This is a question I cannot answer for everyone. I can however answer the question, “Where can we begin?”
Our culture adamantly, and sometimes almost violently cries out for positive affirmation and, at the same time, a lack of judgment… most of the time very hypocritically. I grew up in a family that was no stranger to the notion that churches were full of hypocrites, but to be honest, I have seen as many hypocrites in law firms, prisons, restaurants, and food pantries – among the rich and poor alike. Regardless of what our t-shirt slogans and bumper stickers say, I think the honest desire of our hearts is that our past mistakes would be “understood” and largely overlooked, while our present personal desires would be affirmed – regardless of what they are or who they benefit. We are, in many ways, the poster child for hedonistic society that C.S. Lewis wrote about in his book Mere Christianity.
Here’s what I love about God’s grace given to us in Jesus Christ:
- God judges us. When I’m drowning in my own sin and selfishness, with no direction and have become a hindrance or am hurting those around me… God lets me know. He judges me for the sin of prejudice in how I treat those different from myself and He judges me for the ways I put Him last instead of first – or make up my own way of serving Him instead of obeying what He has told me through Scripture and the trusted counsel of Christians holding me accountable. He has high expectations for my life and does not settle for less than the best person that He created me to be.
- God does not just encourage us… He empowers us. When our strength, wisdom, patience, knowledge, etc. ends, His Holy Spirit begins to pick up the slack and provide for us. His Spirit is like one of those portable phone battery chargers except it is unlimited in its power because it is like plugging in to God Himself. This might be how eternal life actually works. Even if we run ourselves down to nothing and our battery is completely dead, if we are plugged into God, we can still live like we are on 100%.
Because God both judges and empowers us, the answer to the question: Where can we start? is with a fresh start for ourselves. The world around us may choose to keep living in the same spirit as last year, but we don’t have to. God’s grace identifies the guilt and shame that hides in our lives, and as Jesus takes that upon Himself, we are set free to begin again from scratch with at least one single choice. Will you follow God this year or not? You may not immediatly have any other choice available to you, but because…God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.
So, wherever you are today, you can take your first step of 2017 toward God or away from Him. Which will you choose?