Why Do We Need to Start Our Lives Over?
A TRAGIC FLAW
Something has gone terribly wrong with us and we all instinctively know it. We are bewildered that so many evil, sick people are emerging to prey on others. Then we wonder at our own behavior at times and feel powerless to change it. There seems a tragic flaw in man’s personality that we are helpless to solve. Have you ever felt that way?
At 16 years old, I started my first job at a large hospital. The promise of new relationships, skills, and making money were before me. But I soon became aware of the backbiting, theft, gossip, and laziness of my fellow workers. I was disillusioned. I had grown up in a good family, knowing right from wrong and felt I was better than all these people that I worked with. I was a hard worker and would never steal from my employer.
I was a good person -- with maybe a few flaws – but nothing to worry about. I was certain I could change when I tried hard enough. I did have a terrible temper and as a fiery red-head when I “blew my stack” there was no telling what would happen. Patience was not my middle name, but I practiced taking deep long breaths to hold back the barrage of words I wanted to say. Fortunately, my critical thoughts couldn’t be seen.
ARE WE GOOD PEOPLE WITH A FEW FLAWS?
I’m not alone in thinking I was a good person – maybe you think that way too. But while in college God revealed to me my true self that left me knowing I was not a good person. It happened one evening when I was reading the Bible and came to the verse in
James 4:6. The phrase, “God opposes the proud” popped off the page as if in neon letters. I knew I was proud – always comparing myself with others -- and coming out better. Now here in this verse God was telling me that He was actually opposed to me!
While most of us think we are pretty good people, could it be that God sees something different in us that we can’t see in ourselves? If you read the Bible, you come across a verse like Genesis 6:5 and it does make you pause. “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.” My thoughts certainly weren’t evil all the time so obviously this didn’t apply to me.
But then I’d read some other verse like the one in Psalm 53:3 and again would have to pause to take in what God was saying through David. “Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one!” I’d argue that I loved God and was involved in many good activities for Him -- so this verse didn’t apply to me … or did it?
It took some time for it to sink in that I wasn’t the good person I thought I was. I had the same potential as my co-workers to gossip, steal tastes of food that weren’t mine to taste, and to not quite work as hard for the hospital as I might have (on par with laziness). Then, despite my efforts to change, my temper and impatience got worse. With my inability to change, and the knowledge that God was against me, tears flowed in my helplessness.
GOD WANTS US TO KNOW WHAT HE IS LIKE
If you’re like me, we think that we alone know the secrets of our heart, but God knows them too. He knows the “behind the scenes” picture of our life, and so we are no surprise to Him. That’s why Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:4-5 that “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…” He could see the end from the beginning and knew that we would choose to walk independently from Him -- which is what all sin is.
The fall of man, through the sin committed by our first parents, was the greatest tragedy in history, but it set in motion the coming of God to earth in the form of His Son Jesus. Through Jesus, God would give anyone that wanted the chance and the choice to have a father-son, or father-daughter relationship with him. If you’re a parent, you know the delight you feel when your kids want to hang out with you!
When God came to earth as Jesus, more than anything, He wanted us to see what He was like. The Jewish world that Jesus was born into was full of people who believed in God, but who saw Him as a distant judge, keeping track of what they did wrong. Their lives were maybe not so different from ours today. They sinned, they repented, and they went to the priest for atonement. It became their ongoing cycle -- so different from what God wanted for us.
Jesus came to show us what the Father was like. He did that by going around doing good and healing anyone who came to Him (Acts 10:38) and doing it all by the power of God’s Spirit within Himself. Seeing miracle after miracle was startling enough to the people, but when he said to a paralytic, “your sins are forgiven”, this started a frenzy with the Jewish leaders. Only God could forgive sins, and here was Jesus forgiving sins.
Now, I think you’d agree that anyone can say “your sins are forgiven” and nobody can really know that. But with Jesus, He backed up those words with, “pick up your mat and walk”, and so the paralyzed man got up and walked! Once the man’s sin was dealt with, he got healed. They did not yet understand that Jesus was God, who had come to earth in the flesh, and He had the power to forgive us.
Jesus was seeing the “behind the scenes” picture of this man’s heart and telling him that all those hidden sins -- that nobody else could see -- were forgiven! He is still telling that to us today and has made it possible for us to start our life over again with God if we want that.
WHAT DOES GOD WANT FROM US?
