A Whole Hearted New Years Resolve

2016 copy

So how was your Christmas? Most of us got something new for Christmas. Don’t you love getting new things? I love new things. New clothes. New car. New Gadgets. They always smell so good. They bring excitement – enthusiasm.The New year ought to do the same. – a chance to begin again – a new page in the book of history. What will we do with it?

Most people we know will start the New Year with a list of resolutions. A time for change…to do something different…to Make a difference.

As Christians, our goals for the New Year ought to be intentional and purposeful. A chance to make things right, and to find new meaning in life, not only for ourselves but for all those we will  cross our paths in the process of doing life.

So what is The Goal of our Christianity?
Is it to just to be missionaries? Evangelists? Preachers? Church Planters? Church goers? Many Christians don’t really give this question much thought.

Most Christians know that they are saved from something. Few understand the equally important fact that we are saved FOR something.

We are saved not only for heaven but for a future of extraordinary living and our focus from the moment we become Christians ought to turn away from what we have escaped from, to what we are moving towards.

Jesus came, not to establish and perpetuate an institution on earth. He came to purchase and prepare for himself a bride. This preparation involves a constant quest to be more like Him.

More like Jesus would I be,
Let my Saviour dwell in me;
Fill my soul with peace and love,
Make me gentle as a dove.

More like Jesus while I go,
Pilgrim in this world below;
Poor in spirit would I be;
Let my Saviour dwell in me.
Fanny Crosby

During our assignment back in South Africa in early 2000 I was the Camp speaker at a Youth Camp. Around the campfire one night there was a discussion that turned into questions about what the Christian life ought to look like. All the questions centered around what we can get away with. “Is it a sin to smoke?” “Is it a sin to dance?” “Is it a sin to drink?” “Is it a sin to date?”

The truth is, these were all the wrong questions. They were all about what we can get away with when the questions ought to be, “What can I do to be more like Jesus?” “What can I do to get closer to Fathers heart?” “What can I do to be pleasing to the Father?”

This is the attitude Father is looking for.
2 Corinthians 5:9
We make it our aim…to be well pleasing to Him.

Before, in our previous state of being we could not do that even if we tried. Our nature was against us.
“We make it our aim” implies that it is a conscious decision. Day in day out, year in year out. We do not take time off from this quest of being “well pleasing” to Him.
This business of “backsliding” ought to be foreign to the Christian life.The Scriptures identify backsliding with “a dog going back to it’s own vomit” When God gets your heart, that ought not to happen.

This is the highest priority.. to know Him in such a profound intimate way that nothing else will cloud our vision of who He is.
The priority is not revival.
The priority is not missions,
The priority is not even establishing churches and winning souls.

The priority is being well pleasing to him.
2 Chronicles 16:9
9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.

A Whole Hearted New Years Resolve
Jesus had something to say about spiritual newness.
Luke 5:37
37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined
This is a warning that we cannot participate in the new things of the spirit without a fundamental change of our being taking place. If we do, our experiences, no matter how powerful or even life changing they may be will be short-lived, resulting in spiritual tension and crisis.

The problem we have is the old wine skins. The old forms and structures will never contain the new things that God is longing to do in each of our lives.
Paul reminds us of a vital principle of the new life in Christ:
2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (are becoming new)

This quest for the new life in Christ must never stop. It can never stop. The rose that stops growing while in bud will die.

I want to invite you to do something courageous and even outrageous as we pack away Christmas and anticipate the coming of this New Year. I am going to ask you to invite Father to produce a New Work in your Hearts. A New Work in your Church. A New Work in your community. In your City. And I am going to invite you to accommodate that New Work by giving up the Old Wine Skins and asking Father first to create in you a new heart. To put to death anything that is too stagnant and too perished and insufficient to hold what He is pouring out.

Isaiah 43:18-21 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. [19] See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. [20] The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, [21] the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

I want to suggest some “Wine Skin” renewal principles out of Isaiah
Principle #1 Forget the Former.
21 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
There are several aspects involved here.

  1. Forget the Former Glory.

The Israelites were presuming upon God because of His previous faithfulness to them. They had become apathetic as they dwelt upon the past events. So He speaks to them. Vs. 16. “Forget the former things.”

Some this next year will seek to glory in yesteryear’s accomplishments.

Each new day should bring a new experience with the Father – A new revelation of His glory and His power in our lives.
If you have not got something to thank Him for that is fresh and special in your life, perhaps it is because you have been satisfied to live with yesterday’s glory.
God says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” “Do you not see it?, Do you not want it? There is something greater that He has in store for you.
Next He says that in order for us to Him in a new way, we must:

  1. Forget the former system.

Those that were trying to maintain a daily relationship with God had turned from a heart relationship to a head relationship. Instead of serving Him out of response to His goodness and because of their love for Him, they served Him only because of the requirement of the law.
See Isaiah 58:2-9
2 For day after day they(my people) seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.

