Here’s some good solid advice for making the new year better.
- The new year – Be careful
- The new year – Be thoughtful
- The new year – Be thankful.
Pete, at a New Year’s party, turns to his friend, Ken, and asks for a cigarette. “I thought you made a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking,” Ken responds.
“I’m in the process of quitting,” replies Pete with a grin. “Right now, I am in the middle of phase one.”
“Phase one?” “Yeah,” laughs Pete, “I’ve quit buying!!!”
Top 10 New year resolutions:
- Spend more time with family and friends.
- Fit in fitness. (take care of your health – exercise)
- Tame the bulge. (Over 66 percent of adult Americans are considered overweight)
- Quit smoking. (On average, smokers try about four times before they quit for good)
- Enjoy life more. (sounds good)
- Quit drinking. (no problem for me)
- Get out of debt. (You won’t do it in a year. It will take some planning and some saying “no” to yourself and others)
- Learn something new. (I say, “Why?” I’ve got enough to do without taking on something else)
- Help others. (How quaint! That’s thinking of someone else for a change instead of ourselves)
- Get organized. (Some might say, “I never have. Why start now?”)
Did you notice that these top 10 resolutions had nothing to do with spiritual improvement? Or that God was not included? That’s the way it is with many people. They don’t include God or Christ in the picture of their lives.
Let me suggest to you that the Lord should be included in every aspect of our lives: marriage, family, children, work, play and pleasure, etc.
“15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:15-20 (KJV)
Be careful in living. Be careful in the way you live. Be careful. Be wise. Be careful with your time, which is God’s time. Don’t contribute to evil. Be wise. Seek the Lord’s will in all things. Every day and in every way.
NEW COMMITMENTS FOR THE NEW YEAR
Well it’s that time of year again when in a fit of optimism many of us make great promises to ourselves about what we are going to do in the New Year, many we usually abandon about the second week in January.
Let’s be honest now. How many of you kept to the diet? How many of you actually kept exercising past February?
Well this year I am determined its going to be different. I have made a New Years resolutions I know I will be able to keep for the whole of 2018.
I have decided to eat more and exercise less. Ha! Now I believe I’ll be able to keep that kind of resolution.
But seriously. This morning I want to talk to you about some resolutions, some commitments which I guarantee you will make a radical difference in our lives if we will just follow through on them.
In fact, what I want to do is to offer to you a way of starting the New Year in a way which will significantly change your life. Here is what I want to suggest to you: if you will make four commitments that God in His Word encourages us to make. I guarantee you that the start of 2018 could become one of the most significant events in your life, in fact I tell you that if you will follow God’s advice, that 2018 could be the best year of your life thus far.
I want to challenge you to make 4 new commitments for this New Year.
Here they are, First.
1: COMMIT YOURSELF TO FORGET YOUR FAILURES
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
That advice from God’s Word has stood the test of time. Philippians 3:13-14 (KJV)
I don’t know of any more relevant and practical advice for us at the start off 2018. That that advice that you have just read. We don’t have to live our lives imprisoned by our past. All of us have failed in some way in our lives over the last year. Probably we won’t see our failures recorded for history on TV but they are recorded in our hearts and minds.
For many of us our failures are painful memories. Maybe for you it is a memory of how you failed in a relationship. You made the wrong decisions, said and did the wrong things and the relationship ended.
Some of you who are parents probably know that you failed your children in some way, some of you children downstairs listening are aware that you have failed your parents, it’s more than likely that many of us know that we have failed ourselves in some ways. And all of us should know that in some way we have failed God.
What God’s Word is saying to us here is that we must not allow ourselves to be bogged down by our past failures. That we have not got to dwell on our past so much that it stops us from moving forward into the future that God has for us.
I think that the start of the New Year is a good time for us to rise to that challenge. To say to yourself I am going to, with the help of God, forget my past. I am going to stop torturing myself about what I did or didn’t do.
This New Year is a good time to stop being chained to our past failures. God is saying here in His Word that he doesn’t want you to go through your life branding yourself as a failure.
Jesus Christ died on the cruel Cross of Calvary so that we could be forgiven. When we become Christians that forgiveness becomes a reality in our lives. When we have received Christ’s forgiveness it allows us to forgive ourselves and forget our failures.
