Fresh Start

Sunset streakI love mornings: the chill of the morning air before the heat of the day, the brilliant oranges and yellows of the sunrise, the promise each new day holds. Despite the disappointments and failures of yesterday, today I can start fresh. I think God is a morning person. Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV) says, “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” A new day means a fresh start.

Jesus is in the business of giving people a fresh start. He encountered many people during His ministry. It wasn’t the religious people who got a fresh start. It was the woman caught in adultery (John 8). It was Peter who declared himself a sinful man (Luke 5:8). It was Zacchaeus who was a despised tax collector but turned around (Luke 19). It was the criminal crucified next to Him on Calvary (Luke 23). The apostle Peter says, “Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life, and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven” (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG).

2Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV): “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

“If anyone” means no limitations, no one is excluded. “Is in Christ” says the only requirement for God to erase my past and make me new is for me to come to Jesus, to accept him as Lord of my life. “Everything that we have – right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start – comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:30 MSG) We reach the point of frustration and despair where we cry out, “Oh God, something’s gotta change.” That’s right; the something is me.

Each of us is composed of spirit, soul and body. Our spirit is our connection to God. Before salvation our spirit was corrupted by the stain of sin. When we are born again, as it says in Colossians 1:13, we were rescued out of kingdom of darkness. It’s like an On/Off switch: We were in darkness, now we are in the kingdom of God. Our body, which is our flesh, on the other hand, will not be changed until the last trumpet sounds. Until then we will experience conflict between spirit and body. Our soul (that’s our mind, will and emotions) is caught in a tug-of-war between our spirits wanting to do God’s will and our bodies wanting to satisfy fleshly desires. Romans 8:5 (GNTD) says, “Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the Spirit wants.” We continue to experience condemnation if we continue to walk according to the flesh.

1John 1:9 (NKJV) promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God is not surprised, disgusted or caught off guard. When David hit Goliath with that stone, Goliath was heard to say as he fell, “I didn’t see that coming.” (Not really) God won’t say that. He cleanses not just what society considers minor, not just the misdemeanors. He takes it all. “Faithful” – He is true to His word; I can depend on it. “Just” – how is that just? Because Jesus paid the price. Jesus stepped between me and the judgment of God.

2Corinthians 5:17 (Phillips): “For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether—the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new.”

I am cleansed. It is like getting out of the shower after a sweaty day’s work; refreshed, renewed. Romans 6:4 GNTD “By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life.” I am never going to be good enough to get into heaven because it’s perfect and I have never been perfect. It is Christ’s goodness in me that makes me acceptable.

The devil is definitely not a morning person. His is a kingdom of darkness. The devil, when he has us down, keeps piling on: late fees, interest, penalties. God has something different for us. Matthew 11:28-30 promises that His yoke is easy, His burden is light. Colossians 3:10 challenges us to “put on the new man created in righteousness and holiness.”

The real cause of depression is not where we are, but our attitude about where we find ourselves. That’s why the devil wants to make you feel like you’re worthless and rejected. Philippians 4:4 encourages us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” When we’re focused on God, rejoicing in Him, depression has no place in us. So the next time the enemy tries to make you feel low or sad, choose to rejoice in the Lord.

2Corinthians 5:17 (NLT): “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

New life has begun! Get off the bench! In Matthew 4, when Jesus called Peter and Andrew, they “at once they left their nets.” When he called James and John, “immediately they left the boat.” It’s time to turn the page and get on with life. Being in a perpetual state of whining and negativism gets me nowhere. I am not what I used to be. I am a new creation.

We allow setbacks and failures to enslave us. Listen to Isaiah 43:18-19a (NIV): “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. I am doing a new thing. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Don’t think about the past, it’s over. God is more interested in my future than in my past.

I am 67 years old. Do I have 67 years of experience? Not necessarily. How many times has it been the same experience repeated over and over? The more time I spend regretting my past, the more of my future is wasted. I set myself up for more failure by focusing on past failures, because what I focus on tends to reproduce in my life. Recognize that real success is built on failure. Look at Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers or Alexander Graham Bell. The life of each one was characterized by failure after failure until breakthrough occurred.

Maybe we think if we feel guilty enough, we will earn a fresh start. If we dwell on our mistakes long enough, better things will happen. Feeling bad about myself is not enough. A fresh start is not found in a new job or a new location or new spouse. Our fresh start comes in living as a new creation.

2Corinthians 5:17 (God’s Word): “Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.”

To make a fresh start, I need to stop making excuses and blaming others. Proverbs 28:13 (Living Bible) “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.” I have a choice how I will respond to hurt, rejection, failure, disappointment. It’s easy to blame a father who wasn’t home, a teacher who didn’t care, a spouse who cheated, a drinking buddy who didn’t know when to stop. In reality, nothing will change until I take responsibility for my life. God confronted Adam for his disobedience and Adam said, “It was the woman You gave me.” In that he was blaming both Eve and God in one short sentence. We live in a culture that loves to shift the blame, pass the buck. We blame the government, our parents, the schools, the stars. “I’d better check my horoscope to see if I should go out of the house today.” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “He who is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else.”

A fresh start means a totally new direction. If I were given a fresh start but didn’t change my thinking, I would just mess everything up all over again. God isn’t interested in redecorating; He is after radical change, new construction. He will take the wrecking ball to the strongholds we have constructed and start anew. A fresh start is a whole new person. Jesus takes the whole mess that described my life and makes it right.

The Bible does not say, “You shall read this book…” It doesn’t say, “You shall listen to this book…” It says, “You shall meditate on this book…” (Joshua 1:8) Good intentions are not enough. If we maintain the same thoughts, the same actions, the same habits we will end up right back in the same place. That happens enough times and hopelessness sets in. 1Corinthians 13 (NLT), the “love” chapter concludes with verse 13: “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.” If the devil tried to take my faith, I would say, “No, I’m standing strong.” If he tried to take my love, I’d say, “Devil, that belongs to me.” But the devil tries to take my hope and I tend to say, “I guess that’s the way life is.”

We call ourselves people of faith. More importantly we need to be people of hope. Can I give you hope? Can God give you hope? He has given us the book of hope. Our responsibility is to meditated on His Word until hope takes hold of our soul. I won’t let the devil steal my faith. I won’t let the devil steal my love. It is just as important that I don’t let him steal my hope. It’s time to get ahold of hope. I can change. My life can be different. I am a new creation.

Cinderella had it easy because she had a fairy godmother with a magic wand. “Bibbidi bobbidi boo” and she could see the changes: a new dress, a new hairdo, a new carriage. I don’t look new but God says I am. By faith, it’s time to live it.

2Corinthians 5:17 (Cotton Patch): “Therefore, if a man is a Christian, he is a brand new creation. The old guy is gone: Look, a new man has appeared.”