“…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV).

Backgrounds. Everyone has them. They are the backdrop of our todays, the backstory of our narrative.

Some people seem to get all the breaks, and others all the rough stuff.

But have you ever noticed how the outcome can be all twisted up? How worst histories can produce amazing people, and how best pasts can yield rotten consequences?

I wonder how Jesus’ brothers felt growing up next to a misunderstood Sibling; ridiculed, different, but oh so perfect. How could they measure up? I wonder if they ever felt He was mom and dad’s favorite?

Rahab’s background was one of disgrace and shame. Yet, God chose her, pulled her from torrid prostitution to the list in Matthew 1, honored in the genealogy of Christ.

Framed by wicked kings, father Ahaz and son Manasseh, King Hezekiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord. Somehow in between rotten bookends Hezekiah chose to obey God.

January comes fresh. It offers hope. In a culture of self-focused-improvement, when the calendar turns a new list of possibilities give promise.

But to some, the two scariest words in our vocabulary are New Year. Because New has been tried before and Year is a long time.

When the Apostle Paul penned, “…The old has passed away; behold, the new has come…” He had backstory. Born Saul of Tarsus, his dad a Pharisee, Paul was a Roman Jew, trained in Jerusalem and radically opposed to the Christian movement. He consented and was present at the stoning of follower-of-Christ-Stephen, the first martyr.

As much as what we’ve come from makes us who we are, the past’s hold shatters in the presence of a new Ruler. New brings death to old. Death births life.

A Chain Breaker has come. A Focus Changer. A Reason for hope.

“…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…”

Paul, on the road to Damascus experienced the spiritual transformation of knowing Christ. A bright light shone, a voice spoke and Paul fell to the ground. The old Paul left behind, a new Paul emerged. The experience left him physically sightless but with cleared spiritual vision. His identity uprooted and a new heritage planted.

“In Christ…The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 

In the blackness of physical blindness, Paul was led like a child by his fellow-travelers. For the proud young up and coming Jewish lawyer and leader, it was devastating. His conversion was a surrender of all he’d known, believed and lived for. Transformation comes with pain. He neither ate nor drank for three days.

But on that road he stepped into the saving grace of Jesus. He learned a new focus. He embraced a new Master.

Had his background check been different, his credit report spotless, surely the power of his testimony would have altered. If Rahab had not been desperate of her need would she have rescued the spies and been herself elevated from the dregs of sin? If Jesus’ brothers had not first experienced unbelief how would they have become converted to Messiah?

God is God and to allow Him that privilege in our lives doesn’t come easily. He is Master of our past, present and future. His Sovereignty is complete, perfect and beyond understanding, because He is after all God.

Background, its fabric of our lives, is an offering, not a focus.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed…” John 8:36(ESV)

His hand has held me in the past. I can trust Him with my future.

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