The day is here. You know it well. The infamous trash pickup day after Christmas. Seems it’s never the day after Christmas though. It’s usually several days later and you’ve accumulated debris that has now consumed your house and garage. You probably received new clothes or other gifts that will replace something old. Then you go through the process of sorting what you are going to donate and throw away. Then comes the chore of finding a way to fit all of the wrappings, boxes, and food scraps into your big green trash container. You strategically find ways to wedge in a few solo pieces of trash that keep multiplying. Then you basically sit on that lid to compact everything to the last square inch. You roll the big green can out to your curbside, plus the extra boxes and trash bags that won’t fit hoping the sanitation worker will pick it all up. This whole scene gives new meaning to “out with the old and in with the new.”
As we put a bow on 2022 and begin our thought process of what we will do differently or better in the new year, I reminded of the most powerful conversation in the bible about the “New You.”
“Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” When those profound words left Jesus’ mouth and reached Nicodemus’ ears, you can immediately see his confusion. Here you have a religious leader that has taught righteousness through works/law his entire adult life. Now he thinks Jesus is asking him to go back in his mother’s womb to be born again. Jesus then challenges Nicodemus on how he, a teacher of the law, cannot grasp this concept that righteousness is deeper than man can understand with his five senses. Salvation is much deeper than that. It’s for those “born of the spirit.”
I find it amazing that many proclaiming Christians today actually have the same response as Nicodemus did 2,000 years ago. “Born again? What do you mean? I’m a good person. I’ve done these amazing things. Inherit His Kingdom? Well, I was born a Christian . . . I think my good deeds will insure my salvation. That born again thing is unnecessary.” Some even go a step farther by announcing what denomination they are to back up their salvation. (“I’m Catholic/Baptist/Methodist, etc. So yes, I’m going to heaven.”) I have news for you; that’s EXACTLY what Nicodemus and the Pharisees did. They quoted and emphasized who they were as religious leaders, their religious training, their supreme pedigree and how much they read the torah or attended synagogue. Many Christians today do the EXACT same thing.
Guess what? You weren’t born a Christian. Your mother didn’t push you out and you were instantly a Christian because your parents said they were. No, God doesn’t have grandchildren. He has CHILDREN. You didn’t become a Christian when that priest sprinkled you with water at a ceremony nor the day you were confirmed when you were twelve after a summer session of biblical lessons. It’s deeper than that. It’s about revelation.
When you have the revelation of your depravity, believe in your need of Jesus, that he bled out on a cross for the forgiveness of your sins, when he resurrected two days later; HE ensures your eternal life. That’s when you become a Christian. That’s when you become His Child. It’s a life altering transformation led by His Holy Spirit who then indwells you. Your heart of stone turns into the heart of flesh. It’s a change that goes deeper than you’ve ever imagined as the most powerful gift God could give actually intertwines within your soul. It’s heart changing, awe inspiring and breath taking. Talk about a “NEW YOU.” Yes, he loves you that much; and you accepting His grace seals you in Him and Him in you FOREVER.
Our prayer for 2023 is that we all grow in the knowledge of what truly happened to us when we believed in Jesus’ blood and resurrection. When we truly know WHO we are in Christ. When we realize how crazy God is about us. How we can’t change on our own. How he works through us to help us change. How only Jesus brings us from the depravity guaranteed by Adam and fills us with His fullness for eternity. We pray there is no confusion, no religious pride as to where we worship, how often we attend or how much scripture we’ve memorized. We pray we all have the confidence to put our past behind us, no matter how disturbing it may be. That we realize we are dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus. That we are overcome with the peace and boldness that only His Holy Spirit can give. Imagine walking through 2023 with the freedom in Christ that God promised. You can Christian. By knowing who you are; the NEW YOU’RE YOUR true identity . . . IN CHRIST.
May your 2023 be filled with REVELATION, love, peace, boldness and strength in Christ Jesus.