A special service of remembrance and renewal
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
27 OCTOBER 1991
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Genesis 1:1, 31
2 Corinthians 5:17
1 John 5:1-5
Introit: Love Grows Here
Preparation Verse: (Genesis 1:1)
1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Hymn: All Creatures of Our God and King
In the beginning God did create the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), and in the opinion of God Himself, when He surveyed all that He had made, "…it was very good." (Genesis 1:31)
In fact, it was perfect.
There was nothing wrong.
Nothing needed to be fixed.
No one needed healing.
There was no death, as we can see by the diet that God provided for both human beings and other animals (Genesis 1:29-30).
29 Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;
30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food ";and it was so.
It was a perfect beginning.
But then Satan rebelled against the Lord and was cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14:13-14), and we had another new beginning: one in which the forces of evil began to war against that which was perfect and righteous.
And in Satan's rebellion, he enticed Eve and Adam to likewise disobey the Lord God and eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 3:6)
Then we had another new beginning: true innocence was lost, death came upon the earth, and we had to learn to live knowing both good and evil.
But in all of the Lord's love, He gave us a way of escape – a way to be forgiven (Genesis 3:21); but the effects of our sin were still with us.
We continued to rebel more and more, and refused to return to the Lord to such an extent that every intent of man’s heart was continuously evil, and God was sorry that He had made us; thus, He blotted out every creature that breathed, except Noah, his family, and some of the animals. (Genesis 6:5-8)
And so, we had another new beginning, but we still didn't listen to the Lord our God.
Then God called Abraham to be separated from the world of rebellion, and to begin again with a race of people that would follow the Lord their God. (Genesis 12:1)
These people also rebelled against the Lord, but God still loved the world that He had created; so, He sent His only begotten Son to give us still another new beginning. (John 3:16)
Anthem: Jr. Choir - Times and Seasons
Scripture Reading: Psalm 1:1-3
1. How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2. But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Within the time span of all of our lives we are presented with a number of opportunities to have a new beginning.
We say we wish we had a chance to do something over; but when presented with the opportunity, we quite often pass it by.
Throughout the ages, the Lord has been telling us to depart from evil and to seek Him.
He has given us the ability to return to much of the perfection of Eden, and live without doing harm to our fellow human beings or to any of the animals, but for the most part, we have chosen not to do so.
He has told us to separate ourselves from people who lead ungodly lives, that we not be enticed away by their actions or give the wrong impression, that we agree with their lifestyle.
For as long as we remain in that environment, there is no new beginning.
But when we turn to the Lord with our whole being, He grafts us into His tree.
In our first season with the Lord, we may not produce any fruit, but as times and seasons pass, we will produce an abundance of fruit.
We are not to get discouraged because everything doesn't happen all at once.
If we are patient and persistent, only good will come from our new beginning with the Lord, for we are growing with Christ.
Hymn: Amazing Grace
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:17
17. Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Some of us may not have been very nice people.
And all of us have done things we are not proud of having done.
In fact, some of the things we have done may have been considered wretched, particularly in the eyes of God.
But simply by believing in Jesus Christ, and truly desiring to be conformed into His likeness and will, we are forgiven.
By the grace of God, all our past sins are forgiven.
"The old things passed away."
"Behold, new things have come."
There is a new beginning in our lives.
We no longer have to return to the old evil ways.
We are new creatures in Christ.
Satan no longer has power over us.
Hymn: A Mighty Fortress is Our God
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 4:16
16. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
For a long period of time after Christ rose, the church lost sight of the salvation by grace message.
They returned to trying to earn their way into heaven; something that no one can do.
Slightly over 4 1/2 centuries ago a monk named Martin Luther realized this mistake, and began to proclaim the truth.
He presented a new beginning to all who would hear his words and follow the message of grace in the Bible.
God is the Mighty Fortress in our time of need.
It is He who stands against the forces of evil, but it is we who have to reject it in our lives.
We need no longer fear.
In love we can draw near to the throne of grace.
We can do so confidently.
For when we are there, we will find mercy.
But we must do so in this lifetime, for this is where our new beginning starts.
Hymn: To God Be the Glory
Anthem: Sr. Choir - Song of Joy
Scripture Reading: Psalm 100:1-5
1. Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
2. Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
3. Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4. Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him; bless His name.
5. For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And His faithfulness to all generations.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope:
Scripture Reading: 1 John 5:1-5
1. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.
2. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.
3. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
4. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.
5. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
It is only in Jesus Christ, that we really have a second chance.
It is only in Jesus Christ, that we have a true new beginning.
And this new beginning is based on love.
We do not need to celebrate evil and demonic things, as many do holiday season; we can reject them all, and celebrate those things that are good, and gentle, and kind, and compassionate.
We can live in unconditional love for God and the whole of His creation (for humans, for the other animals, and for the environment in which we all live).
God loves us for who He knows we could be, and not who we are when we sin against Him.
And a sure sign that we have this new beginning in our lives is when we share this love of Christ with others by forgiving them for what they have done against us.
We can all be reborn in this love.
We can all have this new beginning and live in the perfect will of our heavenly father, as we pray for in our closing hymn..
(In a circle)
Hymn: The Lord's Prayer
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