I cannot think of a more productive and helpful question for a Christian to ask himself or herself than, “Christian, who are you and what difference does it make?”
The commencement of a new year is an appropriate and convenient time for reflection, regret, and resolve to do some things differently in the future.
The beginning of a new year reminds us of the passage of time, a most precious commodity, because all of us have a finite amount of time to spend on this Earth and none of us knows how much of it we have left to spend.
The definition of the term “Christian” must always begin with the first-person, singular experience of responding to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and the acceptance of the salvation purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ's sacrifice of Himself, paying the penalty for our sin. While Christianity corporately also encompasses the church universal (all of the living and dead who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord) and its teachings, collectively do constitute a comprehensive philosophical worldview, it must always commence individually and experientially.
So who are we as Christians? We are individuals who have responded to the Holy Spirit’s convicting work and have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, thus being indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul, in reminding the Corinthian Christians of who they were (and the evidence strongly suggests that they certainly needed reminding) tells them.
“Do you not know that your body is the temple — the very sanctuary — of the Holy Spirit who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own. You were bought for a price — purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.” (I Cor. 6:19-20, Amplified Bible).
So first, as one who has been redeemed by Christ, we are not our own, we belong to Jesus and we are freed and enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit to know and fulfill God’s will and purpose for our lives.
Former President George W. Bush reminded us, referring to America, “We are not this story’s author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose” (first inaugural address, Jan. 1, 2001). Just so, we are not our personal story’s author. God has, from the beginning, authored a plan and a purpose for each of us to fulfill in our earthy sojourn.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew and approved of you [as My chosen instrument], and before you were born I separated and set you apart, consecrating you, and I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:5, Amplified Bible).
As born-again, redeemed Christians, we can face the New Year confident in the fact that each of us is a child of the King, who has conquered death for each one of us. Consequently, no matter what obstacles, barriers, or setbacks we may encounter along the way, we know how the story ends. We have read the “last chapter” and we know that in the end, righteousness is rewarded and unrighteousness is punished.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us in the midst of the mid-20th century’s turbulence:
“Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ arose and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ There is something in the universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, ‘Truth crashed to earth will rise again.’” (Martin Luther King Jr., “The Gospel Messenger,” 1958).
Ultimately, the “bend toward justice” culminates in complete victory when the King of Kings returns to judge the living and the dead and to usher in eternity.
As each of us moves forward into the New Year, we should reside in full confidence that Jesus is victor and we are destined to be victorious in Him.
When I was a child, and then a young man, every time I left the house, my Christian mother would give me a kiss and then say, “Richard, always remember who you are!” I understood what she was saying. I was a Christian. I was being raised in a Christian home, and I should always remember that my family’s, as well as my Savior’s reputation were reflected upon by my behavior and I should not act in ways that contradicted what I knew was God’s will and purpose for my life. I have often thought she might as well have said, “Richard, remember Whose you are!” referencing the spiritual truth that I was, I am, and I always will be, a born-again child of the King.
We should exude the quiet confidence that we know that good always ultimately defeats evil. We should, through surrender to the Holy Spirit’s continuing ministry in our lives, exude the fruit of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the (Holy) Spirit, [the work which His presence within accomplished]—is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness; (Meekness, humility), gentleness, self-control (self-restraint, continence).” (Gal. 5:22-23, Amplified Bible).
And of course, as experiential recipients of the new birth from above, we should be eager to share the “good news” of the Gospel that there is “life, and life more abundant” (John 3:16) in Christ Jesus.
And if we are truly living the victorious life Jesus intends for us to live, people will be asking us, “what is the secret to your happiness, peace, and contentment?” Then we have an opportunity to share the ultimate good news that, “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only-begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish—come to destruction, be lost—but have eternal (everlasting) life” (John 3:16, Amplified Bible).
We are commanded by the Apostle Peter to “in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully.” (I Pet. 3:16, Amplified Bible).
My prayer for every one of my brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as for myself, is that we so let Christ live in and through us that our daily walk with Him will draw others to ask the reason “for the hope” that is in each of us.
I pray each of you will have a joyous New Year in Christ!
Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.
Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.