For the next few days we will hear all about the top events of 2019. In sports it was the Washington Nationals winning the World Series,
Tiger Woods returned and won the Masters,
and maybe the most exciting of all, Penn State men’s basketball is ranked in the top 25 for the first time in 23 years!
In weather we had Hurricane Dorian that leveled parts of the Bahamas,
and in politics…
… let’s not even go there.
As we approach the end of a year – and also an end of a decade – we will also think back and reflect on our own lives. For all of us there have been highs and lows, joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies. As we enter this New Year we need to learn how to let go of the lows, the sorrows, and the tragedies. It is only in letting go of the problems and failures of our past and travelling light we are able to live into the fullness of the future. If we constantly rehearse and rehash our past failures, we will never reach the full potential God has for us. One of the most famous doctors of all time – Lucy Van Pelt – said it the most profoundly when she was talking with Charlie Brown at a baseball game.
The past got in my eyes. If we don’t let go of the past it will constantly be in our eyes. Our past mistakes, failures, and pain cloud our vision and if allowed to remain they will shape our future. Looking back to reflect is one thing, looking back to learn from our mistakes and failures is ok, but to daily look back and remember – to literally rejoin ourselves to the painful and negative events of the past is something we have to let go. Isaiah 43:18-19.
So once again, let’s travel light into the New Year and let go of the past, and it starts by acknowledging what it is in the past that we need to let go. To truly let go, we need to acknowledge the pain or the problem. We need to acknowledge the sorrow and the sin if we are going to be able to let it go. If we can’t name what the problems are that we struggle with, and if we can’t name the sin that weighs us down, then we can never fully let it go. We have to acknowledge our past and honestly deal with it.
King David was a man who had been called by God to lead the people of Israel and make them into a great nation, but he also had some deep flaws and failures. He committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba, and then tried to cover up that sin by having her husband killed. After these events, David just went on with his life, he never acknowledged his sin or his failure. Because he never acknowledged the problem, he never asked God for forgiveness or help. Without asking for forgiveness, those failures were still a part of his life, and his past had the potential to shape his future. In order for David to truly move on he needed to acknowledge his failure, so God sent a prophet named Nathan to help open David’s eyes.
David finally did acknowledge his sin, and in Psalm 51 he teaches us the process of letting go of the past, and it starts by acknowledging our pain and problems and sin. Psalm 51:3-4.
Here David acknowledges his sin and confesses his failure to God. At times what we need to do is name our sin and failure to God. While God knows what the problem is, we need to name it so that we can own up to it in our own lives. If it is sin, then we need to get honest about it so we can really begin to move beyond it. Sometimes we need to name our sin so that we see what it is that has a hold on our hearts and lives. Sometimes we need to own our failures so that we can learn from them and move beyond them. Naming the sin and failure is helpful for us to move forward into the new life God has for us.
Sometimes what we need to let go of is not sin but the pain and hurt of our past, or the sorrow of loss. In these situations, it is still important to name what is going on. God never tires of hearing about where we are struggling in loss, and our disappointments matter to God. Again, naming the situation isn’t for God’s sake, it is for us. Being honest about how we have been hurt and disappointed allows us to work through the pain and learn how to let it go. Whether it is sin, failures, disappointment, hurt, or loss, naming those things in our past that are holding us back is the first step in letting them go.
The second step in letting go is to Ask. We might need to ask God for forgiveness, we might need to ask God for healing, or ask God for help, but in every situation, what we are asking God for is the grace we need to let go and move forward. Psalm 51:1-2.
David reminds us here that the One we are turning to for help is the One who loves us, according to your great compassion, and it is because of this love that God offers help and healing and wholeness. It is because of God’s love for us that God is willing to listen when we come to him and reach to us each and every day. Lamentations 3:22.
