It’s the end of 2018, and that thought might make you very happy. Perhaps 2018 has not been very good for you and you won’t miss the troubles it brought. It’s old and tired and ragged around the edges, so you are really looking forward to a new improved year. Many of us hope that the new year brings an end to what needs to end, and the start of something good.
Perhaps we started 2018 with bright hope, and then as the months passed we experienced trials and troubles, setbacks and difficulties. I think we all have things we want to put behind us. For myself, 2018 was the sad year when I buried my father.
We look at the last 12 months and we rejoice with the writer of 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” We are not distressed at the passing of the old, nor at the coming of the new, for we see the work of sin in our lives and want it to end.
The last year had become wheezy, croaking, and decrepit, in its old age; and we lay it asleep with a psalm of judgment and mercy.
Do our eyes sparkle when we talk of getting that which is called new? New cars, new clothes, new gadgets, new games excite us; for our short-lived human nature has always loved those things that are newly come.
But we are children of the true God who created all things and we are disciples of Jesus. Should we be carried away by a childish love of novelty? Don’t we worship a God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow? There is no real difference between this day and any other day, yet we know that in some sense we cross a line when the first day of January dawns.
God has a message for us this morning as we face a new year. He is telling us to let go of our hurts and disappointments, give up our resentments and bitterness. God does not want us to carry into the new year any of what we have from the old year, except our love for him. We hold fast to the truth of the Gospel and our salvation, and all else we lay down.
He says to us today through Isaiah 43:18, “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.”
Have you seen miracles in 2018 that you want to experience again in 2019. Well God says that we should forget those miracles because they are nothing compared to what he has in store for us in 2019. You may see hardships ahead, troubles in your family and your work. You may see the global climate disaster as a result of man’s sin, but God says don’t look at that.
Trust in God and turn over to him all you are, for in Isaiah 43:19 he says:
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
And then again God repeats his message in Isaiah 65:17.
“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones any more.”
He speaks to us, so don’t look only at the Old Testament and think this is a thing God did in the past. Look what God says near the end of the book of Revelation.
“Look, I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5)
From the oldest of times until now, God has been making things new. This work is in his hands, not ours. Here is the eternal love of God for his sin-stained and rebellious children at work in this world to end the misery of evil. It is his work, not ours, so we don’t pledge today to make greater efforts to be good. We don’t see the new year as a time to promise to work harder or to be more diligent in our labours.
This is a time for us to look back and assess the past 12 months. We can look at how many ways our Lord blessed us and raise up our hearts in gratitude for what he did. We can look at how many ways we fell short in our devotion to him and sank into the swampy ground of sin. God says we should then let go. Anyone who hurt or betrayed us will not be allowed to shape the new year, because we forgive them and let go of our dark feelings.
We look at our failures and do not cling to guilt, but thank God that he is putting it all behind us and he will do a new thing in our lives next year. Look at it, learn from it and then let go of it all.
We turn our gaze from the past to the future, and how we want to walk hand in hand with God into the new year he has given us.
Today believers are not under the covenant spoken to Cain of, “You will be accepted if you do what is right.” We live under that new covenant which says, “I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (Hebrews 8:12) And in the same place it also says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” (Hebrews 10:17) It is not now ‘Do and live’, but ‘Live and do’. We think not of merit and reward, but of free grace producing holy practice as the result of gratitude.
Jesus has died and risen to save God’s people with ‘eternal salvation’, as it says in Isaiah 45. And as a result of this unearned and undeserved gift of life, we are today people of whom God says, “Throughout everlasting ages, they will never again be humiliated and disgraced.”
All that we need for the new year is already given us today, and without any cost to us.
Let’s decide to give up our old attitudes and ask God to give us new improved attitudes in the new year. Let’s see where we have had desires that offended God, and ask him to give us his desires in the new year.
The Lord Jesus Christ has set before us a new way of life, and we only need to embrace it. Let’s submit to God all of our hopes and dreams for the new year, and instead accept his hopes and dreams as he makes us new.
We give up the old way of life, and embrace fully the new way of life. This is the life of the Holy Spirit living in us to make us new in his image. Now breathe a silent prayer, dear brother, dear sister, to our dear God who makes all things new. “Dear father, please give your poor, spiritually sick child strong spiritual health.”
But you want to make it all new yourself; and you fret and you worry, and you tease, and you trouble, and you make a burden of yourself. Why not stop doing that, and in humble prayer take the matter to the Lord, and say, “Dear heavenly father, open my eyes to see you, for you have said, ‘I make all things new’. Please now make my circumstances new.”
Let go of all your bad habits and worries, let go of all your efforts and struggles, for it is the creator of the universe who defeats evil and makes all things new.
God is making all things new, and he has made us his partners. We do not rest idly while God does it all, we join with him. We do this by such simple and seemingly small things as prayer, trust, obedience, and faith. In all these things we are practising the highest calling to love God and to love our neighbour as ourself.
If you are going to make a New Year’s resolution, let it be something like this. I resolve to let God have his way in my life through prayer and obedience. I resolve to let God’s glory shine in my life by living out my faith in love.