The Pulpit: A Fresh Start For A New Year

Submitted By Pastor Gary Cox
I’ve always loved the smell of a new car. So, in a fit of stupid, I bought my favorite sedan – a new ’76 Chrysler Cordoba. You remember Ricardo Montalban pitching the “fine Corinthian leather” on TV? I excitedly picked it up at the dealership and sure enough, there were no dings, scratches, dents or fading paint defects to be seen. The joy of a fresh, new car is as American as Granny’s apple pie, isn’t it? So, after driving the old jalopy, I now had a fresh set of wheels with fresh smells, fresh compliments and fresh payments (forget that last part as it sort of ruins the moment).
Anyway, what’s my point? Well, a New Year is sort of like that Cordoba. As the ball drops on Times Square and the confetti flutters all around, you get a nose-full of that new car smell. Life has yet to be marred by the dings, dents and scratches of words you wish you hadn’t said or actions you wish you hadn’t committed or pictures you wish you hadn’t seared onto the frontal lobe of your brain to be involuntarily recalled when you least expect it. But, reality comes roaring back like a bull on steroids and before we know it we’ve said something stupid or hurtful, lied for no good reason (is there ever a “good” reason?), manipulated a loved one and a thousand more peccadilloes that ding, dent and scratch our own heart and the world around us. The truth is that we sin almost reflexively. We sin against ourselves, against others and especially against our Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer. Our sin is such an ingrained part of us that we often dismiss it with cavalier phrases like, “That’s just the way I am.” And, sometimes, we take God’s patience for granted. You’ll know if you’re doing that when you say things like, “God has to forgive me – it’s His job.” Actually, for the true believer, God has already forgiven you. That issue was handled at the cross when Jesus took upon His shoulders the just judgment for sin that was duly ours to pay.
However, there are sensitive souls who hang their head as they repeat sins that cling to them like Velcro and results in more shame, sorrow and sadness of heart. We make resolutions but then utterly collapse, once again, under the weight of temptation’s iron boot. We say one thing and do another. We want to do this but we end up caving in to that. And then the evil one starts in with the self-talk saying, “How can you call yourself a Christian? Look at you! What a mess you are! You’re weak and pathetic. God doesn’t want to see your face.” Those one-way conversations seem to last for hours if not days as you sink into an ever deepening pit of shame, self-pity and rationalizations for what you thought, did and/or said.
So, what do you do now? How do you restore that New Year scent to your soul? You run back to the cross with a broken and repentant heart just like all prodigals must do. And when you get to the cross for the umpteenth time, you then jump into the pool of gospel grace that shimmers at the foot of that cross while reminding yourself that God doesn’t love you as you should be but as you are because you will never, in this life, be who you should be. God’s love for you, as it was for Peter, never changes; it never increases or decreases because it is perfect and thus constant – incapable of getting better or worse. His love for you in Christ just is – period!
This is exactly what Peter found after he denied his Lord. Jesus didn’t turn from him in disgust; He waited for him in love. THAT’S what I love about New Year’s.
The story is told of a father and son who experienced a bitter falling out that ended with the son leaving home. Years passed. The father heard rumors that his boy was living in Madrid, Spain. He decided to seek reconciliation putting an ad in the El Mundo newspaper which read, “Paco, all is forgiven. Meet me Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. in front of the Hotel Atlantico. Love, Papa.” It is said that when the father arrived he found over 500 sons named Paco waiting to embrace the father who would dare to love them unconditionally.
Jesus loves His sons and daughters without defect and with a divine love that never fails no matter how many dings, dents, scrapes and cracks we inflict upon ourselves and others. He still says to each of us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Hallelujah! A fresh start for a fresh year.
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