I haven’t made a serious New Year’s resolution for the past four years. Before then, my resolutions were either sweeping statements (I’ll be less sarcastic; I’ll respect my parents more) or rigid rules (I’ll do devotions every night; I’ll write 1,000 words a week; I’ll take a photo every day). If I made a sarcastic comment, missed one night of devotions, or wrote only 900 words in a week, I felt like a failure. Making myself new was hard. But hey, new year, new me, right?
One year, I decided the “new me” needed to weigh less. Ah, everyone’s favorite New Year’s resolution! Except I was fourteen, and setting that resolution gave an outlet to the eating disorder that had already begun to take control of my life in the previous year. Finally, I was doing what I’d resolved to do – until my parents dragged me to medical professionals as it became apparent that following my own rules was killing me.
After that, I stopped making New Year’s resolutions. I realized that I used them as an excuse to create my own rules. With every resolution, I set an impossible standard for myself, beat myself up about not being able to reach it, and then tried again with no regard for my health.
Even though I don’t make resolutions anymore, there’s something so appealing about the idea of being made new – and rightly so. Hunger for newness is central to a personal relationship with Christ. We are believers because at some point we looked at our sin and saw that we needed to be born again. We needed a fresh start. We needed to be made new. The problem comes in when we try to engineer this new life ourselves.
In Christ, we are already made new.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace Scrubb becomes a dragon as a result of his own greed. Eustace knows very well that he’s a dragon, and he knows very well that he’d like to be a boy again. Try as he might, though, he can’t remove his dragon skin himself. Sure, he tries, taking off a few scales every time, but he can’t make any meaningful progress. Only Aslan can completely remove Eustace’s dragon skin.
In the same way, we know our sin and we know that we need to be made new, but we can’t do it ourselves. We need God to make us new through His Son. The good news is that He already has. 2 Corinthians 5:17 is in the present tense: anyone who is in Christ is a new creation.
While we’ve been made new, we’re still called to put on the new self.
We are called to put off our old selves and put on the new ones that God has already created (Ephesians 4:17-24). Our old selves are “corrupt through deceitful desires,” “callous,” and “greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (4:17-19), while our new selves are “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:24). Putting on our new selves, like putting on clothing, should be something we do daily. This requires intentionality, but it is not a works-based righteousness. We’re enabled to put on our new selves by the renewing of our minds (4:23), not by any power of our own.
There’s nothing wrong with recognizing the parts of your life where your old life still has control, and there’s nothing wrong with setting goals that will help you to put on the new self. But no New Year’s resolution, intention, rule, or goal can make us new. The new has already come – and this is not of our own doing, but the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Praise Him who has made us new!