A lot of people think of New Year’s Day as a fresh start. The old year has passed away (good riddance!), and the new year is upon us with all new opportunities to put our lives on a different course. Problem is, we are starting with the same old self who saw midnight the night before.
Jesus presents an entirely different scenario in the New Testament – a real “do-over” – in John 8:1-11. Verse 11 states: “‘Neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.'” But how do we leave the old life in the past?
Max Lucado writes in Zondervan’s Men’s Devotional Bible, “We are very thirsty. Not thirsty for fame, possessions, passion or romance. We’ve drunk from those pools. They are salt water in the desert. They don’t quench—they kill.
”’Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…’ Righteousness. That’s it. That’s what we are thirsty for. We’re thirsty for a clean conscience. We crave a clean slate. We yearn for a fresh start. We pray for a hand which will enter the dark cavern of our world and do for us the one thing we can’t do for ourselves—make us right again.'”
There are many stories in the Gospels about Jesus forgiving sin. It was one of the Pharisees’ big bugaboos against Him – “No one can forgive sin, but God.” Palm to the nose. They got that one exactly right. Like Lucado says, the righteousness that comes with God’s forgiveness is what we crave deep down. With it, we have a truly clean slate, a fresh start. Without it, nothing is different, nothing CAN be different.
How to keep the slate clean? Start with these words from an adulterer and murder:
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
—King David, Psalm 51: 1-2, 10-12