I’ve been trying to write something about the new year since before 2017 even began. I’m a particularly reflective person and as the new year dawned, I wanted to focus on what I had learned. I wrote down lessons I had learned in 2016 and then I forgot about them. I chose a theme I wanted to focus on in the new year, and that was it.
Fast forward to a few days/weeks into the new year and I had already lost sight of the hope I’d instilled for the new year. I had already messed up, done the things I said I wouldn’t and was feeling like I needed to start this year over again. People always use the new year as a time to enact change and to declare themselves new. I have never been a resolutions girl, I’ve always thought that change doesn’t have a due date. However, if the new year is the occasion that causes someone to change their life, more power to them.2017 made me understand why the new year brings about change for people. I got it, but then I wanted to restart it.
This year, I kept asking myself am I really that different? I know what the answer on the surface is. Yes, I am. I thought back to where I was a 2 Januaries ago, and sure there is a difference. I am not the same person at all. I think differently. I’m not with who I was with back then. I have a completely different lifestyle. More importantly, I was just very lost and two years later, I’m no longer lost. But I kept thinking about the stuff that plagued me before, and how I still have to deal with those things. I know that I am different, but sometimes I don’t feel very different. I don’t know if I am the only one who feels this way. I am acutely aware of how God has changed my life, but sometimes I doubt my own ability and desire to change. Then I got hit in the heart with this reminder.
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4
There is no condemnation for me anymore because I belong to God. I belong. You belong. We all belong. To belong is to have a special place carved out for you. It’s never having to worry about where you’re going to sit, because you know there’s a seat saved for you. There’s comfort. In my belonging, I have access to an earth-shattering power. It is a life-giving Spirit. It gave me life when I deserved death. It’s the same Spirit that gave Jesus life. The power of the Spirit is transcendent because it conquered over death. This same Spirit is what gives us power over sin.
We were weak and God is strong. He took matters into his own hands. He took care of us because we belong to him. God takes care of the things that belong to him. He isn’t reckless or forgetful with his people. He took care of me at the expense of his own well-being. He sent his son, even though it would meant that he would be separated from his perfect partner. He did all of this so that I could have freedom from my own sin. He sent his son down to my level to dwell in a body, similar to mine, and just as susceptible to sin. Except, his son did not sin, even though he was human. He was faithful and conquered over sin like his Father. Through the most perfect of sacrifices, I was set free. I don’t have to think about if I’m different anymore because there is no way that I could ever be the same.
I was in the prison of sin, but my sentence was pardoned. I didn’t get released on good behavior. I wasn’t wrongly accused. Jesus took my place and broke down those prison bars. I just have to realize I’m free. I can lose sight of that sometimes. I wallow around in that cell and focus so much on how I got there that I don’t see the open door that leads to my freedom.
He did all of this so that I could have access to another free gift, a life led by the Spirit. Living by the flesh is not our only option anymore. Imprisonment is now a choice. God fulfills all of his promises and he promises that freedom comes with the Spirit.There is nothing I did to earn it. He let me out of prison and said “You’re free. Follow me. Follow my son’s example.”
This is something I have to remind myself in times where I wonder about what it all means. I get to belong to God and I have this amazing opportunity to live a life that pleases him. So the next time you doubt your ability to change, remember that it has nothing to do with who you were. And everything to do with who you belong to and how He sees you.
There are 334 more days left in 2017. Don’t count the mistakes. Count on God’s mercy, new every day. Make the days matter. And that makes all the difference.