Tomorrow we begin a new year. I can remember being a little girl and the thought of 2019 would have seemed like a lifetime away. In reality, it has been. I would like to say that I have lived a life well-spent, but the truth is that I have some regrets. I have not always lived a life pleasing to God. Yet His Word tells me that It is because of the Lord’s lovingkindnesses [mercies] that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great and beyond measure is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Here's the thing I want everyone to know: If you are stuck in the past and can't move forward, God does not want you to stay there. By His grace and mercy, He has given us a way to have a new beginning and receive a new identity. Of course faith in Christ is at the center of a new beginning, but it is not a guarantee that you will live a sinless life. We are human, but that should never become an excuse. We are called to grow into the very image of Christ, and that means living righteously. But God is a God of second chances when we confess our sins and repent. And as we move forward, He does not want us to look back. That only gives the Enemy the right to taunt us with our failures and mistakes.
each morning is a new day with God; a new start and a new beginning to make progress towards a life that abides wholly in Him. This is a promise of deliverance from captivity by the Enemy, and of remaining in the presence of God, Himself. I know that may sound impossible if you are ending 2018 in pain. This year I have seen many people I love deal with failing health, failing marriages, and failing hope; it
just seems that others, or their bodies, or God have let them down. And I'm sure there are those
of you who are disappointed in yourselves, thinking that there is no
future or way to move forward in your goals, including your relationship
with God. But that is NOT what the Word says!
The Bible says in Lamentations that we have
access to the Lord's mercy and compassion and faithfulness towards us.
Whose fault is it if we don't take advantage of that, or walk in faith
towards that truth? I will admit that we fight a spiritual battle
against an enemy that seeks to steal, kill, or destroy our hope, joy,
and faith. He is too often successful in getting us to listen to the lies he whispers. But we have been given spiritual armor to effectively fight
that battle. And as I've heard more than one pastor point out, there's
not a piece of that armor that is positioned on our back -- it is all
for our forward progress! Looking back at our past mistakes and
failures only serves to keep us from the new beginning and identity God
wants to give us!
The Bible gives us some good examples of people who overcame failure [or disappointment] to become who God created them to be. Joseph was solid into slavery by his brothers, accused of rape, and served undeserved time in prison, yet he never abandoned his loyalty and faith in God, nor stewardship of the leadership skills he possessed. Because he never lost faith that God's promises remain true, Joseph found himself in a position of influence where God could use him for His glory.
If there ever was a man who suffered disappointment in his life, with no reason for hope, it was Job. He had it all, and then lost everything that this world measures as success. He lost his wealth, his family, and his health. The world tells him he's a loser and should just quit and die. But, like Joseph, Job remains loyal to who He knows God to be. He just waited [with patience] for God to deliver and restore him, and God does just that, restoring his fortune double-fold. I know that sometimes I look like I don't fit the image of a "winner" to either the world or the Body of Christ, but I believe God's promises to me as His child. I trust that He is molding and shaping me into who I am meant to be.
And how many of us can identify with Moses, who used his past mistakes and failures as excuses for why he was unfit to serve the Lord? Let's face it ... when called upon by God, Moses was exiled, humiliated, and poor. He tried to tell God he couldn't do what was asked of him because he had killed, lied, ran away as a coward, betrayed his family, and furthermore, he was scared to speak in public! But after 40 years of running away, Moses was finally willing to believe that God's compassion for
the Israelites would never fail, and that a new day of freedom was
available and waiting for them. He came to believe more in God's new offer of mercy [and guidance] than in his own past mistakes.
And I think I would be remiss if I didn't mention Mary Magdalene. Although Church and cultural history have labeled her a prostitute, there is no real information about her life and character other than what is mentioned in Luke 8. Here, she is mentioned as having been delivered of seven demons by Jesus's compassion and mercy. Imagine the stigma of a woman in the Middle East who was possessed or tormented by not one, but seven, demons! Jesus didn't see a woman who was deserving of public castigation and humiliation, but the heart of a woman who would serve Him with complete devotion, ministering to Him during His death and resurrection, and serving His cause long afterward.
But, for me, Peter represents the ultimate example of overcoming one's past mistakes and walking in a new beginning and identity. After all, Peter professed his eternal allegiance to
Jesus, yet rejected Him three times in His hour of need. But we must
not forget that Jesus knew Peter would fail Him, but He still loved Peter. He still gave Peter the gift of salvation; and called him to His service anyway. Do you not think that
He will do the same for you?
Let us take these examples to heart and no longer be defined by our past, but look forward to new beginnings. We celebrate this concept in our culture. Why not in our spirits? Don't stay stuck, or focused on the past, or hinder yourself from walking into a new identity. Joseph didn't decide to languish in prison, misunderstood and failing to reach his potential. Job didn't roll up into a ball in the corner, accepting his fate and his losses. Moses could have hidden out in Midian,
having lost his exalted title and position in Egypt, and never have been
heard from again. Mary Magdalene could have given in to the demonic spirits and accepted her fate as an "undesirable". Peter could have spent the rest of his years in
disgrace and shame and guilt for having abandoned his Master.
But each of these people answered a call upon
their lives and were renewed, restored, and regenerated. They were each
given a new and higher spiritual nature and identity. They didn't accept the false identity the Enemy wanted them to embrace. Their faith in who Jesus was carried them beyond their pasts and into a transformed life full of hope and empowerment.
That is what God wants for you! I urge
you to look upon this new year with expectation and a desire for a new
and greater identity. Stop listening to the lies that the Enemy is
telling you, and start this new year by declaring that you are a new
creation; that God is doing a new thing in you; that you have a renewed
spirit, mind, and heart; that you are
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God [on your life] in
Christ Jesus... and finally, that our God is a god of Creation, not of
destruction or disappointment. This new year is full of opportunities
for you! Reach for them, accept them, and walk in them. And trust in
God's faithfulness to grow you! Happy New Year!
Ephesians 4:22-24 And He has taught you to let go of the lifestyle of the ancient man, the old self-life, which was corrupted by sinful and deceitful desires that spring from delusions. Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And
to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new
life and live in union with Him! For God has re-created you all over
again in His perfect righteousness, and you now belong to Him in the
realm of true holiness.