It's Never Too Late for a New Start
Has there been anytime over the last year where you thought that you need a do over? …A new start? Maybe you feel like you need a new start in your career, or with your credit cards. Maybe you could use a new start with a project, a relationship, or a diet. Maybe you even feel like you need a new start in your relationship with God. I don’t know exactly where you might need a new start, but my guess is that most of us have some area of our lives where we wish we could start over.
This morning we are starting a new series I am calling, “It’s Never Too Late…” And I have really good news for you this morning because when God is involved in your life it’s never too late for a new start. Our God is the author, the Creator and the provider of the “do-over”.
Now what I want you to know is that new starts are not limited to those who are already Christians. I mean if you are here this morning and you’re maybe visiting the church or checking God out or on the outside looking in because you’re curious, there’s a new start God wants to give you and it’s just waiting for you to receive it.
New starts are also for those who are already Christ-followers. Maybe you feel like your spiritual life is sort of like being on a tread mill where you know you’re moving but you don’t seem to be getting anywhere. You’re a follower of Christ, but your relationship feels a little dry and parched and you’re desperate for something deeper and more meaningful with God. Maybe you arrived at church this morning hoping that you would experience something, get caught up in worship or a message that is just for you. Basically, you’re looking for some external motivation to jump-start your relationship with God. If that is you, I am glad you are here.
If you are part of the human race then either right now or in the future you’re going to need a new start, a do-over. That’s what all people who live in a fallen world need. We’re always looking for new starts.
Advertisers know how powerful this need is in people’s lives. They have learned that the word “new” can be a very powerful advertising tool. I was walking around the grocery store this week and I saw a bottle of Tide. On the bottle of Tide it says “New and Improved.” It said “new and improved” when I was a kid! How many times can it be new and improved? How much improvement can you really make in soap? It’s not all that new. It’s just new marketing. I mean somebody probably spit in it or something and then said, “Ok, it’s new!” manufacturers are very good at taping into our desire for new things, new starts. Microsoft has made a fortune off this. They create software; sell it to you at a high price. Then fix the bugs that were in version one and make one or two improvements and turn around and sell it to you again. The allure of “new” is very powerful. I think it’s powerful because deep down we all want a new start, a do-over in some area of life.
We all have experienced the marketing hype of “new”. We bought into something hoping that it would be new and discovered it is just the same old thing in a new package.
So I know the struggle with saying that with God it’s not too late for a new start. I want you to know that I am not talking about repackaging the church; I am referring to God’s desire to give you a genuine, power-filled new start. That is an important truth. The good news is that the God of the Bible loves ‘new” too and He’s not just about the packaging, but real life transformation.
Here’s the deal. No matter what kind of new start you need God sees the “new” you need before you do. In fact God’s dream for you is to bring life transformation, real, genuine and positive change. He wants to replace the old dead stuff in your life and give you new fresh life. God sees what could be different for you and He wants you to get there. He wants you to get too a new, fresh and exciting place.
Now let me also say that if it was easy, everyone would be getting it. But as in most areas of life, you have a part to play in this new start. Let me show you this in the Bible.
Our key passage this morning is found in Isaiah 43. This chapter contains a conversation that God has with the prophet Isaiah.
"For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." (Isaiah 43:19, NLT)
These are powerful, hope-filled words from God. God says, Isaiah, I am working on something new and it involves you. This new thing that God was telling Isaiah that He was doing was He was working on brining Jesus Christ into the world; that the long awaited Messiah is coming, and He will defeat Satan, sin and death. That is the big picture.
But I want you to notice that God is in the business of creating new starts for people. With God you don’t have to stay in that dry, desert place. I know that it might seem impossible for you right now; you might feel that it is impossible for you to change and arrive at a new place, to really experience life transformation. But, what you need to know is that God is at work. Notice God tells Isaiah that He is the one who can make a pathway where there was no path. He can create rivers to flow in the midst of deserts.
Friends, I want you to know that the same God who promised Isaiah, the promise to take him somewhere new, to provide him a pathway out of the desert, the promise that God will provide for him crisp clean water in the midst of the dry land, is the same God that desires to give you a new start today.
My hope is to be very practical today. So I want to show you how this is a fresh start for Isaiah and then we’ll examine what we can learn from this and how can we go after a fresh start as well. Let’s draw the context. Look at Isaiah 6:1-8:
"It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.
Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:1-8, NLT)
Based upon this passage and how Isaiah responded we can learn some things that we can do right now, today, to prepare ourselves for a new start. There are some things that only God can do. God will provide and He will lead you to new pathway. In fact He will make pathways that don’t exist right now. Only God can do that. You might be in a dry desert place that seems impossible to escape. By yourself you are trapped and stuck. But The God of the Bible is a God who can make new paths where there was no path. So what you need to know is that there are some things that only God can do but there is also some things that only you can do, things that Gods will not do for you; things that you must do for yourself in cooperation with God. If you truly want a new start then you must do your part.
Too make this very practical. Please take out your Talk Notes in your program and find a space under the heading, “My Vision for a New Start.”
What area of your life right now feels a little dry and you need a new start? Don’t write an autobiography, maybe just a word, maybe a name, a relationship that you need a new start. No one else needs to know what you write. So you can use your own little secret code that only you understand. I am fully confident that God is here this morning with us right now. This is between you and Him. Don’t waste this opportunity.
Maybe you can write down a word describing what you want in relationship with God. Maybe it’s a habit that you want to break. It does not matter to me what it is, just be honest. Where do you feel a little dry right now and you want a fresh start?
This is a very important step. If you are going to follow God to a new place, you have to identify the place you are in right now that needs to change, that dried up thing that needs new life. Don’t ignore it, don’t try to sweep it under a rug, - face it. What in your life right now needs new life, a new start? Come on you have a part to play in this new start and that means that you have to exercise some faith this morning. If you just sit there and don’t act the only one you are hurting is yourself. God wants to give you a new start, He is in the resurrection business; He wants to give you the power to transform your life. So what is that thing you need God’s power to change? Got something down?
Ok, let me identify some things that only you can do. These are powerful, but they only work if you do them, not just learn them. Let’s look at them. As you think about what you wrote down, take these next steps.
STEP #1: IDENTIFY THE PAIN
If you want a new start you have to identify the pain. The fact is that there is pain in all of our lives and I am not saying that we need to just sit around and have a therapeutic sharing our pain time. That may help certain counseling issue, but that is not what I mean here.
If you truly want a new start, a change, you first have to identify what is wrong with where you are now. This is not a guilt thing, this is a clarity thing. You need to face your situation with courage and gut level honesty. If your marriage is a mess because of something you did or didn’t do, you need to identify that. If you are failing in some area you need to identify why. If you don’t you will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes. What we are talking about this morning is real change, a real substantive new start.
Notice in this passage Isaiah starts out by making a very interesting statement. He says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord.”
Obviously this is a reference to a year; to a date. It’s a chronological reference. But there is more here than just a reference point. I don’t want to get too detailed in the history here, but what you need to know is that King Uzziah was a good king who restored Israel’s relationship to God and as a result Israel prospered. During His rein he made political and more importantly positive spiritual progress. Now he was not perfect and near the end of his life he messed up with God and it cost him greatly. But his death was the beginning of the passing away of good times for Israel and God blessing them began to be removed. As a result of his death times they were a chang’ng. The culture was reverting back to the days of ignoring God’s kingdom and with that the removal of God’s protection and blessing. So Isaiah says, ‘I saw the Lord during the time that Uzziah was gone”.
It seems to me that the most significant new starts in someone’s life usually takes place after some significant pain.
Now for you it might not be a physical death. It may be that your pain is the death of a dream. Maybe your pain is the death of a relationship. Maybe your family has been shattered by divorce or your spiritual intimacy that you once had has been strangled by apathy. Maybe you just received your new credit card bill and you can’t believe the amount you owe.
Whatever it is, regardless of the cause, most people don’t look for a new start until there is some pain. So as you look at the places or relationships that you want a new start, the first step is to identify the pain that is motivating you to change. What are you just sick of being the way it is? If you want a new start to have any sticking power, any life transformation, you need to identity the pain. To help you identify the pain I want to encourage you to ask a question. “Why? Why should I change?”
What I’ve noticed is a lot of people do the opposite of what they need to do. Instead of really facing the pain they just walk right past their pain and they never answer that question. They walk right past it without identifying the real issues.
In essence what they’re doing is they’re blocking their pain and pretending that nothing is wrong. What I’m suggesting here is that you come clean. You need to be honest.
Why should I face it? Because if you don’t become honest about your pain, you’ll never experience a new start and more importantly you will just recycle your old problems. Many times we can get a new chance, but that is not the same thing as a new start. The best example of this is seen in the divorce statistics. You may get a new marriage, a new chance, but if you don’t face the issues that caused the failure of your first marriage, you will just recycle those into your new marriage and nothing will really change.
