New Beginnings

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The following are my sermon notes from a message I shared today. It is a reminder that we should make the most of the new year and the new opportunities that we are given in it.

“Pastor Vince spoke last week drawing on the image of a wineskin or bottle in the smoke from the Psalms.  He noted that old things and the new are not easily combined, like new wine in an old skin.  But we like those skins can be transformed and made new when we look at the world from God’s perspective.

Some time ago I spoke to you about seeing as God sees.  That we so easily fall back on seeing with human eyes.  I noted that Abraham and Gideon had to move beyond the old way of seeing things in either trusting in their own abilities, or by being afraid to anything. {expand}

Last week Brother Vince noted for us that we see the examples in the Scripture of people could see in a new way.  There were hard times are found in the Bible, but approaching them spiritually was the way they were overcome. 

Let’s face it – 2020 was rough:

Covid and its lockdowns put us in fear and restricted our accustomed lifestyles.  We couldn’t travel, mix with loved ones, or for many weeks gather physically to worship.  Many struggled with this last one – citing that the Bible said not to neglect the gathering of ourselves together.   Racial unrest, political turmoil, in America and around the world were easy to get caught up in.  They became part of our daily discourse, our social media lives, and again for many of us our fears.   Even Christians began to focus on conspiracy theories than on the plan of God.

But we also have seen amazing things: thousands of people who turned to God.  Communities of Christians coming together both spiritually and electronically.  We weren’t forsaking the assembly but found new ways to come together through Facebook or Zoom. As a community of believers, we have established or expanded food banks, and crisis centres for those facing the struggles of lockdown and isolation.  We are seeing the new beginnings.

There are some however that have only been able to focus on the negative using the old tired human eyes, like Abraham and Gideon did.

So, let’s take Pastor Vince’s advice and see what the scripture tells about the struggles of new beginnings.

In Exodus God’s people were suffering from trials that are akin or worse than what we saw in 2020.   They were slaves, and their baby boys were being murdered at birth.   But God had a plan for them and the people of Israel, and the Egyptians as well, witnessed the absolute might of God.  They saw God bring 10 plagues onto Egypt.

So, let’s examine that for a moment.  God showed will by sending Moses to tell Pharaoh, King of Egypt let my people go.  When he refused, the Nile and all the fresh water was turned to blood.  Later frogs flooded the land.  They were everywhere, even in the bed and their food. 

And what does the king do?  He tells Moses I will let the people go.  Tomorrow!   But give me one more night with these frogs.    New beginnings, friends, is not staying where you are at.  It is moving on with God’s plans.

The plagues continued and the Hebrews were freed from slavery.  They then saw the Red Sea divided and the armies of Pharaoh destroyed.  God was in control. The people had more than sufficient evidence of it.

But facing new beginnings isn’t always easy, especially if we are holding on to the past.

And many New Beginnings aren’t always easy, they may seem fraught with danger.  We enter into the unknown.  In Numbers 13, when the spies brought back the reports on the nature of the Promised Land, they moaned.  They wanted to go back to Egypt.

Numbers 14: 1-4 tells us: “That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.  All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

They wanted to go backwards.  If following God’s plan isn’t standing still like Pharaoh, it definitely isn’t going backwards.

We can see this is Joshua and Caleb’s response in verse 8: “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.”

Great starts – New decisions to follow Jesus, online worship, cooperation between churches.  Do we want to go back to the way things were?  Having some desire for the good old days when we were not following Jesus, or when there were divisions between denominations of God’s people?  Certainly not!  Just because we want to meet physically together doesn’t mean the gains should be lost, in the future which is God’s hands – why not do both meeting physically with those who can, and at a distance by those who are shut in?

Remember, we Christians aren’t exempt from this backwards looking.

The disciples had followed Jesus for three years, but after the crucifixion even Peter looked back to the old ways.

Peter said “I’m going fishing” –  I’m going back to my old job.  But the risen Jesus intervenes and gives him a new job to do “Feed my sheep,” and “Go tell the world.”

We like Peter are new creations.  Paul says 2 Corinthians 5: 17 and following –

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

We are new – we have a new beginning before us.  The Bible has a word: Metanoó or “turn around, change direction.”  It’s usually translated “repent,” but it fits our message today as well.  “Turn from the old ways and go forward into your new beginning.”

Paul reinforces this by saying, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).”

And we should show the fruit of this new focus.  Paul again wrote, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).”

As we get firmly into 2021 let’s show that fruit.  Not looking back, not standing still, but going forwards into God’s plan.”


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