Maybe you need to do that Right here this morning or night whenever your reading this. Maybe you need to accept Jesus forgiveness and then forgive yourself?
The second commitment for 2018 is
2: COMMIT YOURSELF TO GIVE UP YOUR GRUDGES
I want you to listen to these words from the book of Colossians because in them you’ll hear the second challenge I believe God wants us to rise to if you want to make 2015 a significant turning point in your life
13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. Colossians 3:13 (KJV)
Did you catch that challenge?
God in those words is challenging us directly and personally to give up our grudges. That is what he means when he says forgive each other whatever quarrels you may have against one another.
A grudge is a deep ongoing resentment that we cultivate in our hearts against someone else.
A grudge is an unforgiving spirit that leads to unforgiving attitudes and unforgiving actions.
Now I know you know what I am talking about. Harboring a grudge is about nursing a dislike for someone. What you need to know is that grudges are dangerous because they are destructive.
Grudges destroy marriages.
Grudges break up families.
Grudges ruin friendships.
Grudges split churches.
Let’s be honest enough to admit that one of the problems of the Church in general is the grudges that Christians hold against one another.
I want to tell you this morning that if you know you are holding a grudge against someone then God has something to say to you.
He says “give it up.”
I want to remind you that grudges are not just destructive they are also self-destructive. When you hold a grudge against someone you will hurt yourself as much and perhaps more than you will hurt the person you are holding it against.
As I was preparing for this sermon. I read a tragic example of just how destructive grudges are.
A man was killed by a parcel bomb and then a couple committed suicide a week later. It turned out that the couple who had committed suicide had sent the bomb because of a grudge that the man had against his intended victim that stretched all the way back to school. Ultimately that man’s grudge destroyed his victims life. And then it destroyed him and his wife’s life too.
Make no mistake about it, if you keep harboring a grudge then it will eventually destroy you, if not physically, certainly emotionally and spiritually. It will make you a bitter and twisted person.
The book of Job in chap 21 describes people who “Have no happiness at all, they live and die with bitter hearts.”
Do you really want that to be the way you are remembered?
Do you remember that parable that Jesus told about the servant who was forgiven a huge debt by the king and then refused to forgive someone else a tiny amount? Jesus said his unforgiving spirit landed him in prison.
Max Luxcado makes this interesting comment in one his books.
He says, “Unforgiving servants always end up in prison. Prisons of anger guilt and depression.
God says to you in His word “don’t sentence yourself to prison.”
Set yourself free. Give up your grudges, forgive each other whatever you may have against one another. According to God’s Word the way to give up a grudge is to forgive.
It’s just that simple. Notice what God is saying here. He isn’t asking you to ignore whatever the person has done to you. He isn’t asking you to pretend it did happen. He doesn’t ask you to condone it, to pretend it didn’t matter. What God asks you to do is to forgive the grievance.
That means to acknowledge how wrong and painful what was done to you was but to decide to forgive person who did the wrong to you.
I am absolutely certain that there are people here who need to give up their grudges and forgive the grievance they have against someone else.
Some of you need to forgive the grievance you have against your parents for what they did or didn’t do.
Some of you need to forgive your children for the same reason.
Some of you need to forgive a partner for emotional or physical abuse.
Some of you need to give up the grudge you have against someone at work because of the way they have treated you.
Some of you need to give up the grudge that stems from an argument you had with someone.
Some of you maybe even need to give up grudges you have against other people in this congregation.
God says that that deep-seated resentment you have against that person has to go.
What better time to make that difficult decision to forgive than the start of a new year?
Now don’t tell God you can’t forgive, because what you really mean when you say that is that you won’t forgive.
If Christ can forgive you your sin despite the fact that it costed the pain of the cross then surely you can give up your grievance you have with someone else.
The question is will you do it?
The third commitment for 2018 is
3: COMMIT YOURSELF TO RESTORE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Some of you that are familiar with computers know that Every time You turn it on a little windows pops up that asks if You want to run a check to see if all the programs are all working properly.
God in his word issues a very similar invitation. It is the invitation not to check to see if our computer software is working properly, but to check whether our personal relationships are working properly.