The divorce rate among first marriages right now is around 41%. But the divorce rate among second marriages is 60% and divorces in third marriages sky rockets to 73%. Why? Because getting a new chance is not the same thing as getting a new start. If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting the same results.
The only way to get a new start is to change the direction you have always gone in. It’s ok to say, “I want a new start because I just don’t want to feel this way any more.” It’s ok to say, “I want to change because I continue going in the direction of always choosing relationships that don’t honor God … I want to change because I’m disconnected ... I feel no hope for the future. I want to change because my soul is dry. Great! You are in a good place for a new start. But the first step is to identify and allow that pain to motivate you for the necessary changes it is going to take. You will have to go in a new direction, do things in ways you have not done them before.
STEP #2: RECOGNIZE IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD
The second thing if you want a new start is to recognize that it’s all about God. That’s what Isaiah’s vision included – a dramatic clarity of God’s majesty and God’s holiness. As Isaiah describes God, he says “I saw the Lord seated on a throne high and exalted and the train of His robe filled the temple. And they were calling together, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of His glory.”
Personally in my life I know that when I identify my pain, it often brings me to a place where I begin to think about God and my need for Him. I begin to think about His greatness and His glory and His holiness and my limitations. What happens in that moment for me is that the vision of God and His desire for me, what He wants for me, becomes the motivator for me to change. I don’t want to live in this pain anymore. So it’s because of God that I actually can change.
Here’s where a lot of people fail. They identify their pain but instead of saying, “It’s all about God,” they say, “It’s all about me. All I really need is to read a new self-help book. I just need to attend a seminar. I just need to watch a little more Oprah and Dr. Phil. I just need to get some motivational tapes.”
Come on. If all it took was to tap into my own power then I would have changed long time ago. So would you. But it takes more than my power, it takes the power of God who is high and lifted up, God whose glory fills the whole earth.
Making life altering changes isn’t going to last without God. A new start happens because of God. God isn’t just one of the motivators for a new start. Isaiah’s says it’s all because of God. It’s because of God that I don’t want to waste my life. It’s because of God that I want to change. It’s because of God that I don’t want to settle for a mediocre, average, powerless life.
Because everything changes when God is present, the question I want to ask you is important. “How are you taping into God? How are you staying connected to Him. Are you just too busy to spend time in prayer, bible study and personal worship? If yes, then you are too busy for a new start and you probably need to go back to step one for a while.
Because if you keep doing the same things you have always done, you will keep getting the same results. New starts include new paths and those new paths are created by God.
So if you want a new start you’ve got to identify the pain, and you have to recognize that it’s all about God.
STEP #3. ADMIT THE TRUTH ABOUT MYSELF
That’s what Isaiah does when he writes, God is holy and I’m a worm! That’s a loose translation of his words. He says God is holy and I’m not. God’s glory fills the whole earth and my glory fills nothing. He says “I am doomed.” That is an important theological understanding that really builds on the previous point we talked about.
When I look at myself in light or reference point of God’s glory, I look very pale. We were at the Mall of American the other day and were in a store that had a specialty mirror. I think these things are devises of Satan! When I look at the normal side of the mirror here’s what I think. I look at the normal side and I go, “Not bad.” I’m not going to win any awards. I’m never going to make the cover of a magazine. But not bad. Most of us, let’s be honest, most of us fit into the average category. Now there are some exceptions. I see some exceptions here who are below average. That’s ok. That’s all right. We have leaders who can relate to you as well. That’s why Ed Dahlin is on the Advisory Board.
But when I look into the normal mirror side I’m ok, Average.
But then I did something horrifying. I flip that mirror and I look into the magnifying mirror. That is so gross. I have huge pores and they are ugly. That guy in the magnified mirror is scary, horrible. Yuk!
I bring that up because I like to pick on Ed and because that is what happened to Isaiah. If you compare yourself to everyone else, you probably look normal. But that is not the measuring stick. You will not be compared to everyone else. You will be compared to the magnifying Holy and lifted up person of God. In light of God’s glory we all must say, “Holy cow! I’m disgusting!”
