This is the time of year that people start setting goals, gearing up for their best, and get ready for hard work and unprecedented discipline. We’re heading into a new year with a chance to “do it better” this year. The old year is gone and all the failures, disappointments, hurts, anxieties, and losses with it. The sun is now rising on a new day and a new year. It’s an exciting time. In a phrase, it’s time to regenerate!
This idea of regeneration is a common one in Christianity (often times it’s synonymous with “rebirth”). The thing that I probably love most about Christian regeneration is that God, not I, takes the initiative. Most of the goal setting we do when the new year comes around depends on our own initiative. We set the goals and meeting those goals depends on us. This isn’t how it works in the Bible.
One passage from the Bible that talks about rebirth is from Titus 3:5, which says,
But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. (emphasis added)
You’ll notice that in this passage, the author makes a connection between rebirth, God’s mercy, and the forgiveness of sins.
The critical thing to realize is that the problem that causes the need for regeneration isn’t our health plan or our finances, it’s sin. Until sin is dealt with, we will always be disappointed with unmet goals—we will always feel wanting. No matter how disciplined we could be, there will still be something fundamentally wrong with us; after all, we all die.
This state of humanity is symbolized as incurable illness in the New Testament. There is a story found in three of the four Gospels about a man with leprosy. The story reads this way:
In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, “Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” (Luke 5:12–14)
This man with leprosy didn’t need more goals. He didn’t need a new diet, or workout regimen. There was nothing this man could do about his state, other than ask Jesus for mercy. Thankfully, Jesus was both willing and able.
While we think about fresh starts with the new year upon us, I encourage you to let God take the initiative with the only true regeneration that makes an eternal difference: the forgiveness of sin.