If you’re familiar with retail, you will likely have heard about the golden quarter. If you haven’t heard of it, it is the 4th fiscal-quarter of the year (October – December) and it is “golden” because you’ve got some pretty major holidays in there which means big dollars for pretty much anyone who sells anything you can give as a gift, eat, wear, or decorate with. Which is basically everyone in the goods industry and a large majority of the service industry.
I like getting new things. New haircuts, new pens, new shirts, new glasses, new shoes, even new socks or underwear – and I’m sure you do too. Even new-old things (used car, thrift store finds, not-brand-new houses, etc.) seem to brighten and lift our moods. They can signify changes, or sometimes are ways we cope with a changes or circumstances we can’t control.
Newness and pushing forward have almost been synonymous for me lately with forgetting what is behind me and not having to worry about that anymore – I would rather forget and not slow down, if you would. Chasing this newness is easy – its tangible, usually transaction based, and has near instant gratification. Often it works to get out of a bit of a rut – I have a friend who, when things get difficult, shaves his beard and that helps him move forward and leave things behind him – and that works for him most of the time. (How, I don’t know, but, apparently, it’s magical?) But sometimes there aren’t enough haircuts, beard trims, and new things that can cover up the hurt that we feel. The newness of things and appearances and outer changes are not enough to make us new.
We can go for months and years ignoring the base issue of what is actually making us feel bad or in a rut or depressed, covering it up with new things, but at some point those new things are not new anymore, we run out of the newness, and we begin feeling the normalcy, the boring, the old, …
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
– Lamentations 3:22-23
God is this weird fusion of oldness and newness. God is the I AM (Exodus 3:14), the unchanging one (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17), and faithful and constant (Deuteronomy 7:9, 1 Corinthians 10:13), ever present (Psalm 46:1), beginning and end (Isaiah 44:6, Revelations 22:13), etc. Yet this ancient, omnipotent one, makes us new (1 Corinthians 5:17), has new mercies every morning (see above), does new things (Isaiah 43:18-19) and is constantly revealing new things to us and to others. Even though he is old, he never gets old.
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
– Revelations 21:5
“I am making” is ποιῶ in Greek. To break it down a bit, this phrase is a fancy (and shorter) way of saying the singular subject (God) is currently in the process of (as opposed to finished or not started), of doing something to the indirect subject (all things = us!).
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:4)
The Greek word ἐναρξάμενος (enarxamenos) is a middle participle of the verb “ἐνάρχομαι” which means to begin. In Greek you can add a participle (he, she, it) to a participle (-ing verbs) to make it mean “the one who is ____ing”, which is why your translation reads “he who began”. However, I also said this was a “middle” participle. In Greek, they can say things are being done by the subject of the sentence, being done too the object of the sentence, or that it is being done both by and too/is not yet completely finished – a passive voice would indicate that God did it to you, active would be you doing it to God, but middle? The middle means that in Paul’s perspective, both of us are involved in the making-new process.
So. God is old, he is making things new now, and he is working with us to create new things in us. A lot of songs use the idea or phrase of being made new/God making things new as a comforting refrain, but sometimes it isn’t that comforting. Being made new isn’t always the easiest process – it can require painful removal, refining, or “pruning” as we like to say in Christian culture-isms (unless I’m way behind the times and we’ve got a new saying?)
That newness isn’t something that shows up immediately – like a haircut or a pair of shoes. It isn’t something that is over and done with. It is a constant renewing of self (sort of like those PC updates they download for weeks before actually updating) much more like how we are called as new creations to cast off our old selves and put on our new ones. The white robes & clean clothes, the self-examination, the pruning and tempering and refinement of precious metals. That kind of knew takes time and shows up in little ways – and it takes work. It takes reminding ourselves daily of the truths about how we are loved and are being made new – we are not done! It isn’t a haircut that we have to go back and have redone or shoes that wear out and need to be replaced. It is all of us being renewed and refreshed every morning, every hour of the day.
Being called to become a new thing different from our old selves, and to trust that as we are made new, in joy and in pain, we become more of who he wants us to be.
Rejoice – he is making us new!