How sobering is the thought that as we enter a New Year, whether we want to or not. ready or not, we can’t stop time.
What will we face as we enter 2010, now a decade into the twenty-first century?
Change that undermines our Constitution and American Republic we must stand against.
Change in our churches that undermines our Biblical foundation, we must courageously resist.
Change that brings progress we should welcome. Change, just for the sake of change, we should question.
Like it or not, new events will unfold on a personal, national and world-wide level.
New choices and decisions will have to be made that we have never made before.
We will be faced with new temptations to compromise on moral issues and disobey God.
It is possible that new victories over sin will be experienced.
New opportunities and responsibilities may be thrust upon us.
New phases of our character will be developed.
New trials and disappointments will be thrust upon us which we have never faced before, for no Christian is exempt from them.
New sorrows may come upon us, but we sorrow not as the lost with uncontrollable and unrelenting grief. I Thess. 4:13
New friendships will be formed as we get to know and love strangers as friends,
New fresh mercies of God will be bestowed upon us every morning for the next 365 days. Lamentations 3:21-23 promises that, Expect them and watch for them and thank God for them daily throughout the year.
Changes will take place in our lives and perhaps in our church; changes that will impact us for the rest of our lives.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF CHANGE AS LONG AS GOD IS LEADING US.
For Israel. it was a change of leadership from Moses to Joshua, but God was still overseeing and in full control.
This year will be a year of growth, victory and blessing, or it will be a year of backsliding, defeat and misery. It’s our choice!
Most exciting of all, this may be the year Paul writes about in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 when all of us who are trusting Christ for salvation will be caught up to Heaven to meet the Lord and be with Him forever in sinless, glorified bodies.
God wants to do wonders in our midst. Joshua. 3:5 I’m not talking about cheap, empty, emotional experiences that give temporary highs. I’m talking about a church auditorium filled each Sunday morning and evening with men and women, boys and girls who love the Lord and are growing in Christ and making a godly impact for Christ on the people all around us.
We have a growing nucleus of such people here right now, including: children, teens, and early twenties who are excited about living for the Lord.
I envision a church and school, not hindered by lack of staff or finances who are ready and willing to do whatever God calls us to do.
How do you feel about God doing wonders in your church? What is your response? Does that excite you?
Let me let you in on a secret. It will probably involve change. Perhaps it may involve you sharing some of your responsibilities with others who are gifted and have the time and energy to accept new responsibilities. Perhaps it will involve you who are sitting on the sidelines getting involved.
HOW DID ISRAEL FACE CHANGE?
Many fear change and uncertainty? Let’s see how Israel faced change, as recorded in Joshus1:1-9
First, note the events leading up to it. In Numbers 13 twelve spies were sent out from Israel to check out the land and people of Canaan. Ten of the twelve brought back an evil report, insisting that the invasion of Canaan was too dangerous.
Two spies, Caleb and Joshua, brought back a good report that God was strong enough to conquer their enemies. The ten other spies brought back an evil report of pessimism and discouragement. They insisted that the enemies were too strong for them. Taking Palestine was impossible even though God had promised it to them.
FORTY WASTED YEARS
In Numbers 14:1-35, God pronounced Judgment on Israel for their unbelief. They were sentenced to wander in the wilderness for forty more years until the old generation was dead.
When we come to Deuteronomy 1:3-8; the forty wasted years of wandering in the wilderness have been served.. The older generation is dead, except for aged Caleb. It’s time to go up. Joshua is challenged in Joshua 3:4-5 to lead the people to victory in Canaan.
In the light of the fact that they had not passed this way before, how comforting is was to know and rest in the following promises.
CHRIST KNOWS THE WAY AND GOES BEFORE US.
The Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of God’s presence, would lead Israel on their wilderness journey to Canaan. So God’s presence leads us through life.
Joshua 3:4 & 5 explains the reason Israel needed to be led by the Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized God’s presence. They needed and we today need His presence, His leading and His direction because “we have not passed this way before”. Israel was to “sanctify themselves or separate themselves to God, for the next day God would do wonders among them.”
So Psalm 23 and John 10:4 teach us that the Good Shepherd goes before us, His sheep. As we go, God promises to do wonders among us.
