Little Changes and New Beginnings

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2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (NIV)

Eph 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (NIV)

A new calendar is on the wall and we’re all learning to write “2002” on our letters, checks, reports, and so forth. For a year we practiced writing “2001” and now we have to change. It’s not a big change, just one digit out of four, but many of us will accidentally write “2” instead of “1” a few times before we get ourselves retrained. We’ll write “1” instead of “2” because it’s hard to change our ways – difficult to break habits – even when there are reminders all around us, even when the habit has only been cultivated for one short year.

How much harder it is to make real changes in our lives. To be more tolerant, or more loving, or more patient, or more productive; to give up drugs or cigarettes or other addictions. It takes more than a new calendar and a few errors during retraining to make major changes that improve our lives.

God, the creator, understands the difficulty human beings have with positive change, understands the power of habit. He offers several important aids to those who want to make a new beginning and improve their lives. Most important he offers not a new calendar but what the New Testament calls a new birth. Those who believe in Jesus can start over. This new beginning is more significant than changing from “2001” to “2002” but it too can be compromised by old habits, old training. To help with the changes that all people need to make, God gives those who start over three things. One of the things he gives is his own word, the Bible, to tell them how to behave and what to expect through stories, instructions, and examples. Along with this written word God also gives those who start over and begin to follow him a spiritual companion, an unseen providential helper called the Holy Spirit. Then, along with the word and the Spirit, God gives practical human assistance as well in the church he designed for the benefit of those who accept the new beginning. God’s church is more than anything else designed to be an aid to those who are following the new way of Jesus Christ. It is a support group and a teaching institution for those who seek godly change. It is a nurturing family and peer group for those who choose to follow Jesus. The church is a tender but firm parent for the children of God. It is a source of regular reminders of changes we need to make.

We’ll learn to write “2002” quickly enough – there are plenty of reminders. If we’ve become new creatures in Christ, we can learn to be better people too – there are plenty of reminders for that too. For help in learning about starting over and living better, look to God, consult your Bible, and get help from the church described in its pages.

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