So the question is, “Where is your heart, what kind of attitudes do you have?” What direction is your life really heading? If you’re going to have a new start you’ve got to answer that question. On an ugly scale of one to a hundred, where is your heart? We are not doing this by group consensus. You don’t write a number down for your neighbor. This is between you and your Holy, loving God, where is your heart? One is you’re Jesus Jr. - you’ve got it all together. One hundred on the other side, is somebody who’s evil, you’re Satan Jr. Where are you?
Here’s why you do this. When you look inside and you really evaluate the condition of your heart you’ll see that it’s not pretty. When I do this, you know what I see? I see my thoughts that are too many times wicked. I see pride that I’m not pleased with. I see impure motives at times. And an honest evaluation produces that “Ugh!” – it’s not pretty. A lot of times people go through life and they never evaluate.
The truth about my heart – here’s what it does. The truth of my heart when I go, “Whoa, ugly!” causes me draws closer to God. It just makes me want to be nearer to God. Because I don’t want to live with this. I want to live with Him. You see, I say “Woe to me. Wow to God. On my own I’m a total mess. But with You, God, I’ve got a shot at a new start.
It’d be a little depressing if we just stopped here at the point of evaluating the ugliness of our heart. But luckily there’s something else to do. You identify the pain, you recognize that it’s all about God, you reveal the truth about yourself and then…
STEP 4: YOU RELEASE THE PAST
Obviously, if we have some ugliness in our life we have done things that we’re not proud of. Right? If you’ve been around for a while you know that I love mass confessions. I love mass confessions because half our church grew up in the Catholic tradition, and I just love for people to know they’re not alone. So we’re going to do a mass confession. I want to know if you have some major life regret, would you be brave enough to raise your hand? Come on you don’t have to tell anyone what it is, just be honest. Keep them up and look around. You see that you’re not alone. People who aren’t raising their hand they’re probably lying and will regret it later.
What do those regrets bring? Regrets bring shame and embarrassment and anger and grief and resentment. Regrets are like this slimy oil film you see on lakes on the weekends it’s a sinful film on our life. If you’re going to get a new start, you’ve got to clean yourself of that. I’ve got to get that stuff off me.
You need to experience what Isaiah experienced in his vision.
He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” (Isaiah 6:7, NLT)
God doesn’t want you or me to live with regrets. And because of that He’s offered us this incredible gift called forgiveness. The good news is that since regrets are inevitable for all of us, forgiveness is available for all of us. Psalm 32 is about what you and I get.
"Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone." (Psalm 32:5, NLT)
Isn’t that great news? It’s the “all” that I love in there. All my guilt is gone. I don’t have to hide them anymore. My guilt is gone. God cares about new starts. And if you have confessed your ugliness and you’ve given it to God, God, will not only forgive you but cleans you from it. Here is what the Bible says:
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9, NLT)
Let me clue you in on am important spiritual reality. If you released the past to God and you still feel guilty. If you still find that thoughts of condemnation flood your mind then you need to know that the guilt you feel is not from God. That guilt is not from God. If you still feel guilty for things that you have been forgiven of, that’s Satan’s way of keeping you from being effective; to keep you from living your life to its fullest and fulfilling your God given potential. Because if you have received the free gift of salvation with God through Jesus Christ and have been forgiven, Satan has lost you for all of eternity. So the only thing he can do now is to slow you down and make you totally ineffective because you wallow in your guilt. He can remind you of the sins that you’ve already been forgiven for.
So here’s the question. What are you holding on to? Are you holding on to the regret of failed relationships? Are you holding on to the regret of wrong choices or wrong words or hurtful things you’ve done? God can forge and cleans you for that. That’s God’s part. Then I also have my part. My part is to acknowledge and confess the wrongs that I’ve done and then to receive God’s forgiveness and to release the regrets and live in the reality of my forgiveness. Don’t be paralyzed by the past when you can be motivated by the future – the future of a new start. Now one last step that I don’t have any time to develop. But I think you will get it quickly.
STEP 5: LEARN TO SAY YES TO GOD DAILY
So let’s review how this might work. First, I identify my pain and it pushes me to say I’m ready for a new start. Then two, I recognize the new start is all about God. Three, I evaluate my heart and the ugliness there reinforces the fact that I need God. Four, I release my past into God’s forgiving hands through Jesus Christ. And then you learn to say yes to God leadings, His ways and directions daily. Say yes to Him.
That’s what Isaiah did.
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8, NLT)
Isaiah received a new path from God. That’s what saying yes to God is all about. Here am I! Send me! Send me to do Your work. Send me to do Your will. Send me to be Your person. Send me to be a man or woman of God in the marketplace.