Ah, New Year’s Day… that arbitrary turn of the calendar that gives us hope for the future. This year things will be different. This year I will lose some weight. This year I will get my finances in order. This year I will really make progress in straightening out some things in my life.
Here are two questions to think about as we dip our toes in 2012:
1) What do you want to change in your life this year?
2) Why did you wait?
I don’t mean to be snarky with question 2. There are legitimate reasons to use New Year’s Day as a potential turning point. We need periodic, intentional points of reflection in our lives. Holidays such as New Year’s Day in the U.S. offer wide cultural support for pausing to think about our lives and consider turning point decisions.
One of the counselors interviewed in “The Art of Marriage” (the monthly marriage study that is currently underway) said that the cross of Christ offers, “fresh starts and new beginnings.” That sounds like New Year’s Day. But the Bible tells us that every moment offers a fresh start and a new beginning.
One day while Jesus was teaching, some religious leaders flung a woman at his feet saying that she was caught in the very act of adultery. They reminded Jesus that according to the law of Moses she should be stoned to death then asked what they should do. (Uh… Where was the man? How did they catch her in the act? This time I do mean to be snarky!) The scriptures tell us that Jesus bent down and drew in the dirt. Then he said, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” One by one the accusing crowd dispersed, starting with the older people. Jesus looked up and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers?” She said, “They have all left.” Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.” (Luke 8:2-11)
Talk about fresh starts and new beginnings! This is Jesus’ way. He does not gloss over the wrongs. He calls sin, “sin.” Then he offers the forgiveness that only he can offer, sending us on our way free of our past guilt. The freedom from guilt is meant to free us to live the high life of love rather than be dragged down by our past.
On the cross, Jesus bore the punishment of our sin. We are free from guilt and shame. “Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus says to each of us. Now as we go our way, we are free to live out our lives with peace, courage, even joy in the face of an unknown future, in the face of unloving people around us, in the face of all the things that neither reflect nor support a life of faith, hope and love.
In Christ, every moment can be a fresh start and a new beginning!
Paul writes about his own spiritual journey, a journey that includes things in his past that he regrets. He displays the attitude of those who trust Jesus’ words, “Neither do I condemn you.”
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But 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 upward call of God in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 3:13–14 (ESV)
New Year’s Day can certainly function as a time for reflection on your life and a decision to move forward. But please don’t let New Year’s Day be the only point of reflection in your life or your once yearly time when you decide to move forward. Every day in your journey through life is a day in which God can bring new things into your life. New growth. New peace. New adventures. Fresh starts and new beginnings.
Here is something you might adopt to help you move into a life that is a fresh start and new beginning every moment. Each night as you lie down at end the day, repeat Jesus’ words, “Neither do I condemn you.” Follow them with a brief prayer of thankfulness. Each morning when you rise, remind yourself of Paul’s words, “One thing I do, forgetting what is behind, I press forward toward the prize for which Christ has called me heavenward.” Then have a moment of prayer listing the things you expect to encounter that day and entrusting them to Jesus.
Every moment of realization, every new thought, every encounter with scripture or another human being can be a fresh start and a new beginning. Even right now as you are reading this!
Happy New Moment!
Pastor John