2 Corinthians 5:15–21
Happy New Year.
Isn’t it great to be able to shake off the old year? A lot of us have that feeling, don’t we. We feel that there is something special about the moment we go from one year into the next. We know that it isn’t true. The first of January doesn’t have any magic.
Have you seen the film ‘Groundhog Day’? A musical version will get it’s world premier at The Old Vic in London this year. In the film, a TV weatherman named Phil finds himself living the same day over and over again. At six o’clock every morning he wakes up with the clock radio on his night-stand playing “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher. Phil is the only person who can remember the previous day. Each day he gets a new start. Time has no meaning. He dies and comes back to life repeatedly for uncounted years on end.
Could it be that some of us live each year the same way. We live the same year over and over again. I happen the know that you are decent people, so I’m sure you all start your year with the best intentions. This year, you might decide, you will be more loving and less selfish, exercise more and eat less junk food, phone your mother, be nice to the neighbour who gets on your nerves, tidy up the house even when it isn’t your job, and pray every day.
How long does it take for all of our good intentions to vanish like a puff of smoke on a windy day? I think the first reason this happens is that it isn’t a real new start. Nothing has changed.
We are the same person today that we were on the last day of 2015. For most of us, that person isn’t the person we want to be. Very few people are satisfied with themselves. By and large, we all want to change. We really do wish that our slates were wiped clean at the end of the year, or the end of the day, and we could start anew with the first day of the new year.
The Good News of Christianity is that this is possible. Now of course I’m telling you something you already know. This isn’t news to you, it’s why you are here this morning.
We get a new start when we accept the offer that Jesus makes to us. This is what we read this morning in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
“그러므로 누구든지 그리스도 안에 있으면 새로운 존재입니다.
“The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
“옛 사람은 없어지고 새 사람이 된 것입니다.”
The words “this means that” refer to verses 14-16, which say that we have died to our old life and now we no longer live for ourselves. Instead, we live for Christ, who died and was raised for us. All of us here who believe in Jesus have died and received a spiritual life that is eternal.
And yet there are some of here this morning who still want to start again. Maybe all of us want to start again. We know we were born again when we decided to follow Jesus, but we messed up in 2015 and we want to start again.
Is it too late for us? Have we blown our one shot at a new start?
We know why God gave us a way to have a new life, don’t we? It is simply because even though we were spiritually ugly and disgusting, he loves us. God loves you. Jesus loves you.
There is a real fear for some people, and maybe you are one of them, that after they got this wonderful new life they messed up and lost it. Perhaps 2015 was not the best of years, and maybe there is a doubt that 2016 will be much better.
The Bible has hope for us when we feel like this. New starts are available on days other than the first day of the year. They are on offer all year round.
There is a difference between being impure, stained by sin; and continuing to act on the sin. No one reaches perfection in this life. Christian’s like us are being made holy day by day. We are sinning less and hating it more each time we fail. Yes, we still act on the sin in our hearts. More and more we do it unwillingly. We do it less and less frequently as we mature. Our new self hates the sin that still has a hold on us.
Since we are now a new creation, we are no longer a slave to sin. When we got our new start we were set free from the power of sin. Sin no longer has power over us.
Romans 6:6–7 – “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.”
“우리의 옛 자아가 그리스도와 함께 십자가에 못박힌 것은 죄에 매인 육체를 죽여서 다시는 죄의 종이 되지 않게 하려는 것인 줄 압니다. 죄에 대하여 이미 죽은 사람은 죄에서 해방된 것입니다.”
Sin is no longer your master. Sin cannot for you to give in to sinful desires.
So then what if we have allowed sin to creep back in. What if we have done what the old master whispered to us. Is all now lost?
Look at those who have gone before and let’s see how it was for them. There are many examples in the Bible of people who messed up and had another chance, again and again. King David is perhaps one of the most famous examples. He was a man after God’s own heart and Jesus was his descendant. Jesus came to inherit his throne. David also was a man who killed the husband of a woman to hide his secret sin. He was an adulterer. He was a liar.
But also he was not a Christian and didn’t follow Jesus. So maybe you think he doesn’t count.
Well then let’s look at the father of the church, Peter. Jesus called Peter the rock.
What a soft, wobbly rock he was. Peter started to walk on water and then sank when he doubted.
The episode that stands out is the last supper. It is Passover, and Jesus has just celebrated with the disciples. Peter has promised bravely that “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” He marches out with Jesus and the others to the garden of Gethsemane. They are full of confidence. It is a great moment. Hours later, Peter has betrayed Jesus. Not just once, but three times.
I have no doubt that he was tempted to give up all hope, and say to himself: “It is of no use for me to try to be a Christian; I have made a miserable failure, and I will not try any longer.”
He probably said it over and over again, by day and by night, in the company of others and when by himself. Satan must have constantly reminded Peter of his lost chance, and told him it was no use for him to try any longer to be a Christian. I imagine Peter sighed within himself, and would have given the world to have that chance come back once more. But it was gone, and gone for ever! Jesus was dead. It was too late to say sorry. It was impossible to take back what he had done.
When Jesus was resurrected, he called Peter to him and asked him three times the searching question: ‘Do you love me?’ It must have most painfully recalled to Peter’s mind the three times he had denied Jesus. When Peter said that surely he did love him, Jesus three times commanded him to feed his lambs and sheep. And then Jesus assured him that at last he should die on a cross – as he probably would have died had he not denied his Lord.
As often as you fail, come back to Jesus and repent. He will give you a new start. Forget the former things. The past will only weigh you down and keep you from where you are going. Do not dwell on the past. This just jumbles your mind with garbage. There’s no room for garbage when making a fresh start. Acknowledge the fresh start is a gift from God. He’s doing a new thing in you. Every day is the first day of your life. Not just the first day of the year.
Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak. God’s love is higher than the highest heaven, deeper than the deepest sea.
Let’s not give up.