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BEGINNING AGAIN


The opening lines of a poem by Louisa Fletcher express this plaintive wish:


I wish that there were some wonderful place

Called the "Land of Beginning Again,"

Where all our mistakes, and all our heartaches,

And all of our poor selfish grief

Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,

And never be put on again.


One of the staples of life is that, in moments of weakness or poor judgment, we say and do wrong, hurtful things. In marriages, friendships, work associations, and other relationships, our actions sometimes give offense or cause harm to others. Or we may have sinned against the Lord and be at odds with our own conscience. Wouldn’t it be fine if we could just start over? Turn back the clock, rewind the tape, erase the error, or however you like to think of it. It is what David fervently desired as he cried, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Is there a person anywhere who has not wished for this very thing?


The good news of the gospel of Christ is like discovering a “land of beginning again!” And access to it is easily obtained. Jesus told Nicodemus, a Jewish leader who came to Jesus, “You must be born again.” The new beginning Jesus offers is so thorough that He speaks of it as a new birth, or a rebirth. Paul wrote about it to his Corinthian converts, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”


And if washing away the ugly past in the water of baptism were not enough, He continues to renovate our hearts and souls as He walks with us along life’s journey. If we stray, there is a path to return to God. Writing to his “little children,” John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He cleanses us from unrighteousness by giving pardoning grace to poor, humbled sinners who confess their sins before the Lord.


Even at the last supper, Jesus knew Peter would fail a crucial trial that very night. He also knew that Peter would be restored and rehabilitated for useful service, for even as Jesus told Peter he would deny Him, He said, “once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Whatever our failures of the past may be, and how hideous they seem, and how unworthy we feel, all is not lost, nor are we banished forever from God’s presence. For it is not our talents, accomplishments, and victories that make us precious to Him, but that we come to Him in simple trusting faith with a broken, contrite, obedient spirit.


Can any of us hold the year 2016 up to God and proudly claim that we have given Him an untarnished year? Not likely. But He offers forgiveness sweet and free, with our sins removed and remembered no more. He gives us each a new, unsoiled year, like a loving parent repairing a tearful child’s broken toy, handing it back and saying, “Take care of it now, my child.”

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