As a new decade has begun we are bombarded with messages encouraging us to adopt new habits, try new diets, commit to new exercises, and make new commitments. While many of these new commitments can be good, the whole “new year, new you” message can be rather exhausting. A few weeks in, and we can feel like a failure. Our lives are already slammed and busy, how can we find the time to make ourselves new?
Thankfully, the Christian life is not a life we achieve but one we receive. We don’t make ourselves new, but we are made new. Christ has given us a new life, a new identity, and we are to now live in accordance with who He has declared us to be. The Christian life is not about trying more, but dying more. We continually die to our old lives and walk in the new life that Christ has secured for us.
The new identity that Christ has given us is liberating and thrilling. In the book Truths You Can Trust, Thomas Schreiner writes a chapter on “Truths you can trust from the New Testament.” He says “union with Christ, or participation with Christ, is surely one of the fundamental themes of the apostle Paul’s theology. Believers who were in the old Adam and the old age are now members of the new age inaugurated in Christ, and they are in Christ rather than in Adam.” Dr. Schreiner then reminds us of our new identity by providing this list. “Because we are in Christ, we:
- Are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17, cf. Eph 2:10)
- Are sons of God (Gal 3:26)
- Enjoy the blessing of Abraham (Gal 3:14)
- Need not fear condemnation (Rom 8:1)
- Are sanctified (1 Cor 1:2)
- Enjoy the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21)
- Have been freed from the power of sin and death (Rom 8:2; Gal 2:4)
- Possess every gift (1 Cor 1:4)
- Are complete in Christ (Col 2:10)
- Are one in Christ with other believers (Gal 3:28; cf. Eph 2:14–16)
As we have begun a new year and a new decade, we can rejoice that we have already been given a “new you.” We are already new! We don’t have to live with the pressure to make ourselves new. We can walk in the new identity that Christ has graciously given us. Understanding who Christ has declared us to be surely changes how we live. But we live for Him because He has made us new, not to make ourselves new.
Because we are a new creation, we now live as new people of God. Because we have been declared His children, we now trust Him as our perfect Father. Because we are not condemned, we now enjoy His forgiveness. Because we have been set free from sin, we walk away from it and not towards it.
The chapter I quoted above from Dr. Schreiner is in the book Truths You Can Trust which is written by several professors at Southern Seminary. I found the book helpful and encouraging, both as a pastor and as a believer. You can download a digital copy here or purchase the book here.