Start the new year off with a clean slate

By Leonard Lauriault

Forgetting what is behind

Each year, the month of December, and even more so for the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day, television shows as well as newspaper and magazine articles abound about the 10 (or sometimes even 100) most significant events of the year, by category – politics, sports, weather (where I got the idea for this article), car wrecks, rodeo wrecks – whatever. These shows are usually enjoyable and it’s important to review history because, as the adage goes, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. (As thrilling as it seems, the rodeo wrecks remind me that it is definitely a spectator sport for me.)

We often view each new year as an opportunity to start off with a clean slate – to begin life anew. It’s good to forget the past so that it doesn’t keep us from progressing toward the future with bright hope because that’s God’s plan for us (Philippians 3: 12-16; Jeremiah 29: 11). While hope is one of the enduring gifts from God, it still needs a reason for existing – a driving force that causes the desire for improved conditions (1 Corinthians 13: 13; Romans 5: 1-5; 1 Timothy 1: 1). Consequently, while we shouldn’t let the past interfere with our future, we must at least recognize that it provides the encouragement that the future will be better.

In Ephesians 4: 4-6, we’re told there’s one (and it’s implied only one) of several things including hope. Surrounding hope in those verses are: one body (the church – Ephesians 1: 22, 23) in which all agree on the one faith (Ephesians 2: 8; 3: 4; 1 Corinthians 1: 10-17) that leads the individual to submit to the one baptism into that one body for the forgiveness of sins (1 Corinthians 12: 12,13; Acts 2: 38, 39, 41, 47; Romans 6: 1-7; Ephesians 4: 20-24; 1: 3-10) in the name of the one Spirit (Acts 19: 1-5; Ephesians 1: 13,1 4), one Lord (Philippians 2: 11; Ephesians 1: 18-21), and one God and Father of all (Ephesians 3: 14-21; Matthew 28: 18-20). This one hope is of glory (a bright future) based on the fact that Christ is in us (Colossians 1: 27; Galatians 3: 26-4: 7; Romans 8: 9-11).

Again, although we’re to press on toward the heavenward prize to which we’ve been called, we’re also to always be ready to give the reason for the hope we have in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 15: 19; 1 Thessalonians 1: 3; Titus 1: 2; 2: 131 Peter 3: 15). Some rightly say that the reason for our hope is Jesus’ sacrifice of atonement (Romans 3: 25, 26; Hebrews 2: 14-18); however, the continuing question of “why” begs a more in depth response that’s only answered as we remember the past. So, what’s the reason (from the past) for the hope we now have? From what did we flee toward our hope (Hebrews 6: 17, 18)?

Some say their past life was miserable due to abuse or some other poor relationship while others attest that their life was empty – without meaning – causing them to seek fulfillment or pleasure (more likely delusion) in various things until they found ultimate fulfillment in Christ (this is the theme of Ecclesiastes; John 10: 10). These are certainly reasons for concern causing the desire for something better that we hope for specifically as a goal; but, they’re merely symptoms of why we need Christ. The root of all our troubles, whether an unfulfilled life or interpersonal problems, is sin (sins we committed or those committed by others that collaterally affect us). Sin is the problem for each individual and forgiveness through Christ Jesus is the single answer to that problem for each person – the reason for our hope (Romans 3: 23, 24; 6: 23; Acts 4: 12; Colossians 3: 11).

When we’re forgiven, God forgets our sins and assures us that they’ve been separated from us by an unfathomable distance (Jeremiah 31: 34; Psalm 103: 11, 12). We often remind ourselves of our “worst” sins, though, or Satan does (Psalm 51: 3; Revelation 12: 9-11). So, we also need to remember that we’ve been forgiven. That’s the fact of history that gives us hope for the future and so that’s what we need to remember from the past – not the sin; but, the forgiveness, which will help us to not be doomed to repeat the past by continuing to sin because that defeats God’s purpose altogether, according to Romans 6: 1-7.

Remembering that we’ve been forgiven brings growth in a way that allows us to enjoy portions of our bright future in the here and now (2 Peter 1: 3-11). If you haven’t been forgiven, seek that today so you can start off the new year with a clean slate.

Leonard Lauriault, church of Christ