FACING THE FUTURE
God goes before us guiding us into our futures. Thankfully, He does not show us our futures in advance. It we knew, we would fear to take another step; but because we do not know our futures, but only know that He is our Shepherd, we need not fear. We can fully trust Him with our lives and with our futures.
James 4:13-15 teaches us how to face the future and live each day. He starts by warning us be cautious about being dogmatic about our plans for the future. Our future is not totally under our control. It is under God’s control. “:Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow.”
Then he likens our life to a puff of steam coming from a tea kettle of boiling water. It’s here one moment and gone the next. Instead of speaking with dogmatism about our futures, we must understand that even as we make our plans, they are subject to change under the sovereign will of God who controls all circumstances in our lives.
We rest in the truth of Psalm 31:15 “My times are in Thy hands.” Though we don’t know our futures, we know He holds our future in His hands.
WE HAVE GOD’S PROMISE OF HIS PRESENCE
As the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, was carried by priests, who led Israel in their journey to Canaan, so God leads His own by directing our circumstances, if we are surrendered to Him.
Listen to the wonderful promises of God’s presence He gives His own.
“My presence shall go with thee and I will give Thee rest.” Exodus 33:14
“Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.” James 4:8
Read the 139th Psalm, filled with promises of God’s presence throughout our lives.
WE HAVE HIS PROMISE OF HIS PROVISION FOR EVERY NEED.
Finances Phil. 4:19
Strength for each day Dt. 33:25, Isa. 40:28-31
Fullness of joy Ps. 16:11
Protection Ps. 91
Grace for every trial II Cor. 12:9
Wisdom for decisions James 1:5
We have the assurance that God is using every change, every disappointment, every challenge and every difficulty to conform us to His image and make us more useful to Him.
God is more concerned about developing our character than in our service
we offer to Him. Our service is no substitute for character.
His will for us is our sanctification. I Thessalonians 4:3 Before God could use Israel, they needed to be sanctified or set apart for His purpose. Before He can use you or me, we must surrender our own wills to Him and let Him mold us as He sees fit.
I remind you of what God wants to do through us. As He reminded Israel in Joshua 3:4b-5 “You have not passed this way before.” so He reminds us. As He challenged Israel, “Sanctify yourself” That is, set yourself apart for God’s use, confessing your sins and being right with Him, “For tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
What a great promise for us as we face this new year before us!
Our futures are uncertain, as to our knowledge; but secure as to God’s knowledge. Our only certainties are based on the Bible.
As for the present, “we know not what shall be on the morrow”. James 4:13-15. See Proverbs 27:1 for the same truth.
It’s right and sensible to plan our futures, Proverbs 16:9 teaches that; but adds the warning that even in our planning, we must be surrendered to God’s will. Luke 22:32 records how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not my will, but Thine be done.”
The Certainties of the Unsaved
The man who has never received Christ as His Saviour has no certainties, except death, judgment and hell, Hebrews 9:27 teaches. That’s the sum total of a man’s certainties outside of Christ.
The Certainties of the Saved
We share with the unsaved the uncertainties in this present world; but that’s as far as the similarities go. For the Christian life is filled with certainty.
Everything is based on the certain Word of God. Psalm 119:89 assures us that God’s Word, the Bible, is forever settled in Heaven. Christian friend, you can take any promise in God’s Word to the Bank of Heaven and cash it any time, if your heart is right with God.
Peter, in II Peter 1:16-21 reminisces about his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration when He saw Jesus transfigured and glorified and heard the voice of the Father in Heaven assuring him that Jesus was His beloved Son and that we were to listen to and obey Him. Then Peter contrasts that amazing experience with the written Word of God and assures us that the Bible is more sure than his experience on the mountain.
Matthew 24:35 assures us that although one day the heavens and the earth will pass away, God’s Word will never pass away.
In Job 23:8-10 God assures troubled Job that God knows the end from the beginning. Psalm 37:23-25 assures us that God directs every step of our lives as believers. Psalm 31:15 assures us that “our times are in His hands.”
God loves us and will never leave us, Hebrews 13:5-6 assures us. Since that is true, we are reminded to go through life avoiding covetousness and the fear of men and be content with God’s provisions. You will save a lot of credit card debt with its constant increasing stress.