So many today do the stuff that seems so righteous, yet when you look at their lives, they are shameful.

That is the sacrifice that God despises and rejects and He is saying today, on this significant threshold to the rest of your life, “Forget that stuff. There is a new thing in store for you. There is another way. A sacrifice that will truly reveal my glory to the nation.”

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.
So our Christianity is to take on a new look. The look of Christ. Follow His example. Emitting the fragrance of His glory

Forget the former glory, forget the former system, and then he says:

  1. Forget the former life..

In Ephesians Paul speaks about some things that were a part of our old life that we must put off. Some live double lives today. Forget the old life.
For those who are struggling with a life of sin. Those who think you are alive but are dead in sin and without hope. There is a New Year message of hope for you.
Our heavenly Father waits to take you into His loving arms and to forgive you and adopt you into His family. Make you a brand new creation.

The old life may include the personal struggle to deal with certain sins.
You may feel hopelessness at the task. Faced with impossible situations. But God has a better way. He gives you this promise through the prophet Isaiah.
He uses a graphic illustration to open our eyes to the reality of the hopelessness of our pursuits.
[19] See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
The desert has claimed many who have embarked on a journey across those desolate sands. Everything looks the same. There seems to be no way out. As those wanderers have walked, they have been deceived by mirage after mirage. Each promise they come to simply disappears.
Such is a life without Christ. But in Christ, there is hope for a better tomorrow.
So now the prophet moves on with this message. Moving us beyond the memories of former glory, former systems of religion and even a former life of sin and hopelessness, He tells us that the way to forget the former is to embrace the next principle.

Principle #2 Focus on the Finest.
We may think that what we have is good. But God is not looking out for our good. He wants us to have the finest!
And so Isaiah speaks on behalf of God and calls us to focus. Vs. 19, “See! Look! I am doing a new thing. I am making a way in the desert – A path of escape from that valley of despair.”
His message is for each of those who find themselves trapped by the former systems. So Jesus says in John 10:10 that He has come so that you may have life to the full.

  1. To the one on whom He calls to forget the former glory.

He says in Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
Haggai 2:9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

  1. To the one on whom He calls to forget the former system.

He says in Hebrews 7:18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless. Joel 2:13-14. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing…
Galatians 6:15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.

  1. To the one on whom He calls to forget the former life: 

He uses another illustration. One that has to do with the thirst that comes to a soul in the wastelands of self-gratification. . [20] “… I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen…”

There is nothing that can satisfy. But now God says I am going to do a new thing.

John 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me,(depends on me, trusts in me, hangs onto me) as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

To each of us he now says that we must turn from the old way, look to the new way and then one final princi.ple

Principal #3 Faithfully Follow

Isaiah 43:22
“Yet you have not called upon me, O Jacob,
you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel. ”
1 Cor. 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.

Paul – Phil. 3:13-14. Consider Christ, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
This is the answer. To fix our eyes upon Jesus.

Conclusion
As we consider Christ this New Year, may we make choices that are in tune with the fruit of His Spirit in us. Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 3gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

So, as we choose this year, may we choose love.
There is nothing in this world that justifies hatred. There is no injustice that warrants bitterness. So choose love. Love god, and love that which God loves.

As we choose, may we choose joy.
Let us invite our God to be the God of our circumstances. Seeing possibilities in those things thought impossible and seeing every problem as a possibility to see God. Refusing the temptation to be cynical. Seeking to receive and give joy to everyone we meet, seeing all people as nothing less than human beings, created by God.

As we choose, may we choose peace.
Not merely the absence of violence, but the presence of justice. May we live forgiven and forgive that we may live.

As we choose this year, may we choose patience.
Let’s overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of begrudging the one who could do better than I, may I invite him to take my place. When we must wait, rather than complain may we thank God for the moment to pray.

As we choose, may we choose to be kind.
Kind to the underprivileged, for they are lonely. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, because such is the way God has treated me.

As we choose, may we choose goodness.
May we be careful to not take that which is not ours, be it someone else’s praise, or someone else’s property. My we choose to be without a dollar rather than take a dishonest one.
May we confess before we accuse.

And then, as we choose, may we choose faithfulness.
Faithfulness to those we love, which should be easy, and then faithfulness to those we owe, sometimes not as easy. May we keep our promises so that our debtors will not regret their trust, and our associates never question our integrity. And may our families never fear that their loved ones will not come home.

As we choose, may we choose gentleness…
Nothing is one by force, let us be gentle. If we raise our voice may it only be in praise. If we clench our fists, may it only be in prayer. If we make demands, may they be upon ourselves.

Finally, may we choose self control.
May our passions be focused upon our faith. May we be intoxicated only by our joy. May we be influenced only by Christ and taught only be His Spirit.
So then, Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These blessed fruits of the Spirit-filled life. To these may we commit this new year. If we succeed, we will give thanks. If we fail, we will thank God for his grace. And then, when this year is done we will know that we have done our part to make this old world a better place.

Category: Just Sayin'
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