Here is how the Lord issues that challenge.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18 (KJV)
The important phrase there is, as much as it lieth in you.
God by using that phrase is personally challenging each one of us to do all we can to restore our relationships. The Lord wants us to do everything we can to restore any relationships that may have gone wrong in our lives. Some relationships might have gone wrong in our lives because of what other people have done and they might well not want that relationship restored.
God recognises that.
That is why he starts by saying “If its possible.”
But let’s be honest some of our relationships have gone wrong because of what we have done. When God’s word says here as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” it is saying if you have caused a rift in a relationship then you have a responsibility to do everything you can to restore it.
That everything includes the one thing we all probably find most difficult, asking for forgiveness. I am sure that I am not the only person who finds it hardest to say “I am sorry” to the people I am closest too. I wonder how many relationships are not all they should be or could be simply because someone won’t say:
“I was wrong, I am sorry, will you forgive me”
I am certain that some of us need to ask forgiveness for “ harsh words and cutting remarks” that have really wounded others over the years. Maybe God is saying to some of you that this change of year is the right time to restore the relationships you have ruined by going and sincerely saying that you are sorry for those angry words or those selfish and unthoughtful actions.
Keith Drury is a writer from the Wesleyan Church and in one of his books he touches on this whole subject of restoring relationships when talking about restitution. This is what he says “restitution deals with more than property. It is also going back and making things right for hurtful things I’ve said or done. It’s far easier for me to tell you some story than to tell you of the difficult and painful times I’ve had to ask my wife, my boys, my boss, friends and secretary to forgive me. Restitution is asking forgiveness for harsh words, quick tongue, or cutting remarks. It is asking forgiveness from a brother you hurt, a mother you caused heartache to, or a former spouse which you hurt Restitution is confessing and seeking forgiveness from an old business partner, neighbor, or roommate. It is admitting my past errors in relationships and humbly seeking forgiveness from the one I’ve hurt. And it’s harder to make personal restitution than property restitution.”
Make no mistake it will be hard to do but one of the most significant things that you can do to mark the New Year is not set off a firework but to admit your past errors in relationships and humbly seek forgiveness from the one you have hurt.
Will you rise to that challenge and make a commitment to restore your broken relationships in this new year?
Then the fourth and final commitment for 2018.
4: COMMIT YOURSELF TO TURN YOUR BACK ON YOUR TRANSGRESSIONS.
While preparing this sermon, I read about the American Civil War an interesting fact that after the war was over and the slaves had been set free many slaves decided to stay with their former master and continue to do what they were told.
They were set free but they chose to live as slaves. The New Testament says that is exactly how many Christian choose to live. Christ died to set us free, the Holy Spirit has given us the power to be free, but just like those former slaves many Christians still choose to obey their old master, sin.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Romans 6:12 (KJV)
That is the last challenge that I believe if you will rise to meet then it will make this New Year truly significant for you.
When God says for us to not let sin control the way we live and to not give in to its lustful desires He is issuing the challenge to turn our backs on our transgressions.
Christian writers used to talk about something called besetting sins.
What they meant by besetting sins were particulars sins that a particular Christian was prone to doing time and time again. For most of us when we are saved we give up certain sins easily but there are other things that we know are wrong that we really battle with.
Those are our besetting sins. Many of us end up choosing to give into our besetting sins and end up living double lives. There was an article online by an anonymous pastor that described his battle with his besetting sin, pornography. How he gave into that sin time after time and then was overcome with guilt. Maybe that is how you lived over the last year, constantly defeated by the same old sin.
There was a Man with a Huge GROWTH on the neck “He won’t do anything about it he has just learned to live with it”
That sums up too many Christians attitude to their besetting sin. They won’t do anything about it and they learn to live with it. I have to ask you is your spiritual life crippled because you have learned to live with a besetting sin?
Do you have a quick temper that you constantly give into?
Or a tongue that loves to assassinate other people’s characters or wound their feelings?
Have you learned to live with that critical judgmental attitude you know is wrong?
Is there some other sin that you keep on giving in to?
God here in his word challenges us to turn our back on that sin whatever it is. To stop letting it control the way we live. To stop giving in to it. He wants you to stop obeying your old master.