Sin is fun and pleasurable
Do you remember the story of Moses in the early chapters of Exodus who was hidden as a baby from the Pharaoh, who was killing all the baby boys of his Israelite slaves? His mother attempted to hide him from the Pharaoh by making a little basket boat and hiding him among the river plants and had his older sister, Miriam, watch over him from a distance.
Lo and behold, who should find the baby but the princess, Pharaoh’s daughter. When she heard the baby cry, her heart was touched and she took the baby boy as her own. Miriam near by, assured her that she could find a nurse for her and Moses mother was hired to care for her own son as a baby. I’m sure that as Moses grew his mother taught him of his heritage as an Israelite and he never forgot it.
One day, as a young man, Moses had had enough of life as Pharaoh’s son. Hebrews 11:24-26 tells of his decision to forsake the pleasures of sin in Pharaoh’s palace and identify himself as an Israelite, enduring their suffering as slaves.
It says “He chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” It says, “He esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” In other words, he understood that what God offers in eternity is far better than what Satan offers on this earth now. Oh, that every Christian could learn that lesson and make the right choices in life! Yes, sin is pleasurable, but only for a season; only for a short time!
Solomon, the wisest of kings, tossed his wisdom out the window in order to enjoy the pleasure of hundreds of wives and concubines. He turned out to be one of the greatest fools who ever lived. At the end of his life, he came to his senses and wrote Ecclesiastes. You’ll find that little book in the middle of your Bible right after Psalms and Proverbs. In Ecclesiastes 12:1 Solomon warns young people, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.”
Earlier Solomon, before he had lost his wisdom, warned young people in Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
One of the certainties Christians share with the unbelievers is that we will all die someday. The unbeliever dies and his soul goes to hell to be separated from God for eternity. When the Christian dies, his soul goes right into the presence of Christ.
One day, perhaps sooner than we can imagine, Christ is coming back to catch up all those who are His own through faith in Christ. Those caught up in the Rapture, are the only Christians who will never die. But in a sense, no Christian dies as the unsaved die.
Our eternal life does not begin when we die and go to Heaven. It begins the moment we put our trust in Christ. For the Christian the experience of death is simply falling asleep in this life and awakening in the presence of Jesus. II Corinthians 5 teaches this doctrine of death very clearly. Yes, we Christians have the certainty of eternal life with God in Heaven.
That certainty is determined by our relationship with Jesus. Those who have Jesus as Saviour have eternal life. Those who do not have Jesus as Saviour do not have eternal life. Study I John 5:11-13 and get this truth settled firmly in your heart now.
Revelation 22:11 teaches the truth that Christian will enjoy purity and holiness throughout eternity. On the other hand, the unsaved will continue to experience sin and impurity throughout eternity, but with no opportunity to ever enjoy their sins. Remember the truth of Hebrews 11:25? Sin is only pleasurable for a season. No one is going to be enjoying sin in hell. So sinner friend, forget about your dreams of beer parties and women in hell. Hell will be a place of eternal agony and utter loneliness.
Another certainty for us as Christians is that God has His hand on us only for good.
He presently, as well as eternally, has His hands on us only for our good. Read and delight yourself in His many promises to you as a Christian.
The Bible is filled with promises for us. Here are just a few. Psalm 23, 37, 91, I Peter 5:7, Read the short epistle to the Philippians. This should be enough to whet your appetite to read through the whole Bible this year and search for all the promises to you as a Christian.
If you are not a Christian, you can start right now by simply admitting you are a helpless, hopeless sinner in need of God’s salvation. Trust Jesus, who died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later, to save you from your sins.
Read I John 5:11-13 until you are assured of your salvation. Then start growing as a Christian by reading God’s Word. A good place to start would be to tackle this web site with over 500 practical Bible studies. Study them with your Bible, checking the references to make sure you are reading the Truth.
As you learn and grow, share with others what Jesus is doing for you. May God bless you with His salvation and with His constant presence in this new year!
As we face 2008, a crucial election year and another year of uncertainty as far as the world situation is concerned, I’m not going to be so presumptuous as to attempt to prognosticate the future. Rather, I would like to direct your attention to James 4:13-17 where James asks a very practical question. “What is your life? What does it mean to be a Christian? If you are a Christian, what imapct do you have on those around you? Then James answers that question by likening our lives to a puff of steam. In this message let’s consider our influence on others as Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount likens it to salt and light in Matthew 5. and as James likens it to a vapor.
