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Background Text: Romans 6:3-4

Devotional Text: 1 Peter 1:3-4

As we celebrate the new year, we also begin again, or continue on with, our new life in Christ. Just as the baby Jesus came to save the world from its sins to reconcile us with our God, the new year offers us a newness to continue forward as the children of God.

Was your last year perfect? Did everything go according to your plan? Were there annoyances, perhaps problems that became big; are you still trying to live up to your new life?

Well, I know I am. There always seems to be periods of time throughout the year in which I feel the blessings of God each day. Then there comes those other times, when life seems full of little annoyances (like the computer keeps doing weird things, or the traffic is crazy today!), as well as the unexpected times of tragedy in the lives of family or friends.

The year chugs on with both good and bad, happy and sad, moments. Yet, we live, and we try to live good lives.

The word “new” refers to having a fresh start, being different from what came before, having a clean slate to start something.

All of these references can also be clearly seen as we seek to live the new life in Christ that we read about throughout the New Testament.

As believers in Jesus, the Christ, we live a newness of life. As the apostle Paul puts it in Romans 6:3-4, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death ... in order that, just as Christ was resurrected from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too, may live a new life.”

You see, as believers, Jesus is with us. God brought to us the Holy Spirit to dwell with us when Jesus ascended to the Father. It is the same Holy Spirit today, who nudges us to do the right things.

In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul uses the analogy of yeast in describing our new and changed lives following our acceptance of Christ as Savior. He explains that it just takes a little yeast to work its way through all the dough. If the yeast is old, then the bread will be ruined, but if the yeast is new, the outcome is wonderful bread fit for the eating.

Paul uses these words in a warning for people to stay away from the bad things in life that are essentially no good for you, or for anyone else. It is up to us to live our lives without immorality, greed, jealousy, slander and all the other negative things that people say and do.

Just as old yeast is bad for the dough, old habits continue to be bad for people. Good yeast, however, the new, fresh stuff, yields a dough that bakes the bread just right. And, like in our lives, doing good develops good habits and helps us to break away from harmful, negative ones.

Following the ways taught by Jesus, praying to God, and reading the Bible regularly, help us to live our new life.

Learning the ways of Jesus can help us each day as we read the word of God. This is the good news. As believers, we are not left alone to struggle it all out by ourselves, for God is with us, always. God’s plan is to help us, not forsake us.

1 Corinthians 5 continues with Paul’s words of living the new life: “Start your new life in Christ, the good yeast, who is working through you, to lead you into righteousness.”

Paul continues to write about our new life in Colossians. Colossians 3:10 says, “put on the new self which is being renewed.”

Putting on the new self has nothing to do with what what mask, or persona, you decide to show the world each day. The new self is the person God has always made and planned for you to be. As a believer in Christ, God helps us to get back to the way that is good, right and joyful for true life.

Colossians 3:12 says, “clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience ... Bear with one another and forgive. Forgive as God forgave you — and over all these virtues put on love...”

It is not unusual for a person who experiences God’s loving salvation for the first time to be overwhelmed with God’s presence of goodness and love. Family and friends will notice a change for the better in that person.

At others times, even though a person has accepted Jesus as Savior, it is more difficult for them to show their new life in Christ. It just simply takes more time for them.

God knows us, each one, through-and-through. God knows what we need in our lives to help us live in his mercy and grace and glory.

As individuals, we are not all the same. We each have gifts and talents from God that are unique to us. God certainly knows who we are, and it helps us to realize that God works in us to help us become more of who he made us to be. God’s love, abiding within the believer, helps us every day of our lives.

Hebrews 10:20 speaks to us about living in the way of the new life offered by Christ. It says, “God has opened the way to him through Jesus Christ, by a new and living way.” Verse 24 continues with new living by telling us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Living the new life is such a good thing in so many ways. It holds our future, as planned by God, who always wants the best for us. He has made us in his image and has given us free will.

When we decide to follow him, we do not become mere puppets doing the will of God. Instead we seek to live our lives the best we can for ourselves and others around us. We pray to God for guidance. We feel the nudge of the Spirit who sends us in the right direction.

We always have the freedom to say, “no,” to God. God does not punish us for saying, “no.” However, when we do say, “no,” it’s pretty certain we will be missing out on one of God’s blessings in the process.

Each new year, it’s traditional for some people to make lists. Some make lists of what they will accomplish in the new year, or it could be a financial accounting or any number of things. These are all fine and good and helpful for those who write them.

There is another list that some make, as they consider their life in Christ for the new year. It may be a list that includes not using swear words, or remembering to ask God for self-control when anger threatens to explode, or to trust God in his nudgings to help others. The list goes on for each individual’s needs.

It’s an important list as it helps to keep us ready to do the right thing — to live the kind of loving and united life God chose for his creation. At the end of the year, as we go back to our lists, we can see how we did. And probably find more areas of improvement for the next year.

I like the hopefulness found in these words written by Peter in 1 Peter 1:3-4: “Praise to the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you.”

As believers, there is nothing that can separate us from Christ. Our new life in Christ is within us, with Jesus empowering us to live it fully.

The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh is the pastor of the Schenevus United Methodist Church in Schenevus, New York.