New every morning is God’s compassion and faithfulness. This means that every day we can turn to God and ask for his grace and mercy. Every day we can ask God for help. God never tires of hearing us ask for help because when we ask for help we are saying, God, we love you, we trust you, and we need you. As a parent, is there any greater words you can hear? God desires this kind of relationship with us. The primary relationship in the three we focus on here at Faith Church is our Relationship with God. One of the rhythms in that relationship is identity and part of our identity is that we are children of God who need God’s grace and love, and so God invites us to ask for that every day. While we only need to acknowledge our past and confess our sin once, we do need to ask God for grace every day because it is that grace that helps us stay focused on the present and the future. I would invite you to use Lamentations 3:22 as a daily prayer or daily reading to remind you of God’s grace that is new and available every morning.
So we acknowledge our past pain and problems, we ask God for grace, but then we have to accept what God offers. Sometimes it is this step that is the hardest for us because what God offers is free. We don’t deserve to be forgiven and we can’t earn God’s grace. It is there as a gift – freely given. Will we accept it? If we never accept God’s grace, we never experience the power of forgiveness or the freedom of life that helps us move forward.
David was willing to accept God’s grace. He imagined God’s grace washing over him, cleansing him from the stain of sin. He willingly let God’s grace enter his heart and life. He sought the healing power of God and allowed it to change him, to cleanse and purify him. These are great images to think about. Accepting God’s grace is like being cleansed. It is like being washed clean from the filth of the past. God’s forgiveness removes the stain of sin. It washes away the hurt of the past, it wipes the slate clean so we can start fresh each day, and each New Year.
Truly accepting God’s grace and knowing that we are forgiven and washed clean is not always easy. Because we often feel unworthy, we need is to hear this message day after day after day. Read Lamentations 3:19-26 every day for a week. Read 1 John 1:9 and 4:9-10. Read Psalm 103:9-14. Passages like these remind us that God does love us and his love is available to forgive us, to wash us clean, and to help us live a new life.
And then finally we need to Advance.Psalm 51:13-15.
David is looking ahead to what God has for him. He will teach others who have sinned how to let go of their past, (which he is still doing today through his words given to us!) and he will sing of God’s goodness, and praise God for his mercy. David doesn’t dwell on the past, he advances into the future to do all that God is asking him to do. Letting go of our past also means walking into the future God has for us. We can’t look back, we have to look at what we have and where we are today. Psalm 118:24 says, this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
God truly does want us looking to the present and future and not focused on the pain and problems of the past. While God was constantly calling his people to remember, he was not asking people to remember their sin and problems, he was asking them to remember God’s faithfulness and promises so that they would have strength and power to advance into the life God had for them. We look back to see the power of God, not the problems that keep us down. We look back to the see the forgiveness God offers, not our constant failures. We look back so we can look forward with faith that God is always with us and therefore our future can be better.
The apostle Paul said,Philippians 3:13 – 14, and in 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone and the new is here. The new is here. A new year is here, a new decade begins, a new life for us is available because God’s mercy and faithfulness is with us today and will be with us every day. God is inviting us into this new day, this new life, but we only experience it by letting go of the past so:
Acknowledge the past,
Ask for God’s grace,
Accept God’s grace.
Advance into the future.
Let us travel light into this new year.
Travel Light – Letting Go Of The Past
1. As you review 2019, what problems, pain, and sin do you need to let go?
2. Acknowledge the pain, problem, and sin and offer it to God.
- Name the problem.
- Write out the painful situation.
- Confess the sin to God.
- If you can, share this situation with a trusted friend who can help you let go.
3. Ask for God’s grace.
- Daily ask God for mercy, strength, and peace.
- Read Psalm 51 and use it as a weekly prayer.
4. Accept God’s grace.
- Read Lamentations 3:22 each day for a week.
- Read 1 John 1:9, 1 John 4:9-10 & Psalm 103:9-14.
- Use images like washing away, erasing, and blotting out to help you see how God’s grace truly does forgive our sin and remove our past.
5. Advance into the new day. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
- How can you be glad in this new day?
- What one new thing is God asking you to do in 2020?
- What new disciple can help you deepen and develop your relationship with God, the church, or the world?
For more information on the 3 Relationships, go to bellefontefaith.com/3r and check out the 3R workshops coming on Saturday January 25.