As 2020 has come and we have said goodbye to a decade while saying hello to a new one, we look towards the hope of new beginnings in the new year. During this time, people will often make new year’s resolutions in hopes of bettering themselves and making the next year their best year yet. For some, that means working out more, drinking more water, or eating healthier foods, but what may new beginnings mean specifically for Christians?
Well, throughout Scripture we find multiple instances where God has radically changed people who step out in faith to follow him. They begin a new life and do away with their old ways. Through Christ, their lives have been utterly transformed. One prime example of someone experiencing new beginnings in Christ is the apostle Paul, who writes to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 5:17, saying, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (ESV). No matter how many times we sinned, once we are born again, we are a new creation in Christ. Though that does not mean we completely stop sinning, it does mean that our lives and spirits become centered on Christ and serving him. In doing so, both our personalities and actions take on a significant change that may surprise those around us.
With Paul, many doubted his salvation and questioned how someone who was once incredibly passionate about killing and persecuting Christians could now be the same person claiming to be saved by Jesus Christ. Despite the accusations, Paul’s words, actions, and complete change of heart displayed that he was not trying to deceive Christians.
Nowadays we see people in our own lives and celebrities who claim to be Christian but have people questioning that. Most recently, Kanye West released his gospel rap album titled “Jesus Is King,” and has been receiving backlash from numerous Christians saying he is only doing it for attention and is not actually a follower of Christ. These doubts do not come from nowhere since by simply glancing at his life it is easy to see the immorality and sins involved in it; however, pointing to his past alone leads Christians down a tricky path.
Firstly, it is important to remember that we cannot truly know if he is saved or not because we do not know his heart. As 1 Samuel 16:7 states, “…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (NASB). God knows Kanye West’s heart and whether or not he is actually saved. Furthermore, we cannot only point to someone’s past when trying to prove they are not saved. Let us take a step back and remember our lives before we were saved. For many Christians, their old selves in the past were a lot more different than their new selves today that it is mind boggling to see Christ’s power in changing them. Therefore, we cannot judge anybody by their past.
The same God that transformed Saul to Paul is the same God we serve today, so is he not able to change the lives of celebrities as well? Whether a certain celebrity is a real Christian or not, we need to keep in mind that God does have the power to completely change someone once they follow him. We have not been called to judge our neighbors but rather to love and pray for them. No one except God can fully know where someone’s heart and intentions lie in relation to following Christ.
So, in this season of new beginnings, I encourage you all to pray for the people in your life and those in the spotlight. Also, remember your own journey with Christ and how far you have come since being saved. Sanctification is an ongoing process and we all need Christ to examine and renew our hearts daily. God is always molding and shaping us into who he wants us to be. Each and every one of us need Jesus and at times we have to remind ourselves of the power he has to radically change people’s hearts and lives, for “…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (ESV).
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