Serving Christians Seeking to Live a Holy Life

"A Fresh Start"

(rewritten 12/23/98 and 12:29/01)
Leon L. Combs, Ph. D.

(This is a sermon that was originally preached to a small church in Mississippi the last Sunday of 1990)

What do we mean by a fresh start? We mean beginning again with no impediments, encumbrances, or hindrances from our past actions. We mean to take a deep breath of new, fresh air and to go forward with a victorious outlook. That is what the expression means to me.

This is the last Sunday of 1990 and, as such, it is a good time to evaluate the year in terms of service to God (witnessing, leading a fellow human to Christ, tithing, studying the Bible, etc.). Before proceeding, let us all take a minute to ask God to search our heart concerning our performances as one of His children this past year.

Now that you have thought about this past year and based upon the previous internal evaluations of our activities as Christians, how many are ready for a fresh start? We may have done a lot of services, but all can in retrospect see how we could have done better. There were people to whom we should have witnessed and we didn't. We should have studied the Bible more than we did. We can all have a fresh start. Let us see what the Bible says about a fresh start from two perspectives.

I. The Non-Christian

Before anyone became a Christian everything the person did was a sin (Rom 14:23). These sinful actions could include: getting drunk, feeding orphans, killing your neighbor, buying clothes for the homeless, rape, feeding Ethiopians, everything! Everything we did was a sin! If you think that sounds a little weird, let us read some scripture to understand it. Rom 14:23 says "whatever is not from faith is sin" and Rom 10:17 says "faith comes from hearing by the word of Christ." A non-Christian does no spiritual hearing, has no faith, and thus all that he does is sin. He even sins when he brushes his teeth! Talk about someone in need of a fresh start! So if you are not a disciple of Jesus Christ now then you have a great need that only God can meet.

With the above scriptures we can also see the futility of working our way into acceptability before God. Everything we do is a sin before God until we become a child of God. That means that we could have a perfect life as far as man is concerned which was full of "good deeds" such as feeding starving children, helping orphans, caring for the elderly, etc. and still be without one righteous second in our lifetime before Holy God. This person who is not a child of God is in a desperate state from which there is no escape within his own power. Is there a hope of a fresh start for this person? Yes, if indeed he is brought to the point in his life where he can recognize and accept this state as his own and is willing to admit defeat from his trying to achieve righteousness.

What did Jesus say about a fresh start for this person? We read His words in John 3:3

"... unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

When we were born physically, we had a fresh start but quickly we deteriorated. How many people had to teach their child to be bad? Quickly we developed tags on our behavior. "He has always been hard headed." "She has a will of her own." "He never has listened to what I have said." "She knows how to wrap her daddy about her finger (in other words, she is good at using people to get done what she wants)." "She doesn't have that red hair for nothing (in other words she has a terrible temper)." "Don't tell him anything that you don't want everybody else knowing." The original sin nature of humans quickly becomes apparent.

Jesus said that we must be born again. A new birth means that a new being comes into the world. This is a miracle. This is the fresh start for this person. Then man's spirit is born and he can communicate with God. Remember that God does not hear the prayers of the sinner (John 9:31)! Rom 12:3 says "... God has allotted to each a measure of faith." So until God gives us faith, we have none and according to Rom 14:23, which we discussed above, everything we do is sin. God cannot give the gift of faith to any other than His children and we are not His children until we are born again (John 1:12). Thus the only hope for a fresh start before God for the non-Christian is to be born again.

When one is born again, a complete turnaround occurs in the life of the person. There are many classic examples of this transformation. The story of the conversion of John Wesley is one quite familiar to me. He was a missionary to Georgia from the Church of England before he was saved. He had dedicated himself to the church but had not had the born again experience. He had given up all of his personal ambition and went off as a missionary, which is tremendous dedication to the church. But he had not been born again. However when he went back to England after a tour of service in Georgia he did experience the true love of Christ and was born again. The result was the birth of a new denomination and many sermons, which are still items to inspire us. The story of St. Francis is also a good example of the turnaround in someone's life after he has been born again. After this experience their sins were not only forgiven, they were forgotten by God.

Heb 10:16 "This is the covenant that I will make with them. After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And upon their mind I will write them, {He then says}, Heb 10:17 "And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."

What a fresh start! They became born in heaven. Now they had a guardian angel as seen in Heb 1:14

"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?"

Now the reborn have all the rights of full citizenship in heaven.

This fresh start can be obtained by anyone who has the will to repent (nobody can truly repent on his own):

Rom 2:4 "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?"

Then this true repentance will lead you to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, and you can accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. Then you will have the peace of knowing that you have a true fresh start before God. Then you can breath in the breath of fresh air from God.

II. The Christian

From the above we know about our fresh start before God. Now what about our fresh start before man? We are talking before those who know your flaws and are far less forgiving (and not forgetting) than God. Part of the power of this process involves stating our position before man. In Matt 10:33 Jesus said

"But whoever shall deny Me before man, I will also deny Him before My Father who is in heaven."

Thus we will not deny Jesus and we must openly state our position, for we are disciples of Jesus Christ. It is not enough today to just say that we are Christians for the word has been redefined by the world. In some parts of the world the word "Christian" just denotes a political party.

Now that your position is openly stated, the people will know that you are claiming to be changed. They will watch to see if you are really different than you were before. The story of Chuck Colson's life is a good example of how people will watch for failure on the part of the person claiming to be born again. Many people said that Colson was just saying that he had been born again in order to gain acceptability in the world so that people would not associate him with his wrongful past actions. I guess people are still watching to see him fail. I don't know what they say to his prison ministries program, which continues to lift up not Chuck Colson, but Jesus Christ.

Every born-again person will have lapses but his position is chosen. The person will act differently, not just of their own will, but on the authority and power of the Spirit of God who now dwells within them. We read in 1 John 5:4

"For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith."

Thus the key to overcoming the world is our faith, which as we saw above was given us by God when we were born again. Our faith can grow (2 Cor 10:15) and Rom 10:17 says " ... faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ." So as we study the Bible, meditate on God, practice our faith, our faith matures. We next read in Heb 12 :1

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."

This laying aside of every encumbrance is what we discussed at the beginning as being involved in a fresh start. This fresh start for a Christian then means to use our faith that God has given us and purposely lay aside the encumbrances and breathe in a breath of fresh air from God.

So as a Christian we know that not only do we have a fresh start before God, but also before man. We have to contribute toward our maturing Christian nature. We have to apply the Word in all of our circumstances. We have to know that it is true. If you have been a Christian for awhile but are convicted that this year you have not been all you could have been before God and before man, then take heart in 1 John 1:9-10

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."

So go to God, confess your sins to God and know that He forgives and cleanses. Then you can take a breath of fresh air.

We also read a key verse in Rom 12:1,2:

"I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

So let us all have a fresh start today. If you are not a disciple of Jesus Christ then today, now, accept Him and start fresh with God Almighty. If you are already a disciple of Jesus Christ then right now present yourself anew as a living and holy sacrifice. Let your mind be renewed so you will be transformed according to His will.

Let everyone take a fresh start. Breathe in a breath of fresh air from God and go forth victorious.


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Web Author: Dr. Leon L. Combs
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