OUR INFLUENCE AS SALT Matthew 5:13
As salt, our lives should bring flavor to life. As salty Christians, we ought not be noticed. Rather, we ought to be calling attention to Jesus by our lives. Our motto ought to be that of John the Baptist’s, as we find it in John 3:30. “He (Christ) must increase and I must decrease.” Just as we are not aware of salt, when eating a good meal, so people will not be as aware of us as much as they are of Christ living in us. If we are aware of salt in a meal, it’s because there is too much salt. The salt is calling attention to itself. We don’t remark after eating a delicious meal, “My, wasn’t the salt wonderful!”
People who call attenton to their self-righteousness or to their self-importance are detracting from the message and purpose of the church, and from the glory that should go only to God. As salt, our lives should prevent corruption. As salt helps prevent food from decay, so our presence as Christians in this world should help slow down total corruption and decay in the world.
One day Christian will be caught up to Heaven and when that time comes, this world without a single Christian on earth will be plunged into total spiritual darkness and corruption such as the world has never seen. But until then we are a quiet influence for good in this world.
OUR INFLUENCE AS LIGHT Matthew 5:14-16
The reason we are called the Light of the World is because Christ, who is the Light of the World, lives in us and shines through our personalities. Philippians 2:14-16 instructs Christians as to how we are to show forth that light to a lost world. “Do all things without murmurings and disputings that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and preverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding forth the Word of Life.” That’s the way we influence others around us. Our purpose as lights is not to glare in the eyes of those to whom we are a witness of Christ, but to reflect Christ to those who observe us.
Matthew 5:14-16 and II Corinthians 4:3-7 remind us to not attempt to hide our light, but let it shine as we live consistent, pleasant, holy lives; not just in church, but in our homes and in our places of employment and in our daily living in this sinful world. Christ will be seen as we allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to bear His fruit in our lives. The fruit is described in Galatians 5:22-26.
OUR INFLUENCE AS VAPOR James 4:13-17
First, what is vapor? The dictionary defines it as a visible, diffused matter, such as steam, gas or perfume. Others are continually observing us; including our families, friends, strangers, and especially children. The lost, as well as younger, weaker Christians, are continually scrutinizing us as they look for “chinks in our armour”. They are checking to see if our Christianity is genuine, or just a farce. If our children observe us putting on our cloak of piety when we go to church, but living like the devil at home, they are going to become bitter and will totally reject our Christianity.
The lost are continually looking for flaws in our character so they will have an excuse to trash Christianity and ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit in their lives as He calls them to come to Christ.
Vapor is not only visible, but it is a powerful force for good or for evil. When steam or gas is under control it can be used to run engines and turbines, to run vehicles and to heat homes and office and factories. But when vapor is out of control, it can cost explosions and damage and death. So, when we are out of control, we can do great damage to others, including churches.
Some vapors are fragrant and attractive and others are sickening and repulsive. A little perfume on a woman is attractive. Too much can be sickening. Certainly body odor or halitosis is repulsive. As Christians we are called upon in II Corinthians 2:14-16 to bear the fragrance of Christ wherever we go. As we grow older, if we have been walking with Christ, His fragrance should increase, just as the light of Christ, according to Proverbs 4:18, grows brighter and brighter as we grow older. Understand, young people, that right now you are becoming the old man or the old woman you will one day be. Will you become crabbier and more crotchety or will you develop a sweeter disposition with old age? It all depends how you respond to life now.
It’s always exciting to enter a new year. We face it with expectation and exhilaration. If things haven’t gone well for us during the past year, we hope for better things ahead.
But as we enter a new year, let’s be aware and face some negative facts. We live in sin-cursed bodies in the midst of a sin-cursed world. Romans 8:22-23 makes that clear. Positive thinking won’t change those facts. Not until Christ returns and glorifies our bodies will we be sinless and enjoy perfect health and not until Christ removes the curse of sin from this earth when He begins His Millennial reign, will we enjoy a perfect environment.
