A Radical New Year

The most enthralling aspect of the new year is that it’s new. We all love new things. New clothes, new house, new car, new job, new relationships, new gadgets. New is exciting.

Every time we buy something new, meet someone new, or start something new, we feel boundless opportunity. A clean slate. A fresh start. A do over.

January 1 finds most people energized and optimistic. If you’re like me, you’ve already made your resolutions, and you’ve started some new habits. You have purposed to read the Bible more, pray more, exercise more . . .

But didn’t we do that last year, too? How will this year be any different?

Perhaps the desire for change is what drew thousands of people to hear Jesus teaching in the synagogues and hillsides around Judea. Crowds were drawn to Jesus’ new approach, to his wit and his intellect. Instead of giving people rules to follow, Jesus challenged their motives and ambitions. Jesus taught that resolution without passion produces discouragement and hypocrisy. And ultimately, it produces failure.

Jesus challenged his audiences to live out a new faith that practically applied their religious upbringing, instead of reviewing it. He illustrated His exciting messages accompanied miracles of healing and deliverance. The people thronged Him because they craved a new way to live. Experience had showed them that the old way never changed anything.

I wonder how new 2016 would be if we resolved to live according to Jesus’ teaching instead of the practices of our current culture? How would this year differ from every other new year we’ve had and every other list of good intentions that we’ve written?

Jesus’ radical list can sustain our resolve, even when the luster of a new mission dulls and reality sets in that living counter-cultural lives of impact and purpose may cost us everything. (In fact, Jesus said that it should!)

Jesus’ simple yet radical teaching echoes throughout the Sermon on the Mount. Here’s what he said to those eager listeners and what he still says to us:

1. Focus on eternal perspective.
2. Hunger for God’s word and God’s law.
3. Show mercy and make peace.
4. Be authentic.
5. Endure hardship and persecution.
6. Make a difference in the world.
7. Forgive quickly, with humility.
8. Guard your heart and your mind.
9. Give generously and privately.
10. Love God and love others.
11. Pray regularly.
12. Deny yourself.

Living a year like Jesus instructs could be the first new year that any of us have ever had. If we did these 12 things—even if we only focused on one per month—would we experience a new year, a transformational year that exceeds our wildest resolutions.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Susan Schlesman

Visit Sue @susanwalleyschlesman.com

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Sue Schlesman

Sue Schlesman is a Christian writer, teacher, and speaker. Her blogs, Bible studies, fiction, and non-fiction reach a wide audience. You can find her philosophizing about life, education, family, and Jesus at www.susanwalleyschlesman.com and www.7prayersthatwork.com or email her for speaking opportunities at sueschlesman@gmail.com.

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