Published January 2, 2018

Paul's Epistle
"What's New?"

When God created time, he ordained "years" as one of those things that should be among the "signs and seasons" that we observe (see Genesis 1:14). Although time itself is a continuum – and our designation of January 1st is arbitrary, chosen by calender makers of the past – the arrival of what we consider a new year always seems to be a time when we pause to reflect on the year gone by and on what's ahead for the year ahead. And, actually, that's a good thing.

What can we learn from the year gone by? It's worth considering. What mistakes have we individually made that we can promise ourselves not to make again? What personal shortcomings can we correct?

But, otherwise, considering what we can expect for the "year ahead" is much more difficult. No one knows the future, of course, except the Lord.

So what will be "new" in the new year?

There are, of course, many, many things over which we individually have absolutely no control. We can't control the weather, which affects everyone — with "rain on the just and the unjust" alike (Matt. 5:45). It's not in our power to determine who gets sick and who doesn't, who lives and who dies, for example.

But some things – especially with the Lord's help – we can do something about. We can certainly decide to improve our actions, our relationships. We can – and should – improve our attitudes towards others. That's the stuff of "new year's resolutions" – which, although they're often not kept, can serve a legitimate purpose if we take them seriously.

So what will be "new" in the new year?  How about a "new you?"

If you're a Christian, Paul tells us we "should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4) and "in the newness of the Spirit" (Romans 7:6). He writes that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17, cf. Gal. 6:15) and, because he is a new creation, "old things have passed away" (2 Cor. 5:17). Our old desires, our old wants, our old habits, our old way of interacting with people, are – or should be – gone, replaced by the "newness" that God promises.

In Mark 16:17, Christ is quoted as saying that, among the signs of those who believe, would be this: "they will speak with new tongues." Now, although there are various interpretations of that, I believe it could – and should – apply to the language we use as Christians. Our choice of words – our speech – should not be what we hear so much of in the world. This applies both to individual words (and that's pretty clear) but also to what, overall, we are saying. (If you're on Facebook, you surely have seen many posts from people who clearly didn't engage their brains before posting.) Remember the words of the children's song: "Be careful little tongue what you say."

So, as we go into this new year, if you're a Christian, this would be a great time to reaffirm your walk with the Lord, seeking His will for all you do.

But if you're not a Christ-follower, this would be a wonderful time to accept Him as your Lord and Savior. He really does want to provide you with that "newness of life" that Scripture tells us about.

Then, when someone casually asks you, "What's new?" – you can tell them, "I am."

- Paul Heil

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