(2 Corinthians 5:17)
By Rev. Dr. Sergio Arevalo, Jr.
January 01, 2015, 9 am (New Year’s Celebration)
May God be with you this blessed New Year!
During this season, people in different cultures show their “belief systems” or “superstitious beliefs.” They basically reflect the customs, traditions, and mores of a group, which may be based on religious beliefs, opinions, old or popular practices. They also tell of how a people view the unknown, and the means to appease the gods that control the future.
Here are some examples of Filipino superstitions: (1) Anuman ang iyong ginagawa o nararamdaman sa Araw ng Bagong Taon ay magpapatuloy sa loob ng buong taon. (Whatever you do or feel on New Year’s Day will continue the rest of the year.)
(2) Mas mabuti na makakita ng pera sa Araw ng Bagong Taon sa halip na gastusin ito. (Better to find money on New Year’s Day than spend it.)
(3) Ang pagtalon sa umaga ng Bagong Taon ay magpapabilis ng paglaki at magpapatangkad sa isang tao. (Jumping on New Year’s morning hastens growth and makes a person taller.)
(4) Prepare 13 “rounded or semi rounded” fruits during this season, and you will have more money all year. Round symbolizes coins.
Most of Filipino superstitions are based on luck, and not on blessings of God. Most people believe in Hindu Karma (cause and effect) rather than the grace of God. Most people believe in crazy superstitions rather than the care of God.
Some of us may argue, there’s nothing wrong on following those superstitions, who knows it may happen when we do that? If our actions and decisions will glorify God I have no quarrel on that, but if we will practice superstitions without acknowledging our God and his providence, now we have problem.
During this season we also overemphasize “New Year’s Resolutions.” We say, this year I will stop smoking. I will stop drinking wine. I will stop taking drugs. I will stop betting in Lottery. I will stop cursing. And many more. How about you? What’s your resolutions this year?
Making resolutions is good. However, when we do resolution we shall mean we are going to change from negative to positive, from bad to good, from good to better, from better to best.
For example, one may say, last year I just attended church worship once a month. This year I will attend more than once—good resolution. Last year 10 people hated me, this year I will try to be good and I hope only 9 will get mad at me—good resolution.
Last year I did not attend Bible study or Sunday school, this year I will attend at least once a month—good resolution. Last year I did not share the gospel to anybody, this year I will share the Gospel to at least one friend—good resolution.
New Year is also time for promises. For example, we say, I promise to myself that this year I will help one person in my neighborhood. I promise to study one course for my job development. I promise to help our church in missions and evangelism—good promises!
No doubt, New Year is a time for new beginning. We might not be successful last year, but this year we will try to struggle again to become successful. Last year, as a church, we were lukewarm, this year we will try to be successful in achieving our vision and missions—new beginning!
I. New Creation in Christ: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation”
The Apostle Paul says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.” If we are in Christ, the Lord through his grace changes us. We become new creature. This change is not because of plastic surgery or Botox or expensive drugs. Paul means we are a renewed person and acts upon new principles, by new rules, with new ends.
A new man has experienced metanoia. It is translated loosely as repentance, but actually it means “change of mind.” Change of mind for the better. I interpret that a new person is the one who experienced metanoia, a person who experienced change of his mind, change of heart and change of his direction for God’s glory. Jesus Christ called the one who experienced metanoia “born again”–the one who is born from above (John 3:3).
II. Old things Passed Away through Christ: “Old things are passed away”
Paul says, “Old things are passed away.” If we are in Christ, this will be our target, our vision, our goal in life. Those old things that hinder our growth in Christ should pass away. Those negative behaviors that separate us from other Christians must pass away.
Sometimes “old things” seem hard to leave or hard to change, like vices and bad habits. It is because the OSN or Old Sin Nature is still in us. Imagine, sins had been with us since we were young and we were accustomed to do that thinking that they were okay.
Don’t worry we can separate from our OSN through the grace of God. Let us just cooperate with his grace. Pray to God always, say like this: “Lord, help me, clean me and make me a new being.” If we will not cooperate with the working of the grace we will not experience changes in our lives, that’s for sure!
A man at a New Year’s party turns to his friend and asks for a cigarette. “I thought you made a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking?”
He responds, “I’m in the process of quitting,” says the first guy, with a grin. “Right now, I am in the middle of phase one.’” “Phase one?” asks the friend. “Yeah,” laughs the first guy, “I’ve quit buying.”
Quitting smoking can be a process. Phase one for a smoker on the path to a happier, healthier New Year is to stop buying cigarettes.
Spiritual health is also a process. Phase one for a Christian on the path to a spiritually healthier, happier New Year is to stop “buying” what the world is selling. Its pack of lies are toxic and habit forming (illustrationexchange.com).
Paul says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
III. All things Become New through Christ: “All things are become new.”
Matthew Henry says, “The believer is created anew; his heart is not merely set right, but a new heart is given him. He is the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Though the same as a man, he is changed in his character and conduct. These words must and do mean more than an outward reformation” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary).
John Wesley says, “All things are become new – He has new life, new senses, new faculties, new affections, new appetites, new ideas and conceptions. His whole tenor of action and conversation is new, and he lives, as it were, in a new world. God, men, the whole creation, heaven, earth, and all therein, appear in a new light, and stand related to him in a new manner, since he was created anew in Christ Jesus” (John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes).
London businessman Lindsay Clegg told the story of a warehouse property he was selling. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and trash around the interior.
As he showed a prospective buyer the property, Clegg took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage.
“Forget about the repairs,” the buyer said. “When I buy this place, I’m going to build something completely different. I don’t want the building; I want the site.”
Compared with the renovation God has in mind, our efforts to improve our own lives are as trivial as sweeping a warehouse slated for the wrecking ball.
When we become God’s children, the old life is over (2 Cor. 5:17). He makes all things new. All he wants is the site and the permission to build (Ian L. Wilson).
Let’s pray: NEW YEAR’S PRAYER
May we learn not to be ruled by exhilaration or anger.
May failures be instructors, not judgment.
May other people’s lives, their loves and joys and losses, be as real to us as our own.
May our doubts not be belligerent or our belief smug.
May our faith in betterment never falter.
May we be daily inspired by the countless women and men who worked, sacrificed and dreamed to create the wonders of the world we enjoy,
May we live true to their legacy, and so be included in prayers of New Years to come.
Dear God, in a world radiant with blessing, may we never hoard our good fortune but offer it to your children with an open hand, an eager heart and a spirit that honors You (Rabbi Wolpe).
BENEDICTION: A New Year’s Prayer
May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need you most,
and by making you anxious to be there to help.
God’s love, peace, hope and joy to you all for the year ahead.