Summary: God is a God that offers us New Beginnings
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
A new year always seems to bring with it the opportunity for new beginnings. We associate the word resolution with New Year. The word resolution, as defined in the dictionary, has to do with a “firm determination; a course of action determined or decided upon.” We may determine to exercise regularly, eat healthier, spend more time with family, finish a project, or work to improve a specific relationship.
Hopefully, we have some spiritual resolutions as well: a regular devotional time, attending church on a more regular basis, meeting friends for a weekly Bible study, or becoming involved in a Church mission project. And possibly, one of the relationships we would like to improve upon is our relationship to God. A new year brings with it joy and a bundle of challenges. Some of us will resolve to overcome these challenges and some of us will be overcome by them. I want to consider four obstacles that can prevent us from experiencing a new beginning.
I. THE INABILITY TO LET GO OF THE PAST
You know as well as I that the past can symbolically and sometimes quite literally chain us down. Memory can be a blessing or a burden. How many of us have spent so much time analyzing a past event and replaying it in our minds even though the outcome cannot be changed? We can become paralyzed to venture onward. There have been interesting contrasts of individuals who have faced very similar situations in life, reaping very different results.
I like the story of the two brothers who were separated at a young age and placed in different foster care facilities. The boys came from an abusive family and had an alcoholic father. After the parents’ divorce, the brothers were removed from the family and placed in different homes.
Thirty years later, the two brothers met in a downtown subway for the first time. One brother was dressed distinctively and had a career in the legal profession, and the other was obviously without work or a place to live. Somehow, the two men began a discussion and the conversation led to their upbringing and how it affected their current situations. The disheveled man recounted to the other his miserable story of growing up in an abusive home, where his father had been a heavy drinker and how he had been from foster home to foster home. To the other man he looked as if this explained his current lot in life.
Interestingly, the other man said, “I too grew up in a similar environment as you have described, but it has inspired me to move forward and move ahead in life.” Interesting, is it not? We see here two men with similar past times, and one was blaming his failure in life and the other his success in life on a virtually identical upbringing.
We all know that life is more complicated than this story, don't we? We have issues like heredity, environment, and personality to consider. I suppose the story has a grain of truth to it as well, for perhaps it is the element of choice that may make all the difference in the world. The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible proclaims in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Everything has passed away; see, everything has become new.” The Apostle Paul is saying that our rap sheets have been erased in Christ. In Him, we are made new creations.
Paul should have known. Remember when the apostle was converted to Christianity after years of oppressing Jewish-Christians? Even with the testimony of his good friend Barnabas and the disciples as character references, Jewish-Christians were not all that convinced of the sincerity of Paul. They thought the apostle's conversion was a secret plot to infiltrate the Jewish-Christian movement even more and further persecute them.
They did not trust Paul. Can you blame them? Even though the Apostle Paul had been converted, his crimes against Jewish-Christians could not easily be forgotten or forgiven. Paul was probably haunted by a “less-than-perfect past,” but this did not stop his new mission. In his letter to the Church at Philippi, Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14: “But this one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Jesus Christ.”
Whatever hand has been dealt us, a new set of cards is always being dealt. In Christ, the Bible promises that our past, as blemished as it may be, is erased. But to begin again, we must be present and future-minded people of faith, believing that God indeed has a plan for our lives. We are part of his majestic plan. God calls us from the prisons of the past to the freedoms of the future.