I asked some Ukrainians recently if they consider themselves former Soviet Ukraine or just “Ukraine.” The answer was unanimously “Ukraine”, but the media still frequently refers to this region as the former such and such. This is of course to highlight the contrast from old to new, but it gets a bit old if the past was negative and if you are the one being described as the former: alcoholic, drug addict, felon, dropout, etc.
I never hear of the US still referred to as the former colonies although this was probably the case in Great Britton for at least a century after our independence. Of course, there are a few die-hard anachronistic types who still call us the colonies.
In a funny way my country’s national Independence and our spiritual rebirth – salvation through Christ - were a little like immigration in that we moved from one jurisdiction to another, but we moved legally without getting on a boat or plane.
Paul – formerly Saul the persecutor - tells us in several places that the spiritual change was so drastic that the old person – who we were outside of Christ – is actually considered legally dead, and we have new lives in a new kingdom. If this is the case we should adopt the customs and identity of the new kingdom, namely of the King Himself, and renounce the old ways of the old world.
Now considering the former there was a time when it was inconceivable that the status quo could pass away; case-in-point, the former Soviet Union. But it is gone. Someone believed that it could pass, and it did. Then there was Saul the aforementioned persecutor. Well, I am sure the first church held out little hope for him at the time, but God also changed that in a moment.
The same could be said for friends who we now consider former atheists, former substance abusers, former Muslims etc. There are even now nations like Iran that we may consider to be both national enemies and a collective enemy of the gospel that are at the tipping point of becoming something altogether different with regards to God, something better and maybe even something good.
In all of this the celebration of a New Year is a good place to reset the compass of what faith can do, but the real change in nations begins with a change in hearts, and that change can take place in one moment for an individual. The change can be so profound that the hint of the former will eventually become a distant memory. So “Out with the old, and in with the new” can be a statement of faith after all.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Cor 5:17
Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor 6:11