Monday, March 30, 2009

Starting Over

A New Beginning

TIME. It goes as it were, in a straight line - from point “A” to point “B.” TIME. It is Past, Present, Future. All we have at the moment is Present. There exists no “Time Machine,” as many would fancy, where one might return to the past to correct some forlorn tragedy; to “make things right.” Nor are we able to forward ourselves into the future, that we might know what lies ahead, and therefore avoid grievous mistakes.

But the realm of eternity is quite different. It is as a circle, an unending circle, not having the limitations of “past, present, and future.”

However difficult to understand, time and eternity are inseparably linked together. The Bible is a unique book (to say the least) in that it identifies Time (past, present, future,) and foretells with minute accuracy things future. God is an eternal God who reigns over an eternal kingdom and views all things with an eternal eye. Again, the Bible is a “timeless, eternal book. “In the beginning God created” Gen.1:1., all the way to “the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” II Peter 3:12.

“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. . .But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now [the present] and for ever [eternity future]. Amen.” II Peter 3:13,14,18.

If I Could Start Over. . .

I would suppose the first man to ponder such a thought was father Adam. God had said, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” Gen. 2:16,17. Eve “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. . .” Gen. 3:6,7. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. . .” “HAST THOU EATEN OF THE TREE WHEREOF I COMMANDED THEE THAT THOU SHOULDEST NOT EAT?” I can almost hear Adam muttering under his breath: “Oh, if I could just start over.” Adam, you cannot take it back. You can’t retrieve that which you have broken. What’s done is done. “And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died” Gen. 5:5. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” Rom. 5:12.

TIME went by. For nine hundred and thirty years Adam watched his posterity fall into greater and greater wickedness. Could we but imagine his grief and anguish of heart: Oh, God! If I could just start over! These, my children! I have set them on the broad way that leads to destruction! Paul in writing to Timothy declared “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief,” but is it not feasible that the title belongs to Adam?

Perhaps I am writing to one who has, (at least up until now) led a Christless life. Any number of reasons or excuses could be offered for the neglect - but they’re not what’s important. The key and significant issue is not your past. You are in the same boat as Adam. The past cannot be rectified, it cannot be “put right.” What’s done is done. Have you found yourself saying, “Oh, God!

If I could just start over again!” Adam couldn’t - and you can’t. But if you’re reading this, then you’re alive! There is Hope for the Future if only you will respond rightly, now, while you’re in the Present!

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. . .But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Rom. 5:6,8. While we were yet sinners! Of Christ it is declared, “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made” John 1:3. Christ is God; He is Lord, over Time and Eternity. Time is no barrier to the eternal God! All our unrighteousnesses, those being in the Past, are beyond our reach. But Christ Jesus died for our Past, Present, and yes, Future sins. He did what no man could do, in that He reached as it were, back into the Past, all the way back to Adam; and forward into the realm of the Future: He heaped ALL our sins upon Himself. He died, bearing the guilt and the penalty that we were destined to receive; paid in full the debt we owed, and rose from the grave alive forevermore; and we being in Him (providing we, by faith, have been willing and obedient to receive His gift of redemption) are become heirs of eternal life - now and forever!

Christ, (by means of His perfect work of redemption in Time Past whereby He satisfied all the demands of Divine Righteousness by living a sinless life on our behalf; and having satisfied all the demands of Divine Justice by dying in our place;) has secured for those who believe in Jesus Christ, the benefits of a perfect righteousness imputed to us by faith having caused us to stand Justified before God; it is a standing that no one can eradicate; not in the Present; no, not in the Future. (in Imputation, our sin was charged to Christ’s account: He became lawfully (and willingly) responsible for our debt of sin which we owed to a Holy God. Likewise, in one simultaneous transaction, our debt was removed and paid in full, and the righteousness of Christ was accredited, and was legally, lawfully, placed in our account.) “For he [God] hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” II Cor. 5:21.

Visit the graveyard. Christian and non-Christian are buried there. Time will catch up with and claim every creature in death. This is why Jesus so firmly declared to a Pharisee called Nicodemus: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And again He said, “Marvel not that I say unto thee, Ye must be born again” John 3:3,7.

Understand, your physical birth, your life, is subject to the limitations of Time. But the New Birth is from above. One who is born of God is the child of God. As God is everlasting and His kingdom, everlasting; so it is with those who are born of Him. Let’s look afresh at John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish [under the reign of Time], but have everlasting life. And everlasting life is not possible except by being born of God; born into the realm of eternity.

STARTING OVER? NEW BEGINNINGS? These are useless, futile - unless they are wrought by the Eternal God. Give it up. You have neither means nor ability nor strength. Cast yourself upon the only God; He who loves you; He who has provided “so great salvation in your behalf. Start over? A new beginning? Yes! It can be done! But ONLY as you cast aside your impoverished abilities and believe on Christ!

What does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners, abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon Him for pardon and peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost. And to the further question still: how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things? it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on His mercy; ask Him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask Him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write His law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from Him. Turn to Him and trust Him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to Him; watch, pray, read and hear God’s Word, worship and commune with God’s people, and so continue till you know in yourself beyond doubt that you are indeed a changed being, a penitent believer, and the new heart which you desired has been put within you. . .

        “Let not conscience make you linger,

        Nor of fitness fondly dream;

        All the fitness He requireth

        Is to feel your need of Him”--

so do not postpone action till you think you are better, but honestly confess and give yourself up here and now to the Christ who alone can make you better; and wait on Him till His Light rises in your soul, as the Scripture promises that it shall do. Anything less than this direct dealing with Christ is disobedience to the gospel.

        J. I. Packer

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