Hi again. John Cress here, and I want to talk to you about finding a fresh start. How many of you are glad for the New Year? I’m sure some of you are thinking, amen pastor, I’m so glad to see 2021 in my rear-view mirror and I’m cautiously excited to see what 2022 might bring.
The New Year is a time for great optimism, a time of new possibilities. A time to stake out new ground for our lives. But how do we get there from here.
God tells us, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; don’t you see it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19
Some people are hindered from moving into the future because they can’t let go of the past. What memory of the past are you still rehearsing? Which memories are you still rewinding? Are you still singing that song, "I shoulda, woulda, coulda… If only I had donna it differently…"? What is in your past that keeps you from the future God desires for you?
The proverb writer says, “Be careful how you think. Your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Proverbs 4:23 (GNT) The past is just that—your past. Don’t let it define your life. Yesterday is behind us. That door is shut. The chapter is closed. It is a new season, a new beginning!
The Bible says, "For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) You see, the way you think, determines the way you feel. And the way you feel determines the way you act.
If you are acting in a depressed, discouraged way, it’s because you’re thinking depressed, discouraged thoughts. If you’re acting in fearful, worried ways, it’s because you’re thinking fearful, worried thoughts. But it is your choice. You don’t have to think those thoughts.
Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." If you don't renew your thoughts, you will remain in the wilderness of the past, but, if you renew your thoughts, you can begin to see and experience the something new.
How do you do that? How can you open your mind to this renewal? The best way I know is to focus on God’s Word. That is why David said, “Your word I have hidden I my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11
David also wrote, “Happy are those who are always meditating on God’s word. They’re like trees along a river that do not dry up. They succeed in everything they do.” Psalm 1:1-3 (GN)
Notice the words “happy” and “succeed”. Those are the two things that everybody wants in the New Year. We all want to be happy, and we all want to succeed. The path to achieving both things is “…meditating on God’s Word.”
As you fill you mind with Gods’ word, it begins to change your thinking. You begin to stop seeing yourself as other people see you or as you may have defined yourself and start seeing yourself as God does. And that’s where the power for a fresh start begins.
Here’s the deal, God wants to use your past not as a stumbling block, but as a stepping-stone to a brighter day and a more promising tomorrow. That’s why I believe the most important word in Isaiah 43:18-19 is the word “SEE”.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; don’t you see it? God am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
This an invitation from God for you to notice the new thing God is doing. We need to understand that God is far more interested in our future than He is in our past. Some people think that God is stuck on their past. That all He wants to do is remind them of the things that they have done wrong. But God is more interested in our future. God loves doing new things and he is already making a path through your wilderness.
Just because you may not see God’s blessings at work, does not mean he is not knitting your life together. Instead of dwelling on the past, ask God to open your eyes to what he is doing. Then once you see it, I invite you to start trusting the path that he is making.
The Proverbs writer invites you to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths." (Proverb 3:5) The reason most resolutions don't last much more than a month or two is because we try to do everything on our own. But we must understand that these God initiated new beginnings don’t happen when we try harder! But when we trust harder.
Here’s the problem, some of us are trying to run a 100-yard race in a 90-yard building. We built our building, and we keep banging up against the wall or our thinking. And when we stumble and fail, we just try harder, harder and get the same result. But Zechariah 4:6 (NCV) says, “You will not succeed by your own strength or power but by My Spirit, says the Lord.” The secret of success is not by trying harder but by trusting harder.
Would you like to have an Etch-A-Sketch so you can wipe the slate clean? Have you ever thought, “I’d like to redesign my life from the ground up?” Well, that is what God invites us to experience.
In Christ you have a new identity, you became a brand-new person. You are no longer the same anymore. God specializes in new beginnings. He gives you a fresh start.
One man told his pastor, “When I look at my life it just all adds up to one big minus! One big negative!” the pastor asked him, “do you know how God turns a negative into a positive? How God turn a minus into a plus? God takes the minuses in your life and turns them into a positive by making a CROSS.
You see, Jesus was hung up for your hang-ups. He died on the cross for everything you feel bad about. He was crucified between two thieves so you could stop crucifying yourself over those past failures.
So, may you choose to forget the former things.
May you be transformed by the renewing of your mind through the word of God.
May you have your eyes open to see the new things God is already doing and the path he is designing for your life.
And may you learn to lean into God, rather than self, and learn to trust harder this year as God continues to complete his good work in your life.