Let’s also be aware of some positive facts. If you have put your trust in Christ as your Saviour from sin, you are a Christian. As Christians entering the new year, we can rejoice in these positive truths. God has a perfect purpose and plan for us. Christ lives in us by His Holy Spirit. He wants to use us for His glory and fill us with joy. His Word holds promises for us, as well as instructions for living. He has promised to return for us. Perhaps this year!
Saved or unsaved, you can count on these in this year:
Surprises, Disappointments, New opportunities, New challenges, Good news and bad news, perhaps some heart-breaks. But if there is one thing we can be absolutely sure of, it is that we do not know what a day will bring forth. Proverbs 27:1
What’s new for unbelievers?
Nothing much! Just another year of boring routine. If you are a student, expect to plod along with your studies until you graduate. What then? Hopefully you will find a job or career that satisfies; but it won’t satisfy permanently. Nothing external satisfies or brings joy. You will find yourself going through life, waiting for the weekends when you are free to enjoy yourself. You will count the days until vacation. You will continue through life waiting for retirement. All the while, old age will gradually creep up on you and then death and eternity in Hell. Oh, you may be an exceptionally self-motivated, gifted person who makes it big in this world. You may become rich and famous because of your God-given abilities, gifts and talents or because of what you perceive as a “lucky break”. But in spite of your success, you are as the Psalmist describes in Psalm 73 “walking in slippery places.” You are as the Psalmist describes in Psalm 1:4 tossed around by the winds of circumstances over which you have no control. This new year for you is just another year of “dog eat dog survival of the fittest.” It’s just another year to “grin and bear it.” It’s just another year of fear and anxiety about the future over which you have little or no control. Basically for the unbeliever, there IS no New Year. There is nothing new for you at all except for the stuff and the exciting experiences you buy. That stuff rusts, decays, becomes old and out of style. The experiences give a momentary thrill, but the new becomes old very quickly. In fact you do not even know the meaning of the word new. You’ve never experienced it. Solomon, who started out as a humble young man seeking God’s wisdom and receiving it from God, became the richest and the wisest man who ever lived. It wasn’t long, however, before he turned from God and turned to his wealth and to the hundreds of women he collected as wives and concubines to satisfy him. At the end of his life he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. He weighed the value of his life and found it to be empty, unsatisfying, meaningless, worthless, wasted and VANITY. The book of Ecclesiastes describes the pessimistic outlook on life for those who live without God.
What’s new for Christians this year?
For the Christian every day is new. Every year is new. Our newness and joy and satisfaction comes from knowing Christ as our Saviour and Lord. If we are surrendered to Him, His Holy Spirit lives within us and makes everything new. We are born again a new creation in Christ. John 3:1-3 We are made new from the inside. II Corinthians 5:17 We are given a new heart Ezekiel 18:31=32 36:25-29 We are given abundant life. John 10:10 We delight in God’s purpose in life. Psalm 1:1-2 We are given new blessings every morning. Lamentations 3:22-23 We enjoy intimacy and fresh blessings from God each day as we spend time in His presence in prayer and reading His Word. Proverbs 8:34-36 We are given a new song in our heart, a song of praise to God. Psalm 40:1-3 Ephesians 5:18-20 Inwardly we are renewed daily. II Corinthians 4:16 Although we do not know what a day will bring forth, we rest our future in God’s hands. Psalm 139. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3
What’s new in eternity?
The day is coming when God is going to make a new heaven and a new earth. Revelation 21:1-4 In fact, verse 5 says He makes all things new. Yes everything will be new in eternity and throughout eternity. We will be beyond the realm of time and space. Revelation 21 and 22 gives us a little taste of what it will be like in eternity. It’s beyond human comprehension!
What’s new right now?
Yes, all things will be new in eternity. But the wonderful thing for Christians is that all things are new right now. II Corinthians 5:17 assures us of that truth. Old things have passed away. Our bondage to sin and Satan has passed away. The Greek tense of the verb shows we have made a decisive, permanent break with the past life. “All things are becoming new is in the perfect tense and shows the changes are on-going and abiding. We are not yet made perfect. That will happen in Heaven. In the meantime, we are constantly changing and growing to maturity.
Babies are born in an instant; but growth and maturity are an ongoing process that take place over a lifetime.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Have you been born again? Have old things passed away. Is everything about your life becoming new? If so, you can truly have a happy new year. Every day will bring new blessings and challenges. God bless you as you continue your walk with Christ.