For many people, the new year is a time to leave old problems and fears behind and get a fresh start on life. The trouble is, for most of us, the old problems and fears just won't stay behind us. We want to press forward with our lives, but mistakes, sins and trials seem to have us shackled to the past.
The truth is, though, that for the sake of Jesus Christ, God has forgiven and forgotten our sins. Even though we may still have to live with some of the effects of our sins, we no longer need to feel guilty about them. We no longer need to worry that God doesn't love us or that he doesn't accept us. We no longer need to feel afraid that we might not make it into his glorious kingdom! Yes, we are sinners. But God says that for the sake of Jesus, we are forgiven.
It is my earnest hope and prayer that you will enter the new year with the full assurance of faith that God has forgiven you and made you his beloved child. Think of it! You stand innocent before God. God himself has stepped in to pay your debts and crown you with the dignity and honor of a beloved child!
No matter how far you have advanced or not advanced in your career, no matter how far short you may fall of your personal goals, no matter what sins have marred your life, no matter what a mess you've made of things, no matter how you or others perceive your status or importance in life — regardless of all these things, when you believe the gospel, you belong to God. You are now his, and he makes all things, including you, new.
It isn't that you are suddenly transformed into a faultless person. It's that God has given his grace to you. You see, friends, it's not about what we deserve. It's not about how successful we've been or how hard we've worked. It's about love. It's about a God who loves us in spite of ourselves. He loves us so much that he did everything that needed to be done to save us from ourselves. He became a man, a human like us, and died on the cross without sin to save us from death and release us from the power of sin in our lives.
Paul refers to God's grace toward us as an indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). Humanly, it seems far too good to be true. Yet it is true. And it is my prayer that you will know and feel the wonderful truth of God's precious gift to you. That's what the church is all about. It is about worshiping our Redeemer. It is about letting the Holy Spirit lead us to be conformed to the image of Christ. It is about believing the gospel and accepting God's love. It is about letting God's love in us spill out on each other and on all those whom God brings into our lives. It is about sharing the wonderful truth of freedom from guilt and sin and death to all who will listen and believe the good news.
In this world there are important people and unimportant people. In the kingdom of God there is no such thing as an unimportant person. Every person is infinitely important. We are all part of one another through the Holy Spirit. We are one in Christ, and what happens to one of us affects all of us. Every time you have reached out in love to another person, you have helped build and extend the kingdom of God.
Even though the kingdom will not be here in its full glory until Jesus returns, he lives powerfully in his people now. And your gospel work in Jesus' name — whether it's a kind word, a helping hand, a listening ear, a sacrificial labor of love, a prayer of faith or a telling of the story of Jesus — is moving mountains of doubt, tearing down walls of hatred and fear, and attacking strongholds of rebellion and sin.