By Jason Moore
Pastor, New Creation Presbyterian Church
A few months ago on Facebook, a friend posted a picture of a sign that simply read, "Begin again." Depending on your story and the filter you use to process information, this short phrase can be a blessing or a curse.
Interpreted as a harsh command, it can quickly take you back to childhood mistakes which were often followed by the criticism of an exasperated parent or teacher, saying something like, "No, no, no! You're not doing it right. You foolish child, do it again. Try to do a better job this time!" At one point or another, we've all been there. We try our best, but then fail. At these times the last thing we want is to be told to start over.
However, what if these words came from an entirely different source, one not rooted in frustration, but rather clad in patience, kindness, and even in a relentless fondness for you? Wouldn't you see it more as an opportunity and less of a heavy load to bear? In fact, we are given the chance to begin again every time we mess up. Our God invites us with words full of grace, quite different than the way we may have heard them in the past. He says, "Dear child, begin again. You don't have to get it right. Jesus has done everything to fix it and make you right." At some point in our lives, we will all be there again. We'll try our best only to fail. The first thing we'll need to hear is the gentle encouragement from a loving Father to begin again.
"Begin again" is the meta-narrative of the Bible - the grand story that unites the Word of God. At the center of the story is a God who is committed to restoring broken things. The Bible is a narrative about a perfect world that is broken by human rebellion, but it's also a beautiful account of second chances.
God began again with a promise to Eve. One of her offspring would set right what went wrong when she and Adam fell from favor.
The "seed-promise" passed to a man named Abraham. God promised to bless him and bless the world through him. The promise then passed from one generation to the next. As God promised, a rescuer would come and restore the world He created. God would reconcile with the people He made in His image, but how?
God came to us. He walked among us. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life that we are required to live and died the death that we deserve, but He didn't stop there. He began again. He rose from the dead as a demonstration of His power and glory. He emerged from the grave to be the first of a new people. His people, in any age, are given a second chance, a new life, and they will become new.
This can be our hope, too. We have the chance to begin again, not by our own efforts, but because of what Jesus did for us. He traded His perfect standing with God for our sin. We can trade our sin for His faultless position with God. By grace - God's undeserved and unearned favor - people like us are able to begin again.
The apostle Paul wrote about how this takes place, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is the meta-narrative of the Biblical story. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of God's story. The gospel is the good news that God includes people like you and me in His grand design of making all things new. This is not just the meta-narrative of the Bible, but of the human story. The gospel unifies and makes sense of our reality. We were created in God's image and likeness. Our first parents were placed in a paradise of harmony and peace. But, they betrayed God and brokenness invaded God's good creation. By God's grace, we have a second chance to begin again in a reconciled relationship with Him. By God's grace, we have a second chance to begin again in reconciled relationship with others and with his creation. By God's grace, we get to begin again, even in the seemingly insignificant moments of each day.
Often our lives don't go the way we would like. We fight with our spouse, shame our kids, lie to a co-worker, betray a friend, kick our dog, or generally fail to meet expectations. We continually hurt others and are damaged by those who hurt us. We even bring harm on ourselves with the poor decisions we tend to make. At these times we may hear things like, "You idiot. You messed up. Begin again. Get it right or I'm done with you." As we put our faith in Christ, we will recognize that these words do not come from God. Instead, He says, "Yes, you messed up, my child. I knew that you would, but I've never stopped loving you. It's okay to try again. Jesus already got it right, so you are off the hook. So, know that I'm with you always. You are saved by grace and you can live by this same grace every day."
God's unmerited favor and kindness is poured out on imperfect people like us. It is by grace that we are saved and it is by grace that God does the work of perfecting His people. This is an invitation for us to begin again, but not to start over in our own strength or by our own efforts. It's an offer to start over by faith in the grace of God. It is a call to go back to the cross of Jesus, to rest in the certainty that we are completely pardoned through His work. In Christ, we can be fully forgiven, absolutely accepted and lavishly loved. We can enjoy a reconciled relationship with our Creator and Father. Through this relationship, God works to make us right after already declaring us perfect in His sight. He is constantly covering up our blemishes, fixing our failures and bringing strength to our weakness. Daily, He is forming us into new creations, although it may not always seem like it.
Martin Luther once said, "To progress is always to begin again." In His grace, God is inviting you to begin again.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:16-19