The word new occurs 260 times in the NIV. Perhaps the best-known verse with the word new is, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This challenges us to embrace newness in opportunities and growth.
We became new creatures when we accepted Christ. However, we often let old habits and daily routine stop us from walking and living as new people. A New Year, and every new day, provides opportunities to be the new person who commits to follow Christ; who lets go of old, bad habits and chooses new ways to impact lives.
Let Go of the Old
First, let go of the old because it has gone. I spend a day in early January every year asking God what he wants me to do and praying for a verse to guide me throughout the year. It’s a tradition I started with my late husband in the early years of our marriage that always brought renewal and direction. I also list the best, worst, and funniest events of the past year to help me reflect on my life. It helps me identify and then let go of past hurts and failures and hold onto joyful memories.
Letting go of any emotional leftovers brings closure to the past. To move forward, forgive any hurts, disappointments, or anger that lingers. Think of people in your realm and be sure you have a positive attitude toward each one. Pray for God’s blessings for them and be ready to rejoice as they are blessed.
To move forward, sometimes it helps to look backward a little and see what else to leave behind or keep. Inventory how the past year measured up. Praise God for bringing you through hard times and for all the blessings you received. Be thankful for lessons learned and character developed through struggles. You may have been blessed in your work and relationships that brought joy; or you may have unrealized goals or dreams that left you frustrated. Talk to God about each one.
We need to give unrealized dreams to God for his timing and refining. Sometimes we need to release them. King David dreamed of building a great temple for God. God praised David for the desire, but said the dream belonged to Solomon (1 Kings 8:17-19). Jesus called Peter and others to leave their nets and follow him. The big fish of their dreams may have slipped away, but Christ had them turn and walk toward something new.
Abraham clung to a promise of a son, a dream unrealized for decades. Abraham kept his faith and prospered as he trusted God while waiting. Be patient if God calls you to cling to a promise or dream. Be open if he gives you a new dream.
Be eager to listen to God’s direction, yet ready to wait on his timing. It’s all about your mindset.
Renew Your Mind
Set your mind to renewal. “Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him” (Colossians 3:10, New Living Translation). Commit to knowing God a little more each day through prayer and his Word. This might mean purchasing a new Bible in a different translation or format that brings new perspective as you read. This helps renew your mind and spirit.
Since God’s mercy is new every morning (Lamentations 3:22, 23), we know he encourages fresh starts. What better time then a New Year with days and months ahead of us. Romans 12:1, 2 is better than a road map for the future and for renewal. Read those words in several translations to discover more about the meaning. We’re told to be different from the world, not to be conformed or shaped, to have our eyes wide open, to change our thinking. How? By offering ourselves to God, giving him control of every aspect of our lives. Renewed minds don’t let the past shape our future. God promises good results. We will learn discernment, we will discover God’s will for us, and we will work out what is acceptable to him.
World in Romans 12:2 comes from the Greek word aiōni that means a space of time. It’s more than the world in which we live. It also involves transition and movement, not to be stuck in time, but to look at the next phase of life and move forward. It implies breaking free of the chains of time or our own past. Be brave and go for what God calls you to do.
The Scriptures remind us to renew our minds by changing our thinking, becoming more innovative. One key to changing our thinking is found in 2 Corinthians 10:5 where we’re told to take every thought captive. Contrast that idea to being captivated by worldly thoughts and sights. We should test our thoughts with God’s values and knowledge. Then we can toss our manmade arguments and fears. In the evening, reflect on what happened and what you thought about or discussed. Check those thoughts with God. Then read a passage of Scripture and dwell on how it is a thought from God. What is God saying to you? Day by day, you will become a deeper thinker!
Choose New Actions
Beyond renewal, a new person should be one of action, a doer of the word (James 1:22). How can we be new persons of action? The simplest way is one action of faith at a time. After the flood, God called Abram and sent him on a journey with a simple message: you will be a blessing to the nations. That’s the simplest message from God to his people. We are called to bless others.
Start each day asking God to put someone in your path you can bless. Keep your eyes open and respond to the needs you see. Perhaps you can offer a word of encouragement or be a good listener. Maybe you can help someone with a door. The opportunities are endless.
Be proactive regarding your call and your dreams. Abram worked at building a legacy before God fulfilled the dream of a child. Take steps that move you toward dreams God gives you. State those as goals. Goals reveal steps and actions to help develop a plan. New and renewed dreams bring new hope to renew your heart.
A New Heart for a New You
Every morning I wake and say the words of Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Those thoughts refine us daily and give us a godly focus.
Above all, we should want to be people after God’s own heart, like King David. We can pray that our new hearts will be filled with love for everyone he created. We can pray that God will keep us focused on him and his direction to help us be patient and loving throughout the day’s journey. Your greatest steps to become a new you will start with letting God work from the inside out.
Karen Whiting (www.karenwhiting.com) is a speaker and author of 25 books.