Step One: Choose God’s Love
Each person has to make the decision for themselves to choose Jesus. At the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, following his baptism, he went into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and nights, he then endures a series of temptations all centered around Jesus’ authority and worship. In the final portion of their discourse Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him” (Matt. 4:10).
It’s not surprising at all that this temptation occurred immediately following Jesus’ baptism. How often do people receive the gift of salvation and get baptized, only to have significant temptation immediately thrown their way? We are all invited to the place of beginnings, but there will also be many invitations for us to leave. Therefore, there must be a consistent emphasis on choosing to worship the Lord our God. The gift of choice is a blessing that should never be underestimated or overlooked. Our response to God’s love is to then choose to love God in return, and that means we are choosing to worship him. The gift of our salvation is that forever responding with adoration and obedience is a choice. A choice that only makes sense “in view of the mercies of God” (Rom. 12:1).
It is also the last part of Jesus’ statement to the devil that is helpful. He says, serve only him. By choosing Jesus, we eliminate all other options to worship anything else. We are saying with our lives that there is only one true God, and we seek to worship him and him alone. When all other options for worship are eliminated in our lives, it affords us the ability to simply focus on our original purpose—the place of beginnings. By loving Jesus, we say “Go away!” to any form of service divorced from honoring Jesus. Only the person confident in the grace of Jesus does not fall prey to worship false gods. After all, when we awaken to the person and work of Christ, we realize that there are no other gods that can be worshiped. In this sense, we could say that there are no false gods, just deceived people.
Step Two: Recognize and Respond to God’s Everyday Morning Reminder
My favorite time to be outside are those few minutes before a rainstorm builds. Living in central Florida gives me ample opportunity to enjoy those moments when the temperature drops, the wind begins to blow, and the sun seems to take a break. I will stop whatever I am doing and just go stand outside. It’s as if nature itself is breathing in possibility. The air feels so fresh and clean against my face. Hope is on the move as the rain begins to fall. Spanish moss dances on the winds as they blow through the old oaks. The palm trees sway and those little ripples appear on the pond out front. If our little corner of cow country outside of Orlando, Florida, had a soundtrack, I would put the moments before a storm on repeat.
I love how God even uses nature to whisper his purposes and presence. Each morning, the sun parades across the horizon and illuminates everything in its path. It awakens the world to a new day, one that has never been experienced before nor will ever be experienced again. The prophet Jeremiah demonstrates this type of new beginning in the book of Lamentations. Jeremiah had experienced more pain and disappointment in one life than others would in ten lifetimes. It is a book written by a brokenhearted man who spent many years sharing the message God had given him, only to have no one respond. That’s right, zero response to God’s message through his prophet Jeremiah. Furthermore, the city that he loved, Jerusalem, was being brutally overthrown.
So the prophet put his laments, his sorrows, his pain, down on paper. It is such an emotional book that it caught the attention of one of history’s most renown artists, Rembrandt, who sought to depict it in his painting: Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem. While reading the book a section seems to burst forth from Jeremiah’s soul testifying to the character and goodness of God.
Because of the Lord’s
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness! (Lam. 3:22–23)
Jeremiah learned the secret of living in the beginning place, even when his entire life seemed littered with heartache and heartbreak. It was to see something about God in the dawning of each day. With every sunrise, just as the light covers the earth, we are covered in mercies of God. And guess what, it happens again and again without fail every morning. The lovingkindness of God is new every day. God puts on the most glorious light show every morning to remind us to reside in his faithfulness and experience his mercy.
God is inviting us to live in a place brimming with hope and breathing in possibility. That place that feels like the moments just before a storm, that space when the light pierces the darkness each morning, a place where we are new creations that will never grow old. The life you and I were meant to live revels in the beauty of grace, renewing our awe of God every day. For without awe and reverence for the Lord your God whose “mercies never end,” life would be senseless, lacking any understanding or meaning.
Sure, there is pain, loss, and suffering in the beginning place. After all, we are redeemed and not yet restored. We are new creations here on earth stumbling our way to heaven. But we are redeemed, we are new. Something has been granted to us that was lost in the garden. Therefore, God’s enduring-unwavering-never failing-presence is our everyday-sustaining-keeping-us-new-provision.