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January 2016 - A Clean Slate

A Clean Slate

Many look forward to the start of a new year because there comes with it the sense of a new beginning – of starting over with a clean slate.  And that actually is not a bad idea. There is indeed an important truth to the need of a clean slate and living with one each day.

With the closing of the past year and the sense of looking back, I imagine that all of us have at times anguished over something in the past – have desperately said to ourselves: "I wish I could have done this… or I wish I would have done that…. If only I could do it again. If only I could turn back the clock. "

     Expressions like these all point us to the past. We wish we could go back and make a change, to go back and do it all over again. But we can't go back, knowing what we know now, and do it over, do it better, make fewer mistakes. That day no longer belongs to us.  It is past, gone. There is nothing that we can do to erase the past.  That is something only God can do (and did do in Christ). 

And therefore, what we can do is give the past to the One Who can do something and has done something with it - To give the past to our dear heavenly Father, commend it to His forgiveness and mercy, and ask Him to right what is wrong, to help us finish what is undone, and to renew us for today. God has forgiven us.  Our sin, guilt is gone, as far removed from us as the east is from the west.  Our sinful past is gone!  Period. God has forgiven us, and therefore He wants us to forgive ourselves.

And yet, sometimes that is the hardest part. Even though we know that God has forgiven us, and even when other people have forgiven us, we find it so hard to forgive ourselves. We begin to feel more and more burden from guilt, unable to find a way to forgive ourselves.

The only answer for (dealing with the past) is to look outside of ourselves to the objective grace and promises of God.  This is not some overly simplistic, quaint, pat answer.  It is the only true answer to our dilemma.  To over and over again, look outside of ourselves, outside of our self-evaluation, and reassure ourselves of God’s view of us, of the forgiveness of sins that is ours. This is where the value of the sacraments grows even more.  You can look to your Baptism - the absolute historical event God performed upon you that cannot be changed, cannot not be removed from you, that Satan or your own sinful flesh cannot deny.  

Or there is the gift of Confession and Absolution – the wonderful reassurance that God has indeed removed our guilt from us as far as the east is from the west.  And not only do have the opportunities for such reassurance in the Divine Service,  but there is also the wonderful blessings of private confession and absolution – where believers can come and receive the individual, personalized reassurance of their forgiveness in Christ they may not feel in the corporate service.

And of course, there is the wonderful, tangible, external reassurance of forgiveness and grace received in the Supper. There, as we partake of the Bread and Wine, we know without any doubt that we are taking the very forgiveness of God within us – how much more can it be a part us, tangible for us, real for us!

That is how we can live with our past sins/mistakes, and not in it, by the forgiveness of God we know that the past is truly gone, that our guilt is washed away.  That we have a clean slate!

And it is that same forgiveness that God has accomplished for us that can enable us to deal with the mistakes and hurt others have committed against us in the past that can enable us to truly forgive them. Resentment, anger, or revenge over the past can poison our lives. But again, these things are in the past. Instead of grievances turning us bitter, we are let go of them, and let God handle it.  God will take care of them. He is the Just One, the One who will see that True Justice will take place; and Who says, "Revenge is mine.”  He would tell us to let other’s offenses against us go, leave it to Him, forgive, and go on. 

And how can we do that, when sometimes what others have done can cause us so much anger, pain, and hurt?  How can we truly turn it over to God and forgive them?  By focusing on just how much we have been forgiven each day. Only that will help enable us to be able to actually forgive those who have wronged us. And with the pain of our own sinful past/mistakes gone, as well as the burden of others’ sins against us forgiven, indeed we can rejoice that much more in today - with those burdens gone!  For we live with a clean slate. 

Pastor

 

 

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