There is a simplicity about Jesus that is refreshing and uncomplicated. The first thing He asks of us is to repent, which means to change our thinking about how we live our lives. Up to this point, it’s probably been “all about me” – which was certainly the case in my own life. But now, He’s asking us to think about including Him.
So, the next thing we find, is Jesus asking us to come. He says to us, “Come to ME, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-30). Keeping up with today’s pace-- juggling home, work, and school -- can be overwhelming and exhausting. So, the thought of coming to Jesus for a more focused life is appealing.
Jesus isn’t looking for us to do things for Him. He’s done all that’s needed to unite us with His Father. No, what He wants is a relationship with us. He wants to actually continue living His life through our own.
Finally, after inviting us to come, Jesus asks us to stay with Him, or abide in Him. He wants to spend the rest of our life with us – walking through it together. The Father has a work to do through you and me and Jesus wants to be part of that work with us.
You and I are special to Jesus because he created us. God was the architect, but he did all of his creating through Jesus. Scripture tells us that, “For by Him (Jesus) all things were created; things in heaven and on earth ..… all things were created by Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). As the Creator, Jesus has a vested interest in our lives and wants us to start over – with Him. That’s why Jesus told the learned Pharisee Nicodemus that unless he was born again, he would never see the Kingdom of God. All of his knowledge and rule keeping weren’t going to do him any good if He didn’t have the Spirit of God filling his own dead spirit.
It’s hard to believe, especially when we’re young and feeling invincible, that we are actually born spiritually dead with an inherited sin nature that just keeps us sinning and separated from God. We might think we look good on the outside, but we are dead inside without the life of God filling us -- and eventually this inside death, like yeast in bread, will permeate us completely. Jesus came to reverse that deadly course so that we could live the rest of our lives with Him, fulfilling the purpose that God made us for.
By repenting of our sins, coming to Jesus, and then staying with Jesus, we allow Him to change us from the inside out. Since He made us in the first place, He knows how to do that. I can’t exactly tell you when my hot temper and impatience left me, but somewhere through the years I changed. I didn’t “work” on anything myself to make this happen, rather, Jesus’ life in me became what I lacked. He'll do that for you too and become whatever you lack. I don’t mean that Jesus is like a soap dispenser for patience, love, or kindness. No, He gives us Himself, and then we have it all. He becomes in and through us that very thing that we can’t seem to change.
HOW DOES THIS BECOME REAL FOR US?
The answer to this was stated simply by one of Christ’s own disciples named John. He wrote this: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
Believe + Receive = Become
Believe in what God has done for you in His Son. When you repent of your sins, your past gets settled because God has forgiven your sins. He sees the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for you and He is satisfied. Then, in what can only be described as a cosmic miracle, God put all of us (our old natures) into Jesus on the cross – that nature that keeps us sinning – and He crucified it with Christ so that we no longer have to keep doing what we don’t want to do (Romans 6:6-7).
Finally, when you receive Christ’s Spirit to replace the old nature that was crucified, your future is back on track to live as God originally intended. You become a member of God’s family -- his child growing to be like Jesus – ruling and reigning with him in your part of the world. This is what is called “the good news of the gospel”. The gospel is simply God’s plan to restore us to the original purpose He created us for.
WHAT DOES STARTING OVER WITH GOD LOOK LIKE?
When we start over through Jesus, we have peace with God for the first time in our life. There can be a great relief from any guilt, shame, or uncleanness we have lived under. Having God’s presence in our life puts us back on track to fulfill the purpose we were created for, and at the same time, fulfill our own potential. God has abundant life to be lived in the here and now with Him – and that life will extend forever into an eternal life. For you and I are to be part of an ever-expanding universe. Every one of us has works prepared in advance by God that we will walk into naturally both now and in the future (see Ephesians 2:10).
WHERE DO I START?
You can start by thanking God today for what He did for you in Jesus on the cross and then let Jesus lead you into the fullness of it for your own life. Ponder with me these verses:
“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us (me), not because of the righteous things we (I) had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our (my) sins, giving us (me) a new birth and a new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us (me) through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace, he declared us (me) righteous and gave us (me) confidence that we (I) will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7
Why do we need to start our lives over? We are simply not the good people we see ourselves as. God sees us from the inside out and has provided one way that we can start over. It’s not about anything that WE can do, but only an acceptance of what CHRIST HAS ALREADY DONE. The work is complete, but the decision is still ours to accept and live in it.