Friday, September 22, 2017

Need a do-over or a make-over?

July 19, 2011 by Pastor Roger  
Filed under Start here

God gives us a fresh start. That’s not the same as a do-over. I’ve had some of those before. Back when I played golf I might take an occasional do-over.  It’s called a Mulligan in golf. And you’re only supposed to get one on the first tee, and only once. Some people take them often, whenever they can. Here’s the problem though. When I get a do-over, unfortunately it’s still me doing it all over again. Now if I could get a do-over and let Arnold Palmer do it for me, that would be different. But it’s just the same me. And though I can hope for different results, that’s just wishing. What I need is not only a do-over but a make-over. The one without the other just means repeating the same mistakes and feeling the same frustration. Who needs that?

For instance, you’ve probably heard people say something like, “I wish I could go back and do that over again, knowing what I know now.” Ever said that? No one wants to go back and make the same mistakes over again. They were painful enough the first time. None of us want to relive our biggest mistakes or our most fabulous failures. But if we could have just known better before we screwed up, well then, we would have less regrets now. Maybe a relationship would be stronger, a marriage saved. Maybe you wouldn’t have lost a job, or your temper, or your shirt in the market. If only you knew then what you know now you’d be in a better place, right? Makes me wonder though. I wonder whether in the moments after you die you will think, “I wish I knew then what I know now”?

So it’s not just a second chance you need. It’s a fresh start, with the old scores evened out and the old debts paid off. And with that kind of a fresh start, you need to be able to go about life differently. That’s what today is all about. Fresh starts. New hearts. Things can be different, all because of the difference Jesus made in the world.

It all starts with the fresh start Jesus gives you. The cross is a symbol of how Jesus wiped out your debts. Anything done or left undone, any of those stupid things you said or did, God shows he was serious in forgiving them. He went to hell and back again to take them away from you. In his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning writes, “Perhaps you’ve heard this story. Four years ago in a large city in the far West, rumors spread that a certain Catholic woman was having visions of Jesus. The reports reached the archbishop, and he decided to check her out. There is always a fine line between the authentic mystic and the lunatic fringe. “Is it true, m’am, that you have visions of Jesus?” asked the cleric. “Yes,” the woman replied simply. “Well, the next time you have a vision, I want you to ask Jesus to tell you the sins that I confessed in my last confession.” The woman was stunned. “Did I hear you right, bishop? You actually want me to ask Jesus to tell me the sins of your past?” He replied, “Exactly. Please call me if anything happens.” Ten days later the woman notified her spiritual leader of a recent apparition. “Please come,” she said. Within the hour the archbishop arrived. He trusted eye-to-eye contact. “You just told me on the telephone that you actually had a vision of Jesus. Did you do what I asked?” She answered, rather hesitantly. “Yes, bishop, I asked Jesus to tell me the sins you confessed in your last confession.” The bishop leaned forward with anticipation. his eyes narrowed. “What did Jesus say?” She gazed deep into his eyes. “Bishop,” she said, “His exact words were: ‘I can’t remember.’ ”

That God has not only promised to forgive our sins, but someday to forget them entirely is an amazing thing. You no longer have to be afraid of meeting Jesus and feeling shame. Any shame you feel will be short-lived. For Jesus died and lives again in order to kill off shame and fear and guilt and sin. He hardly went through all the pain of the cross so you would feel more guilt or shame in your life. No, the cross is a turning point for all existence. It changes things. Like you and me.

Or at least it is supposed to. Manning continues by saying, “There is a fundamental change that takes place when we experience God and learn to trust him. It’s something that can only happen at the foot of the cross. You will trust God only as much as you love him, and you will love him only as much as you have touched him, or better yet, been touched by him.”

Do you trust God forgives? Are you learning to love God? Or I should start by asking, have you let yourself be touched by God? He’s reaching out to you today. All the way from 2000 years ago. All the way from death. He’s come back to bring us back to him, every one of us. And that experience of letting God touch your heart changes you. It’s for this reason that it’s been said, “A sad Christian is a phony Christian and a guilty Christian is no Christian at all.” Jesus has gone to Hell and back again to take away the power of shame and fear in your life. He not only died to take away your sins, he died to take away your guilt. Today it’s time to give them up and let them go. It’s time for everything to change.

When God offers you a fresh start, he offers you both a do-over and a make-over. You get the new heart you need once you see that Jesus has done away with guilt and fear and shame. What’s left for us is to live a new way … in response to all God has done. We are to have hearts that celebrate and give thanks. Remember? No sad or guilty Christians …

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