God promises a new you. The story of the Bible from beginning to end reveals God’s engagement with humanity to renew mankind in a very personal and profound way. Throughout the Scriptures we read the promises and provision for receiving “a new heart”, “a new name [or identity]”, “a new creation”[i], collectively being “a new nation” inheriting “a new heaven and a new earth”.[ii] Therefore we are encouraged to “be renewed in strength”, “be renewed in spirit of your mind” and holistically “be transformed”[iii] by God’s grace; for “His mercies… are new every morning”[iv].
What God had purposed and promised in Christ is a complete transformation of your being; in short: A NEW YOU! Not a superficial MAKE-OVER that focuses on outward appearance or behavioral modification but true transformation of your nature, character and destination. And this is good news! God had always in mind to forgive and remove the sins that cause decay and destruction. Often the concept of sin is perceived as fuzzy and very “religious” – as though it is something wholly removed from the “real” world. But the truth is that “sin” simply means “failure”, “shortcoming” or “imperfection”. So God’s plan for our renewal and regeneration is to remove the cause and result of our inherent imperfections, shortcoming and failures. His plan is to remove all separation, suffering and sadness as he “make[s] all things new”.[v]
This process starts with being “born again”, a renewal of the spirit or heart – a core change of the person.[vi] In Jesus’s substitutionary death he exchanged our sinful nature for his righteousness [vii] – by this we are declared just before God and naturally long for goodness.
A new confidence: freed from your past
When God makes you new he restores your confidence before himself and the world. One good illustration of this was when Joshua, who was high priest in Jerusalem around 500 BC, stood ashamed before the Lord with Satan accursing him (Zechariah 3:1-7). The reason for the shame and accusation was “filthy garments”. Joshua was in a predicament: he was the high priest, mediator and intercessor between God and man, but now his “garments [were] filthy”. He was a man who has served God for a long time, has been appointed by God and honored by men. But now after having served as an example of holiness and godliness for many years. Yet this godly man no longer had confidence to minister before God and men because he felt ashamed about his sins or failures – which God knew, and possibly some people (“filthy garments” and “iniquity”). So he lost his confidence as high priest. Yet the Lord did not lose confidence in his servant Joshua, and moved powerfully to restore Joshua to serve the church powerfully. Firstly the Lord quieted the voice of accusation to clear his conscience, and then instructed the change of clothes to remove his shame before God and people. This is powerful illustration that our righteousness and holiness is graciously imparted by God, not from our goodness. But then the Lord also reaffirmed Joshua’s office and ministry of high priest by issuing him a “new turban” – he had renewed confidence to not only stand before God with a clear conscience, but the Lord affirmed him in his authority and ministry. After his failure Joshua felt guilty, ashamed and disqualified. Yet his meeting with the Lord delivered him from the accusations, guilt and sense of disqualification. The Lord removed his shame and restored his confidence before him and people. Likewise we are encouraged “Don’t lose your confidence – it has great reward”.[viii]
A new identity: free from your failure
“A man is valued by what others say of him.” [ix] How true! Your self-view or reflective identity is shaped by how people relate to you – what they say to and of you, and how they treat or respond to you. And in an imperfect society with broken people the identity derived from others is often hurtful and shameful.
However, our identities are mostly derived from how people experience us; we are named by our habitual behavior – whether good or bad. We know people as either a sweetheart or brute, a workaholic or drunkard, a pervert or servant, a thief or a giver, a peacemaker or a fox; the list of labels go on and on. Our habits shape characters which shape our identity. But when God renews your nature he gives you “a new name”, a new identity.[x] He not only renews your heart or your confidence, but also your character and identity.
One such example is Jacob. His life was characterized by deceit and betrayal, and wherever he went he left a trail of broken relationship and angry people. In fact, his name means “deceiver”, “liar”, “schemer”. After cheating his brother out of his inheritance he fled for his life (Genesis 32ff). But that night Jacob was met by the Lord who made a covenant of protection and prosperity. Yet Jacob did not change deeply. Yes, he was prospered by God in spite of being cheated for years, but Jacob’s relationships in his home and with his family was characterized by deceit, suspicion, manipulation – all lies. Years after fleeing his father’s home Jacob again fled the home of his father-in-law. By this time the Lord had prospered him tremendously, but he did not have peace. He could not remain with his in-laws because of the damage of deceit. Yet he could not return home to his own land which he cheated from his brother Esau, fearing the wrath of this skilled hunter.
As Jacob was nearing his home country the fear was mounting and Jacob did what he always did: he cowardly schemed to appease his brother. But Jacob’s reality was screaming too loudly; the destruction of his character flaw was undeniable. Jacob no longer wanted to be a known as a deceiver. So that night Jacob went across the river to meet the Lord (Genesis 32:24-28). He wrestled with the Lord all night, and would not let him go until the Lord changed his identity and his walk. He persisted until he was truly a new man. Jacob, “the deceiver”, was transformed into Israel, “prince of God”. Jacob got a new name, a new identity. His walk literally changed so that everyone who saw him could see that something happened, and that Jacob was a new person. But also his legacy changed that night – his descendants are not known as Jacobites or “deceivers”, but rather Israelites or “princes of God”. God made Jacob a new man with a new identity and new legacy.
A new you
Both Joshua the high priest and Jacob’s life examples are reserved in Scripture for our encouragement: God is on a mission to redeem lives, so that in Him we are not slaves of our past or slaves of our passions.
Joshua’s story reminds us that even when we fail and Satan accuses us we need not hide in shame. The Lord forgives and restores us so we can confidently continue to serve and represent him to the world. Failure does not imply finished. Our confidence before the Lord and the world comes as a gift from the Lord, not our performance. Does the memory of your failure fil your with guilt and shame? Stand before the Lord in humility, and see how he stills your conscience, cleanses your heart and restores your confidence. Your life is not over; “his mercies are new every morning”![xi]
Jacob’s story reminds is that is never too late to redeem your identity, your walk or your legacy. The Lord makes all things new! Does your life reveal cycles of destruction from a character weakness? Do you feel embarrassed by your habitual flaw? Cross over to the Lord; come alone. Don’t let go until he blesses you; wrestle with him until he changes your walk, until he redeems your identity, until he renews your legacy. See how he makes you new!
[i] Scripture references in order Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26; Revelations 2:17; 3:12; 1 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 2:9-10;
[ii] Revelations 21:1
[iii] Isaiah 40:31; Ephesians 4:22-24; Romans 12:2
[iv] Lamentations 3:22-23
[v] Revelations 21:5
[vi] John 3:5; Ezekiel 36:26
[vii] 2 Peter 1:4; 1 Corinthians 5:21
[viii] Hebrews 10:35
[ix] Proverbs 27:21
[x] Revelations 2:17; 3:12
[xi] Lamentations 3:22-23