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"Living With a Clean Slate"
by Barbara Smith

Today almost every country in the world observes a New Year's Day celebration with revelry and gravity. People often celebrate the prospect of a brand-new year at parties and indulge in silly superstitions. We eat special foods rumored to bring good luck like black-eyed peas and pickled herring. At the stroke of midnight we watch a ball of light dropping from a tower in New York City. We shout "Happy New Year!" light firecrackers, bang pots to chase away the evil of the previous year and wax sentimental at strains of "Auld Lang Syne."

The world collectively hopes for a new beginning, a chance to start, with the past year's failures and fiascos forgotten. We have been celebrating the prospect of a new year and the clean slate it suggests since before Christ's birth. In 46 BC Julius Caesar established January 1 as the beginning of the new year and dedicated the day to Janus, the god of gates, doors and beginnings.

So, although we resolve to do good, we fail, sometimes in the very first hours of January! The Roman god of beginnings fails again to usher people through any gate of change, and we quickly return to our bad habits! Then as January becomes indistinguishable from previous months, we quickly forget our pledges and resolutions -- almost as quickly as we forgot the wonder of the Christmas season.

We cannot keep our earnest resolutions, no matter how many spoonfuls of lucky food we consume. We cannot drive evil away by banging pots and shakers. Nor will we become more compassionate just by singing "Auld Lang Syne." In our heart of hearts, while we want to do right - our flesh fails! We pop the chocolate in our piggish mouths, curse the very next thing that goes wrong, and seethe with anger while plotting revenge.

The apostle Paul understood; he tried to overcome bad habits and failed, and came to the conclusion, "that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature." (Romans 7 18- 25) Paul grieved as we grieve when we survey the results of our good intentions: "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing."

What he discovered about himself, we also know about ourselves. "Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."


Sin is not a word we hear much about during the excesses of the holidays. However, confessing it is the key to opening the door to a new beginning. Nobody coerces me to eat chocolate; no one compels the angry words that spew from my lips; and nobody commands me to be impetuous, imprudent and self-centered. What but sin explains our continual failure to do that which we purpose to do?

Paul confessed that the origin of his failures was not in his upbringing or his job or his marital status. "For in my inner being I delight in God's law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? "

As a former Pharisee and master of many laws, Paul knew that a set of resolutions could never free him. Paul was looking for a person. "Thanks be to God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin."

It is not our resolve that delivers us from sin; it is the resolve of our Lord to save us. The baby whose birth Christians just celebrated, grew up to be the perfect sin bearer. It is He who rescues us from the penalty of our sins - not our resolutions. His Holy Spirit empowers us to choose healthy new habits and live by healthy new attitudes.

New Year's celebrations, with well-established superstitions and poignant tunes have no power to wipe our slates clean! Simply turning a calendar page does not open a gate to new life. Trusting Jesus Christ opens the gate to a new life, and committing yourself to Christ can be done on any morning of the year - but the sooner the better!

Christians need not fumble for a gate or a door to a fresh start; our God is the gate through which we may pass with confidence. (John 10:7,9) Our Immanuel is beside the door, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20) We anchor our hope that we can begin again in God Himself. "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, `The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'" (Lamentations 3:21-24)

© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.

Please send a copy of the publication to:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012

We hope our thoughts encourage you in the Lord Jesus Christ who has enabled us to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined -- please let us know what YOU think. E-mail us at workbook@toad.net. (Please don't forget to include your e-mail address with in the body of the message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient e-mail addresses.)


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Barbara & Douglas Smith
"This hope we have as an anchor of the soul ..."
Hebrews 6:19

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