There’s something attractive about making a fresh start. The chance to start AGAIN. With a clean slate. A new job, a new house or car. A sea change, or a tree change. A fresh coat of paint. A new set of clothes. A new relationship. A new determination to get fit, read more, drink less, or give up smoking, spend more time with the kids, or more time praying. Work on your marriage.
It’s why new year’s resolutions are popular. A chance to turn over a new page on your life the same time you turn the page on the calendar.
All sorts of FRESH STARTS.
Let me ask you a sensitive question? Coming up to half way through the year. How are you GOING with that? If you’re anything like me, about the same as you do EVERY year. The fresh start lasts until about AUSTRALIA DAY.
And it seems to me, as A GENERAL RULE, we don’t seem to have the will power, or the desire or the strength to REALLY make a FRESH START. Self-improvement only seems to be something for TV shows.
Is that sort of change really possible? Can someone actually turn their life around in significant ways? Or is it just tinkering around the edges?
That’s the topic we’re thinking about TODAY. FRESH STARTS.
In particular, the fresh start God’s promised to make with THIS WORLD. This messed-up, broken-down, pale imitation of the world God designed and created. A world on its last legs. A world that needs to be put down – EUTHANISED.
And one he’s going to replace with a NEW world. A new CREATION. A world where heaven and earth are ONE. Where God and human beings dwell TOGETHER. A world WITHOUT the barriers and limitations. Without in-built expiry dates. A world of peace and perfection. Of rejoicing and rest.
But let’s begin with the world TODAY. Yes, it’s messed up. Wars, , and divorce.
Separation, sorrow, and shame.
Poverty, disease, and starvation.
Inequality, hatred, and intolerance.
Earthquakes, floods, and tsunamis
Cancer, stroke, and .
It’s certainly in A CRITICAL CONDITION. Hooked up to life-support. It’s a wonder God didn’t turned off the machines YEARS AGO.
But it didn’t BEGIN that way. The world God CREATED was PERFECT. Back at THE START. Everything in harmony. All relationships intimate and undefiled. Between humanity and creation – perfect. Between humans themselves – perfect. And between humanity and God – perfect.
That’s the way things were in the garden of Eden. With Adam and Eve.
A Fresh Start
That was the START. But it wasn’t long until God made A FRESH START. Because right from the moment the SNAKE started whispering in Eve’s ear, and then Eve into Adam’s ear. Things went downhill quickly.
They disobeyed God and ate the fruit. They chose rebellion and autonomy. Rather than walking with God. And he expelled them from the garden. Into a world of pain and sweat and isolation and CURSE. All consequences of that choice of independence.
The first of many FRESH STARTS. But it doesn’t fix things up. As we read on, we find things go from bad to worse. Until we get to the time of NOAH, where we read THIS (p4 – Gen 6:5).
Gen 6:5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, “I WILL WIPE MANKIND, WHOM I HAVE CREATED, FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH–men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air–for I am grieved that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
God decides to make a COMPLETE FRESH START. To wipe out all signs of life. Remove all the wickedness and sin and rebellion. Everything tainted and polluted by SIN.
Except for Noah. The only one who walked with God. And so God’s going to make his FRESH START based around NOAH.
Most of us know the story. He tells Noah to build a big boat, then to put a pair of every kind of animal inside. Then he sends torrential rain that floods the whole earth, and every living creature drowns. Except for Noah, and his family, and the animals on the ark.
And when the waters disappear, it really is A FRESH START. The slate’s wiped CLEAN. It’s a chance to do things PROPERLY. Right from the beginning. And God promises never to destroy the world again with a flood.
But even as drastic a clean-up as THAT/ still doesn’t work. Within a few months of coming out of the Ark, Noah and his family have stuffed things up again. It’s a sordid little story in Gen 9 about drunkenness and ness (p6). About betrayal and shame. Right up there with a plot from the Bold and the Beautiful.
And it just goes to show, that even with the best of the best – Noah the man who walked with God. Even with a complete fresh start – an extreme makeover like the flood. That REAL CHANGE isn’t possible. As long as we look for the solution INSIDE OURSELVES, a fresh start will never work. Will never produce LASTING and PERMANENT and REAL CHANGE.
Which God knows. God knows that Genuine change is only possible when it comes from OUTSIDE HUMANITY. From beyond creation.
