If all we got was a fresh start, we would still be as good as lost because our failure to be who we want to be (who God wants us to be) doesn't come from our mistakes. Our mistakes comes from our failure to be who we want to be (who God wants us to be).
We don't only need a fresh start, we need God to be with us and guide and shape us.
There is this amazing interaction between Moses and God in the book of Exodus that highlights this. Moses and the people have been freed from Egypt, brought to Sinai and given an incredible blessing and task to be God's people. They fail quite spectacularly by turning quickly to old patterns of life and making an idol to worship.
Moses asks God to forgive them, and he does, but then there is this odd exchange between them.
“God said to Moses: “Now go. Get on your way from here, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt. Head for the land which I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ ” (Exodus 33:1, The Message)
So, God forgave the people for their worship of the golden calf, but it seemed as though he still had no desire to be with them. He wasn't going to punish them, but it seems he no longer wants to be with them either.
It seems as though he was afraid of what would happen when the people failed again.
“God said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You’re one hard-headed people. I couldn’t stand being with you for even a moment—I’d destroy you. So take off all your jewelry until I figure out what to do with you.’” So the Israelites stripped themselves of their jewelry from Mount Horeb on.” (Exodus 33:5–6, The Message)
Moses, however, knows that leaving without God would be the same thing as being punished. He challenges God to keep his promises.
“Moses said to God, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.” God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.” Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you travelling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”” (Exodus 33:12–16, The Message)
This is quite a direct challenge, especially considering that God had just forgiven them. Most of us would probably be satisfied with that, and gratefully go on our way. Moses however, knows that is not enough to change them.
If God is not coming with them, they might as well give up on the whole thing and go back to Egypt.
If all we get is a fresh start we are doomed, because we are bound to fail again. If all we have is a clean slate, we will just make it dirty again.
We need God to go with us. We will not become the people God wants us to be; the ones we want to be, without him.
We don’t just need a new beginning, we need a new relationship.
Moses' challenge is accepted.
“God said to Moses: “All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name.”” (Exodus 33:17, The Message)
God agrees to go with them (with us) because he already cares deeply for them (for us).
We are special to God.
Paul puts it this way in his letter to the believers in Ephesus.
“Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, [God] had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. ” (Ephesians 1:4, The Message)
The most basic promise of the scriptures is that God will always be with us, he gives us new life because he loves us.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ” (Matthew 28:20, NIV)
While there are times when we might ask, “Are you coming with us, or not?”
We can be confident that God will respond, “Yes, I will be with you."