Calvin and Hobbes are talking about the new year when Calvin says, “I’m getting disillusioned with these new years. They don’t seem very new at all Each new year is just like the old year Here another year has gone by and everything’s still the same There’s still pollution and war and stupidity and greed Things haven’t changed I say what kind of future is this? I thought things were supposed to improve I thought the future was supposed to be better ” Hobbes replies with his usual erudition, “The problem with the future is that it keeps turning into the present.”
The new year is traditionally a time for reflection. We look back over the year and assess our successes and failures. We gain some satisfaction over our successes, and we experience some grief and guilt over our failures. Each time we face a new beginning we have hopes that things will be different, and hopefully better. But as Hobbes says, the future just keeps turning into more of the present. If we are not careful to allow the fresh breezes of the Holy Spirit to blow across our lives the future will not be full of exciting new possibilities, positive change and new growth; it will just be more of the same.
It happened that two men were talking about one of their colleagues and one said, “Did you know he has 30 years of experience in his field?” But his friend’s response was, “Actually, he has not had thirty years of experience. He has had one year of experience thirty times.” The future kept turning into the present for him.
As we think about this new year, I would like to say first of all: God is always doing a new thing. When we live in harmony with a creative God we keep experiencing new things, and discover that we are constantly growing in new ways. Growth is a principle that God has built into the universe. He loves doing things in new ways. He says, “See I am making everything new ” (Revelation 21:5). That is the exciting thing about knowing God. The Lord spoke through Isaiah the prophet saying, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing ” (Isaiah 43:18-19). What a thrilling God we serve How exciting to be at the point where we sense that God is wanting to do new things with our lives, and in our life together as a church How wonderful it is to walk with him.
But letting God do a new thing in us is sometimes threatening. And even when we want to experience what God has for us it is not always easy. How many of you know what it is like to be determined and resolved to change some things and see your resistance shattered the same day you made your resolution? The problem is that we are soon overcome by old habits and forget our resolutions, and our resolve goes out the window. Turning over a new leaf seldom affects us in a lasting way. What we need is not inspiration, but transformation. We need a change in our lives that comes from God. What every person needs is something that will permanently affect their life situation. Something that will truly satisfy the longings, the needs, and the aches of life. Something that will bring true and lasting change.
The second thing we need to realize is: Only God can bring about real change. We cannot do this by ourselves. We need something beyond us. That “something” is a Someone. That Someone is Jesus Christ. During his life here on earth he never left people the same. He always affected them permanently. They either became devout disciples, or dangerous enemies, but they were forever different. They either permitted him to help them or claimed they did not need him. But to those who allowed him, he made new people. The change was so real, and so permanent, that he gave them new names as a sign of what he had performed in them.
Look at Simon Peter, the one who would forget Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek and slash a man’s ear off with a sword; the one who fled when danger neared, and denied his Master with a curse. Jesus dared to call him the “Rock.” He knew his real name. Everyone knew that Simon was a man of hot emotions. He was unstable. His temper flared. There were times that he was uncertain of himself, and times that he couldn’t make up his mind. His emotional reactions were completely unpredictable. A rock was the last thing most people associated with Simon. Everyone knew that his vacillating emotions were his weakness, but Jesus had the audacity to call him the Rock. Jesus saw through Simon’s weakness and told him that his weakness could be his strength through the transforming power of God. Jesus knew that he would use Simon’s fiery emotions and his impetuous actions to accomplish his purposes in the world. That is what every man, woman, and young person here needs today. We need someone who can look beyond our faults and weaknesses and not only love us, but expect the best from us. Someone who will believe in us. Someone who will give us another chance; someone who will call us by another name. Here is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only he has the power to turn our weaknesses into our strengths.