A New Beginning (with a History)!

We are beginning a new year, 2008! Millions of folk have celebrated the new year in Times Square and around the world. Everyone likes to think that each year we get a new lease on life. A chance to start over, to start fresh! They are right! A new year is a gracious gift, a hopeful promise! Of course, there is no guarantee that we will get to live to see the end of the year, or that we will make good use of the time we will be given. But “here’s hoping!”

What many people forget is that this new year has a foundation: all the years before. What this year will become is not limited to, but is dependent upon what came before. I saw an example of this in Mark chapter 1, verses 1-2. Marks begins his Gospel by saying, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the son of God.” Wow! That’s a loaded title! It marks a new beginning! He says this is “gospel,” which means, “good news!” This good news is about Jesus who is the Christ, or the Messiah, the Savior promised by the Jewish prophets. Some ancient manuscripts record Mark as testifying that this Jesus is the “Son of God!” A divine savior who fulfills the promises of the ancient Jewish prophets…now that’s a new beginning with a history! But this new beginning, built upon a foundation of history, was not limited to that history. Jesus himself said that he came not to abolish the law or the prophets (what had been built before), but to fulfill them (cf. Matt. 5:17).

Mark follows verse 1 with quotations from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, who are Old Testament prophets. Mark shows that this new “beginning” has a history.

So, what does that mean for us?

Often we try to get away from our past, but find ourselves tied to it. Many folk find themselves repeating the past, despite their feverish attempts to distance themselves from it! How do we move beyond the past?

First, Mark’s words show me that I can never move beyond my history until I face it. As we start this new year, it may be helpful for us, hard as it may be, to review our life to this point. Ask yourself, what lessons have I learned thus far in my life? What lessons should I have learned from my mistakes? Honestly assess where you are, where you have failed and where you have succeeded.

Second, Mark’s words show me that even if I have a past, I can, with God’s help, have a new beginning! In fact, another apostle, John, quotes Jesus as saying, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). We are not defined by our past. We need not suffer an eternal curse because of our history. In fact, Peter is quoted in Acts 10:43 as saying about Jesus that “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” What an amazing gift that Christmas has given us! A Savior who is willing to forgive us of our sins! The writer of the book of Hebrews (10:17) reminds us of the promise of Jeremiah 31:34 “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” In God’s eyes, our history is wiped clean!

Third, Mark’s words show me that my future has its meaning in Jesus Christ. If I want to make a new beginning in my life, it needs to be about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the center of history. The numbering of our year, 2008, is tied to His birth. His birth was the watershed event of history. If I want my life to be meaningful, it must be connected to the One who gives meaning to life! Ask Jesus to come into your life, bringing forgiveness for your past sins, helping you to learn from the past, becoming a companion to bring you joy in each day, and providing guidance and purpose for your future.

Now that’s a New Beginning with a divine history!

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The Quest – Day 37

This is the devotional for Wednesday, November 1, 2006 which is the 37th day of The Quest, our 40 Days of Discovery. Our devotional today offers a summary of the material in Chapter 37 of Frank Moore’s life-changing book, The Power To Be Free.

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this devotional. Visit http://www.buildyourfaith.net to read the previous days’ devotionals or to subscribe to the “FaithBuilders” podcast.

 

Day 37 – Accepting God’s Gift

 

Our quest will succeed only after we receive God’s gift of sanctification. 

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”   (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NIV)

In Charles Dickens’ classic book Great Expectations, the character Abel Magwitch worked quietly behind the scenes as a secret benefactor to Philip Pirrip, nicknamed Pip, to provide him with resources and opportunities throughout his life that elevated him into high society.  Much later, Pip looked back and saw the unmistakable hand of his secret benefactor in his life.  More often than not, we also succeed because of a team effort or a friend or relative working quietly behind the scenes to assist in our accomplishments. 

The same is true of spiritual success.  God gives us many benefits.  Just as we do not earn or deserve the new birth, we do not earn or deserve sanctification.  In our Scripture focus today Paul shows us that sanctification is not something we do for ourselves; God does it.  We receive God’s gift by faith. 

“To sanctify” means to set apart for God.  In the New Testament, it is believers who are sanctified rather than places or things as was true in the Old Testament.  God sets us apart for himself, but with an added dimension.  He cleanses and purifies our hearts and places His Spirit within us to enable us to live the lives to which He calls us. 

Paul’s description of the work of the Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 4:8 and 5:23 shows us that  God accepts our consecration (which was yesterday’s topic) by giving us the gift of sanctification in a moment in time, but that He also places His Spirit in us on an ongoing basis.  So, we experience both a moment-in-time experience and a daily process of growth toward maturity.  This experience affects every part of our being:  spirit, soul, and body. 

So, what is the source of this sanctification?  Paul says God calls us; God is faithful; God will do it.  Yes, my commitment to Him and my self-discipline are important.  However, God’s gift of His Spirit and His sanctification are the real reasons we can live holy lives. 

God’s plan for us to live holy lives calls us to sanctification which is also God’s gift to us.  He sanctifies in a moment and gives us His Spirit each moment for a lifetime of growth in sanctification.

The memory verse for this week is Colossians 1:27, “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” 

For more information on both the FaithBuilders podcast and the Faith Church podcast visit www.buildyourfaith.net.  For more information about our church, visit our website at www.jaxnaz.org. 

Build your faith today by receiving God’s gift of sanctification by faith.