13th June 2017

Where Do I Begin?

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

The question of where to begin can often be as exciting as it can be daunting. Just as the artist’s blank canvas imposes a weight of decision, though inviting a fresh new opportunity for expression, so it is that the various crossroads of life become meeting points of pensive determinations and fresh challenges. However, life is seldom a steady cavalcade of incomplex choices and pleasant prospects. As Scotland’s ploughman poet once observed: the best laid schemes o’ mice and men’ go oft awry[1] and life, if nothing else, is full of surprises. Sometimes life can hurl a cruel object in your path that has the effect of undoing all your ‘beginnings’ and raging you back to a starting point you would never have chosen. As Heather, one of the survivors of a fictional school shooting, remarks; after being brought by tragedy to the brink of despair, then back again to some semblance of faith and hope: “So where do you start when you want to start your life again?”[2]

The New Testament records how one real life character, a young man named Saul of Tarsus, faced that same poignant question. But Saul was not a victim of violence, like the young girl in the fictional story referred to above. On the contrary, the account in the book of Acts tells of an angry young man riding towards the ancient city of Damascus with ferocious intent, “full of menace and the fury of murder”[3] towards the disciples of Jesus, the Nazarene, crucified by the Roman authorities a year or two earlier, whose followers Saul now purposed to destroy.

According to the scriptural account, it was on the Damascus road that Saul was suddenly crushed by an epiphany he would never forget. In a moment of blinding realization, hatred was transmuted into abject remorse and Saul’s world tossed into turmoil, as he came face to face with this Jesus, of whom it was said, God had raised again.

So where do you start when you want to start your life again? Saul’s response was to ask another more direct question: “Lord, what will you have me to do?” (Acts 9:6 MEV)

Not all our starting points are as momentous as this, but Jesus’ disciples recognise that God has a plan for every individual, believer and unbeliever alike, and that Jesus ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). As theologian Thomas Torrance explained, it is “through Jesus’ death on the cross [that] God has intervened decisively on our behalf to establish our lives on an entirely new basis. We can only begin from the new basis, from the fact that it has come about in the death and resurrection of Jesus.”[4] Saul, also known as Paul (Acts 13:9), describes the believer’s experience of the universal impact of Jesus’ atoning death in this way: “For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3 NLT).

So, whatever it is you are preparing for or planning, whether it is a major or minor undertaking, there is, really, only one starting point for those who understand what God has done in Christ, and that is to “seek first the reign of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33 YLT). That means perceiving the reality of our new life in Christ, which we take hold of by faith, and acknowledging Jesus as Lord of that new life. The question we should always begin with then, is: “Lord, what will you have me to do?”

Heavenly Father, we rejoice in the new life you have given us in Christ Jesus, your son, whom we joyfully and thankfully serve. Help us, as we surrender our lives, daily, to his loving care, to share the good news of his Lordship and his love.

Study by Richard Dempsey

[1] Burns, Robert, “Tae a Moose” Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, Kilmarnock Edition

[2] Coupland, Douglas, Hey Nostradamus, Harper Perennial, p.206

[3] Acts 9:1, Aramaic Bible in Plain English, Glenn David Bauscher, Glenn, David

[4] Torrance, Thomas F. Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ, InterVarsity Press, p.xl


About the Author:
Richard Dempsey is an Elder in the Peterborough congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK.

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Peterborough
Farcet Village Hall
Main Street

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2 pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Alan Quinn
Email: quinnsatfarcet@aol.com


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