A new year, a fresh start

John 21:15

John Ditty - Sunday School Lesson

Of course we know we don’t have to wait for a new year to get a fresh start. Then again, New Years invites us to start again. So here we are looking on the first of the blank page of a 365-page book.

Starting again is not the invention of New Year’s. As a matter of fact, the whole concept of starting again has to be God’s. In His book there is story after story of second chances and fresh starts. It is theme of the Bible. Rather, it is part of the theme.

The central focus, the subject of the entire Scripture is Jesus; we just celebrated His birth which fits wonderfully into the New Year celebration. Why did Jesus come to earth? The reason was to make it possible for humanity to have a fresh start – more personally, so you and I can have a fresh start. Why do we need a fresh start? In a word: failure. The Bible clearly and simply states, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Sin equals failure. All people have failed to live to God’s standard. He could have just washed His hands of us and started again. Instead, He came to us to give us a chance to start again.

Failures are seen throughout the stories in the Bible. The first man, Adam, failed. What did God do when Adam failed? He came looking for him. Humanity became so bad that Genesis 6:5 states, “every inclination of the thoughts of his (mankind’s) heart was only evil all the time.” What did God do? He gave Noah the plans for a boat that God would use to save us. The man God chose to start the family line of the Messiah failed to trust the Lord and had a son through Hagar. God came to him, corrected him, and promised Abraham that the promise of a son was still intact.

God’s king, King David, failed as did His prophet Jonah, and to both He gave a chance to start over. His people Israel miserably failed their Lord and after a seventy-year punishment called the Babylonian exile, God gave them a fresh start.

These examples are the tip of the proverbial iceberg of stories in which God came to man and said, “You blew it and I know it. Punishment is earned but a fresh start is offered.” Then God gave them the opportunity to start again.

Perhaps the greatest picture of starting over comes in the New Testament Gospel of John. It is the story of one of Jesus’ best friends failing Him and His coming to look for Peter.

Remember the scene when three times Peter denied knowing Jesus. According to Luke’s Gospel, after Peter denied Jesus the third time the rooster crowed as Jesus said it would. When the rooster crowed, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” (Luke 22:61) Can you imagine a greater failure than this? The one you love the most hears you, with a curse, denying that you ever knew the person as they are in their most desperate hour?

Move ahead a month or so, from a vicious judgment hall in Jerusalem to a quiet Galilean lakeshore. Peter and six other Apostles spent a night of unsuccessful fishing on the Sea of Galilee. A lone man called from shore and asked if they had any fish. They answered no. He told them to cast their nets out the other side of the boat. The net filled to tearing, John proclaimed, “It’s the Lord!” and Peter jumped overboard and swam to shore.

Move ahead to after breakfast. Now Jesus and Peter are walking along the bank of the lake and Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. Peter says yes. Jesus asks again and Peter answers. Once more He asks and Peter, saddened by the repeated question affirms again his love for his Lord.

Some might look at the interchange and feel that Jesus is being mean to His friend. In reality, Jesus is letting Peter know that he has a chance to start over. Three times he denied Christ, three times he acknowledges his love for the Master. And, three times Jesus tells his friend that He has a job for Him – “Feed My sheep.” In other words, “Peter you can start over and I have work for you to do.”

For the next thirty years Peter would indeed demonstrate his love for his Lord. He would stand before the Sanhedrin, the very ones who condemned Christ to death, and tell them that he had to follow God’s commands not theirs which could have cost him his life. He would go the Gentiles, something he would have never done before he met Jesus. He would be beaten, imprisoned, sentenced to death, and God rescued him. Then the day came when he stood before Emperor Nero. One last time he would not deny Christ even as he watched the Romans martyr his wife on the way to hanging him to die on a cross outside of Rome. He did not waste the fresh start offered by Jesus.

Do you need a fresh start? God offers you just that through Jesus Christ. Jesus came to give you a chance to start again. We all need to. We’ve all sinned and come short of what God requires. By His death on the cross, Jesus came to bridge that gap brought by our failure.

The Bible stories of man’s failures are accompanied by God coming and offering a chance to start over. May the coming of a new year be a reminder that God offers you a new life. He offers it through the death of His son Jesus. He offers it because He loves you so much that He gave His one and only son to die in your place. The offer is extended, will it be received?

John 21:15

John Ditty

Sunday School Lesson

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