Written by Toby Mattern
All too often we start out the new year with these big goals. We have a plan in mind that will change us for the better. We watch January come with excitement knowing that this will be the best year yet! This is the year that we move past the regrets of the past and welcome a fresh start to be the person we want to be. Sadly the people around us still see the smoker, the liar, the uncommitted person, the partyer, the cheater, or the angry person. We are reminded of that old life, and if that is what is spoken into our lives it is so easy to fall back into that lifestyle. In scripture we see that Jesus is about restoration, He is about the new life. When Jesus is the Lord and Savior of our lives the old life is gone. We are not that old person, but culture may still remind us of that past life. The question is will we choose to listen to culture, or will we boldly believe that we are new creations in Christ? Scripture speaks about “a man with leprosy [who] came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” (Matthew 8:2-4) The story makes an interesting turn because at that very moment the man was no longer a leper, but what do you think that society would see him as when he returned? The crowds would still treat him as a leper even though Jesus changed him. His identity in Christ was a new life, but culture still saw a leper. Jesus instructed the man to go to the priests, because in this culture a priest could diagnose and then inform weather a person was clean or unclean, and then the word would spread.
Culture will remind you of the old self, the life without Christ full of filth, But Christ looks at you as a new creation. As you fast to start out this New Year remember that the act of giving up something that you enjoy, such as food, is extremely counter cultural. People will not understand why you would sacrifice the joy of good food, and why you would replace that time with intimate time with Jesus. I encourage you during this time of prayer and fasting to remember that our identity is not found in the past choices we made, the past reputations that people may hear. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) You are not your past mistakes, you are a son or daughter of the creator of the universe who loves you and wants an intimate relationship.
We can choose to find our identity in what culture says, or in whom Jesus created us to be…