It’s a lesson he gives HINTS about as we work through the Old Testament. Where God makes OTHER fresh starts, and the people mess things up again. Incapable of living the way God designed them. Incapable of following him, and living for him.
Jump forward to Egypt. And the book of Exodus. God’s people are slaves there. So he miraculously brings them out. Redeems and rescues them. Gives them the chance of A FRESH START. But within days they’re complaining about the menu. Then they’re making idols to worship.
They make it to the border of the Promised Land – God’s fresh start. For Israel to be God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.
But they can’t trust him. And they have to practice it in the desert for another 40 years.
When they finally make it into the land. It’s an ongoing cycle of sin and rebellion. Of God’s patience and punishment. God providing the fresh start the people NEED, but then they don’t have the ABILITY to make a change.
And finally God sends them to exile. Foreign nations drive them out. They’re AWAY from God, punished for their failures. AGAIN. The hope of a fresh start FAILS AGAIN.
And it’s time for God to introduce his SOLUTION to the problem. THE KEY to the dilemma.
Remember, you can’t find it WITHIN HUMANITY. It’s got to come FROM OUTSIDE. From BEYOND CREATION. And so God sends a promise to Isaiah the prophet. In about 500 BC. Isa 53 (p523). The promise of A SERVANT. A servant who’ll CARRY our sorrows, who’ll be smitten by God, pierced for our transgressions, who’s punishment will bring us PEACE, and by whose wounds we’ll be HEALED. The promise of a servant who’ll DEAL with our sin. Who’ll provide a GENUINE and LASTING FRESH START.
He’s talking about Jesus. 500 years before his birth.
A few chapters on, Ch 59, he explains the problem. It’s human re. (p527) Ch 59 v2.
2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. 3 For your hands are stained with , your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things.
And he goes on, about how INCAPABLE mankind is of turning over a new leaf. Of empowering REAL CHANGE. Like down in v9.
9 So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. 10 Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes….
12 For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: 13 rebellion and treachery against the LORD,
turning our backs on our God,
What’s the use of God continuing to make FRESH STARTS if we can never do anything WITH them? If we keep making the SAME MISTAKES over and over and over again?
Sounds a lot like my new year’s resolutions!
The solution’s got to come from GOD HIMSELF. V16 (over the page).
The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so HIS OWN ARM WORKED SALVATION for him, and his OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS sustained him. 17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
If you want a job done properly, do it yourself! God promises that HE’LL bring salvation and righteousness to people who CAN’T DO IT THEMSELVES.
And over in Ch 65 v17 (p532), he fleshes out what that’s going to look like. Not just a new re for people, and a new way of relating to him. But God’s going to provide a WHOLE NEW PLACE for that to happen. It’s the promise of a COMPLETE fresh start. Ch 65 v17.
17 “Behold, I will create NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people;
And look what WON’T be there.
the sound of WEEPING AND OF CRYING will be heard in it no more. 20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives BUT A FEW DAYS, or an old man who DOES NOT LIVE OUT HIS YEARS; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.
No more PAIN OR . And down to v23
23 They will not TOIL IN VAIN or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.
Frustration and disaster. Warfare and enemies. All of it will be GONE. All the things that have been in THIS world ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Ever since the world was CURSED.
And replaced instead with BLESSING. The opposite of curse.
And PEACE, the opposite of warfare and frustration.
And LIFE, the opposite of decay and .
That’s the PROMISE. And God hasn’t DELIVERED on that promise. Not YET. But he HAS sent his servant. The one who makes a fresh start POSSIBLE.
Jesus came from heaven. God’s only Son. Fully God, and fully human. Sinless. The only person who never NEEDED a fresh start.
The only one ABLE to offer a genuine fresh start to people.
Which is pretty GOOD NEWS. Turn over to 2 Cor 5:17 (p819). Have a look at the message the Apostle Paul preached about Jesus, and the offer of a fresh start. 2 Cor 5:17 (p819).
17 Therefore, if ANYONE IS IN CHRIST, he is A NEW CREATION; THE OLD HAS GONE, THE NEW HAS COME!
In other words, genuine change is possible. And the key is to be IN CHRIST. Which means something like BELONGING to Christ, or attaching yourself to Christ, claiming the benefits that Christ OFFERS.
