“You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24, NRSV)
A new school year is upon us, and for all those who are back in school, it’s a clean slate. Whatever happened last year is old news. You have a chance to start again. You have an opportunity to begin again. For some, that’s a relief while for others, it’s a lot of pressure. Like my parents use to say, “Just do your best, and that’s all we expect of you.”
Luckily, in our spiritual journey of walking with Jesus Christ, every day is a new beginning. I’ve shared before that my favorite prayer is simply this: “O God of new beginnings and second chances, here I am…again!” I am grateful that our God is a God of new beginnings and second chances. And third chances. And fourth chances. And however many chances we need.
What is beautiful about God’s infinite grace is that it allows us to develop our faithfulness at successively deeper levels. The reality is that every time I miss the mark and find myself relying on God’s grace to start again, I am not beginning at the same point as the previous attempt. I am further along in my development as a follower of Jesus Christ. With each attempt, I am making progress. My inner spirit is being formed first, through my attempt at faithfulness, then through the gift of God’s grace when I fail, and finally, through what I’m learning along the way. God’s grace enables me to continue the journey toward becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
I am not yet what I will be, but I am thankful that I’m not what I used to be. Without the gift of God’s grace, I am stuck in my sinfulness and my brokenness. With God’s grace, I am free to begin again and to learn from my past.
I love the way Paul describes this in Ephesians. In creation, God imprinted us with his likeness. Although our tendency is to regress into a less than ideal existence where we seek the things that can harm us, God is at work through his grace renewing our mind and giving us a new identity. Paul says it’s like dressing yourself. Each day, we put on something to wear, and he reminds us to put on the righteousness of God. Doing so is like putting on a new outfit every day. As we grow in grace, we become more and more like Jesus, who is the picture of who God wants us to be. None of this is possible without God’s grace working within us.
Our new sermon series is about how God’s grace is greater than anything that might separate us from God’s love. It will be an opportunity to be affirmed by the love God has for you. And it will be an opportunity for you to activate God’s grace to help you grow daily in your relationship with God. I look forward to seeing you this Sunday!
Rev. Dale Cohen
Senior Pastor of Canterbury United Methodist Church