Both are desirable; both are needed; both are good!
The fresh start is what we long for when we’re in a bind. Nothing wrong with that. This is the stuff that lotto-winning fantasies are made of. The stuff of miracles. New job, new house, new car, new country, new life! The dreams of others touch us deeply because we identify. New bone marrow, new liver, new optic nerve. And how uber-cool it is when these things happen. And they do! Our God is a God of miracles, and if you’ve been around Him much you’ll have seen it all – new job, new house, new liver, new optic nerve.
But fresh starts are not always good enough. The Lord once offered Moses just such a fresh start (Exodus 32:7-14). “New everything”, God generously offered (I’m paraphrasing loosely). To folks in a bind his response is incomprehensible. “Thanks for the offer”, he said (more loose paraphrasing), “but let’s rather stay with this mess” .
Why would anyone do that? Two reasons in his case. The first is obvious. Accepting God’s offer meant certain death for well-upwards of a million people, some of whom were Moses’ family. By declining, he was saving lives and granting multitudes a second chance. It’s a great lesson. Sometimes we stay with the mess for the sake of others.
The second reason Moses declined is because he understood. He understood that he was just like the rest of us, and any fresh start would be a temporary solution. None of us can pull off the ideal. He made a good call; he was excluded from the Promised Land along with the rest a little later on. The truth is that fresh starts don’t produce utopia because of the fallen-factor. However much we might resist the thought, miracles are in and of themselves only temporary fixes. Tomb-exiting Lazarus is not still alive today. Winning the lotto destroys many lives. New jobs don’t always work out, new cities become old, and new cars fender-bend just as well as the old ones.
Thank God for miracles, but the new birth is much more. Being born again is a permanent solution. It is much more than a fresh start. It is a new beginning; a re-defining; an altogether-other intervention. Praise God for miracles, but the engine-room of transformation is not the fresh start but the new beginning! This is so, because, rather than settle for a change of circumstances, the new birth produces a brand new you!
This new beginning was not an option for Moses – the New Covenant had not yet been cut; the Spirit had not yet been given in fullness; union with Christ and regeneration was yet come. It was not yet an option for Moses, but it is our reality. The new beginning that was beyond Moses was in reach of Jesus, who began anew for Adam, and in so doing began anew for all of us. In Christ, we are new creations. We have been made new! Miracles deal with symptoms; the new birth deals with underlying causes. Fresh starts are great – they intervene in our circumstances; new beginnings are even greater – they transform us. Miracles bless us; the new birth makes us blessed.
You might need a miracle today. Many of us need a few. Let’s ask God for them and believe for them without apology. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are already a new beginning. This is who we are! All the time. Because we are new, every situation and circumstance is already infused with hope. Because we are new, every day is a new day. In making us new, God has already made up His mind about us. He has plans for us, and His are good plans.