You can’t be rescued from a sinking ship, unless you’re IN THE LIFE RAFT.
You can’t win a cricket match, unless you’re IN THE TEAM.
You can’t receive the brand new treatment for your cancer unless you’re IN THE MEDICAL TRIAL.
“If ANYONE IS IN CHRIST, he is A NEW CREATION”
But the message of Christianity is about more than just self-improvement. Like Jesus as simply the BEST and LATEST TOOL to turn your life around. The good news message is that Jesus achieves RECONCILIATION. He RESTORES our connection to God. Look at how Paul goes on.
18 All this is from God, who RECONCILED US TO HIMSELF THROUGH CHRIST and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, NOT COUNTING MEN’S SINS AGAINST THEM.
God offers us a fresh start through Jesus of forgiving our sins. Of wiping out our mistakes and rebellion. He wipes the slate clean, so we can stand before him restored and forgiven. The way we were DESIGNED and CREATED. In a way we could never do on our own.
But it’s not simply that God OVERLOOKS our rejection of him. He CAN’T. Justice demands PUNISHMENT. And God both DEMANDS payment, and PROVIDES the payment. Look there in v21.
21 God made HIM WHO HAD NO SIN to BE sin FOR US, so that IN HIM / WE might become the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God.
We sinned, Jesus didn’t.
We deserve judgment, Jesus doesn’t.
But God, in his mercy, transfers our guilt to Jesus, and Jesus’ innocence to us. Forgiven, clean and restored.
And that’s a FRESH START we ALL NEED. To recognise before God our rejection and rebellion against him. To admit our guilt. And to turn from that. And to trust that Jesus’ has dealt with that. To cling to him. That’s what it means to be IN Christ.
And when we do that / God promises to make us NEW. Forgive us. Change us from his enemies into his friends. And then to give us his Spirit who enables us to make all sorts of OTHER changes that flow from that. All about letting Jesus be the KING in every PART of life.
King over our thoughts, and our actions. King over our jobs and possessions. King over our ambition and goals. Over our weeks and our years. Over our marriages and families. King over our priorities and plans. Our wallets, our stomachs, our eyes and our ears.
And it’s a FRESH START that LASTS. That’s GENUINE. It’s often not change that’s IMMEDIATE, or Easy. But it’s REAL.
(pause) And God’s promise is that he’s got A NEW CREATION that will fit perfectly this NEW PEOPLE he’s building. He’s going to give one FINAL AND ULTIMATE fresh start to his world. And Romans 8 (p800) describes the world as HANGING OUT for that day. Rom 8:19
19 The creation waits in EAGER EXPECTATION for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to FRUSTRATION, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the CREATION ITSELF will be liberated from its TO DECAY and brought into THE GLORIOUS FREEDOM OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD.
Eternity will be about God’s children, fresh and renewed, with restored perfect bodies. Living in a restored new CREATION. A home that MEASURES UP to the glory of God’s new people. It’s the goal and the target THIS world’s been headed towards since the day God first created it.
We can’t be sure exactly WHAT it will be. But we get some PICTURES about what it will be LIKE. In Revelation 21 (p878). And it’s a vision Jesus gives to ANOTHER prophet, called John. And listen to how HE describes what he saw. V1.
21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth (just like God promised to Isaiah), for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
That’s ONE image of what it will be like. We’ll be like a BRIDE beautifully dressed for her husband. Fresh, new, pure. Everything – mind, body, conscience, desires, memories.
And John continuesV3.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
And we’ll have the same sort of closeness to God that a bride and husband have. The same joy and intimacy and acceptance and openness.
And everything that’s WRONG and ROTTEN about THIS world will be gone.
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
And here’s the promise from God himself. He’s working on the ULTIMATE FRESH START.
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I AM MAKING EVERYTHING NEW!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE.”
That’s the Christian hope. Our CONFIDENCE. Our dream and our goal. It’s the fuel in our tank, the fire in our belly, the target we aim for. It’s what gets us out of bed each morning, and what keeps us following Jesus.
The promise of a FRESH START. A fresh start that BEGINS with each person. Turning over their life to Jesus, turning away from rebellion and rejection, and turning toward the king who died in your place.
And will reach its completion in God’s ULTIMATE fresh start. In the new creation.