Let’s be clear about this: Jesus death broke the power of sin,the holy spirit can give us the power to resist sin, that means that we don’t have to go into this new year still being defeated by the same old sin.You can have the victory over it.God says you are no longer a slave to sin so don’t live like one or act like one.
If you will ask for God’s forgiveness for your sin and his power to resist that sin then this new year can be for you not just a new era in history but a new era in your spiritual life.
Don’t miss that opportunity.
It all boils down to this: Will this New Year be just a calendar changing event for you or are you willing to rise to these challenges from God’s word and make these commitments and make it a life changing event?
Are you willing to make these 4 commitments for 2018?
- Will you commit yourself to forget your failures?
- Will you commit yourself to give up your grudges?
- Will you commit yourself to restore your relationships?
- Will you commit yourself to turning your back on your transgressions?
This New Year will really be something to celebrate if you’ll make forgiveness the heart of what it’s all about for you.
Have the courage right here today. To forgive yourself and “forget the past.” To forgive others who have hurt you “and forgive whatever grievances you have.”
To ask for forgiveness from those you have hurt and “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
To ask for God’s forgiveness and “No longer be a slave to sin.”
A Prayer to Keep God First this New Year:
Thank you that you make all things new. Thank you for all that you’ve allowed into our lives this past year, the good along with the hard things, which have reminded us how much we need you and rely on your presence filling us every single day.
We pray for your Spirit to lead us each step of this New Year. We ask that you will guide our decisions and turn our hearts to deeply desire you above all else. We ask that you will open doors needing to be opened and close the ones needing to be shut tight. We ask that you would help us release our grip on the things to which you’ve said “no,” “not yet,” or “wait.” We ask for help to pursue you first, above every dream and desire you’ve put within our hearts.
We ask for your wisdom, for your strength and power to be constantly present within us. We pray you would make us strong and courageous for the road ahead. Give us ability beyond what we feel able, let your gifts flow freely through us, so that you would be honored by our lives, and others would be drawn to you.
We pray that you’d keep us far from the snares and traps of temptations. That you would whisper in our ear when we need to run, and whisper in our heart when we need to stand our ground.
We pray for your protection over our families and friends. We ask for your hand to cover us and keep us distanced from the evil intent of the enemy; that you would be a barrier to surround us, that we’d be safe in your hands. We pray that you would give us discernment and insight beyond our years, to understand your will, hear your voice, and know your ways.
We ask that you would keep our footsteps firm, on solid ground, helping us to be consistent and faithful. Give us supernatural endurance to stay the course, not swerving to the right or to the left, or being too easily distracted by other things that would seek to call us away from a close walk with you.
Forgive us for the times we have worked so hard to be self-sufficient, forgetting our need for you, living independent of your spirit. Forgive us for letting fear and worry control our minds, and for allowing pride and selfishness wreak havoc over our lives. Forgive us for not following your ways and for living distant from your presence.
We confess our need for you…fresh…new…again. We ask that you make all things new, in our hearts, in our minds, in our lives, for this coming year. We pray for your refreshing over us.
Keep your words of truth planted firm within us, help us to keep focused on what is pure and right, give us the power to be obedient to your word. And when the enemy reminds us where we have been, hissing his lies and attacks our way, we trust that your voice speaks louder and stronger, as you remind us we are safe with you and your purposes and plans will not fail. We ask that you will be our defense and rear guard, keeping our way clear, removing the obstacles, and covering the pitfalls. Lord, lead us on your level ground.
We ask that you would provide for our needs, we ask for your grace and favor. We pray for your blessings to cover us, we pray that you would help us to prosper and make every plan that you have birthed in our heart to succeed. We pray that others would take notice of your goodness and could not help but to say, “These are the ones that the Lord has blessed.”
Help us to be known as great givers, help us to be generous and kind, help us to look to the needs of others and not be consumed by only our own.
May we be lovers of truth, may the fruits of your spirit be evident in our lives – your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Shine your light in us, through us, over us. May we make a difference in this world, for your glory and purposes. Set you way before us. May all your plans succeed. We may reflect your peace and hope to a world that so desperately needs your presence and healing.
To you be glory and honor, in this New Year, and forever.
In Jesus’ name,