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A New Years Message
As we approach New Years Eve and 2019, we’re all ready to list out our resolutions. As I was pondering these New Year’s resolutions, a story came to mind about a young man calling his folks to wish them Happy New Years.
As he was talking to his dad he said, “Well dad, what’s your New Year’s resolution? And his dad replied, “To make your mother as happy as I can.”
He then asked his mom the same question. “Mom, what is your New Year’s resolution?” And she said, “To make sure your dad keeps his resolution.”
There have been many people I know that can’t wait for this year to end. They thought this year would be different, special, and a year that would see a lot of their dreams and goals realized. But now at the end they just want it to be over, and are reluctant to even think what this next year may or may not be like.
But as I look back, this can easily be said by all of us of the years gone by. Or as Solomon so aptly points out, that there is absolutely nothing that is new about this time of year.
In Ecclesiastes 1:9, Solomon said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes towards the end of his life. He was now an old man who had a great beginning when He sought the Lord, but, as he got older, he allowed his passions to rule over God’s word, and so he is writing from a state of despair and discouragement.
But I really believe that it doesn’t have to be like this for us, that year by year new and exciting things can take place in our lives all the way up to and including our deaths, and that’s because there will be another really big new thing, that is, we’ll now be in the presence of the Lord God in heaven for all eternity. So I believe we can go from one good thing to another, even if bad and evil happens in our lives, but this will only happen when we seek God.
The Apostle Paul said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV)
Notice he says that all things, that is, both the good and the bad things that happen in our lives God will work out to our good when we place Him first and foremost in our lives.
It is with this in mind, that we can have a better New Year when we follow God’s plan instead of our own. This is what led me to consider what Paul said in Ephesians 5:15-20.
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:15-20 NIV)
From what it says here, there are three pieces of advice that we can take into this New Year that will make it the best year we could possibly have.
1. Be Careful
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV)
Being careful were two words I heard a lot growing up, and that’s because I found myself constantly getting in trouble, or I was about to do something that would have severe consequences, both to me and to others.
We also say this to others, but with other words like, “Be safe,” “Don’t rush,” and “Take your time, Rome wasn’t built in a day you know.”
But being careful is not just for our physical well being, it is also for our spiritual well being, and something we need to learn as we approach this next year to see it be the best it can be.
This is what Paul is saying to the church in Ephesus as he gives three areas that they we’re to be careful in.
a. Be Careful With Time
The Bible tells us to use time wisely.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 NKJV)
Time is the most valuable thing we have. There’s only so much time available, and once it’s over, we can never reclaim it.
Time is fleeting. Once a second, minute, hour, or day is over, it’s gone, never to come back or be found again. This summarizes the true value of time. People say time is money, but it’s far more precious, because while money can be lost, it can also be recovered or replaced, but once time is lost, it’s unrecoverable.
God has given each of us so much time; the only problem is we really don’t use it well. Therefore, we need to be wise and use the time God has so graciously given us for His kingdom rather than for our own.
The New King James Version of Ephesians 5:16 says we are to “redeem the time.”
In other words, we need to be more careful and use our time wisely for Christ. And probably the best way we can do this is to leave the past behind so it doesn’t mess up our present and future.
Will Rogers, humorist and newspaper columnist, said, “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”
The Bible says it this way, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” (Philippians 3:13 NKJV)
Thinking about what might have been, or what we could have done differently can help us not to repeat past mistakes, but to dwell on them, running them over and over again in our minds completely negates whatever good might come from it. Why, because it is, in many respects, a complete waste of time.
b. Be Careful With Opportunities
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5 NIV)
“Carpe Diem” is a Latin phrase that means, “Seize the Day.”
It means that each day should be used to its fullest potential for God’s purposes and kingdom. Therefore we are to seize every day for God, and make every opportunity that presents itself, count.
But, not everything that comes our way is from God. Therefore we must put these various opportunities to the test. What test? We must make sure they pass the Great Commandment and the Great Commission test?
The Great Commandment test is whether the opportunity draws us closer and into a more loving relationship with God, and then with one another. The second test, the Great Commission test, is whether the opportunity is one that will further the kingdom of God. Does it help us spread the good news of Jesus Christ?
If it doesn’t pass these tests, then there a good possibility that while it may seem like something good, it definitely isn’t the best, and it could end up hurting and inhibiting what the Lord desires to do in and through our lives.
Now, Paul was all about opportunities that pass these tests. He said, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.” (Galatians 6:10a NIV)
This easily passes the Great Commandment and Great Commission test. We should therefore take it to heart and follow Paul’s example, especially as it relates to our third point, and that is to seek God first in whatever opportunity comes our way.
c. Be Careful To Seek God
Notice that it says that we are to be careful with our time and opportunities because the days are evil. Therefore, the question becomes, what defeats evil?
Paul gives this piece of advice to Titus. He said, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.” (Titus 3:3-5a NIV)
What defeats evil is the Lord God, which is why we are to be careful to seek Him first in our decision making, along with His plan and purpose for our lives.
Look at what the prophet Isaiah said after he chastises the people for spending their time and money on what doesn’t satisfy, or that which isn’t of God and hence evil.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6 NKJV)
In our passage Paul says that this is the will of God.
Jesus said it like this. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)
What Jesus is saying is that we need to be more Spirit-centered than self-centered.
We should think more of Him than we do of ourselves. We are to be more spiritually minded than worldly minded. In other words, if we set our minds on scripture, prayer, praising, and serving God, then we will be ready and prepared, and have a better New Year as a result.
Taking that Spirit centered approach leads us to our second point in following what the Apostle Paul is saying to the Ephesian Church.
2. Be Filled
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18 NIV)
This is a Spirit centered life over a life that is ruled by the worldly pleasures. It refers to our being so under the Holy Spirit’s control and leading that our thoughts and lives are entirely taken up with the things of God.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to have the Holy Spirit overflowing in our lives.
The problem, however, is that we’ve been feeding our flesh by involving ourselves more in the pleasures of this world than we have been feeding the Spirit through time spent in prayer and in God’s word.
The reality is that we really can’t be effective in this life without the fullness of the Holy Spirit. If we’re going to live effective, godly lives in an ungodly world, then we have to seek this filling on a daily basis. If we’re going to regain that fire and make a difference in the lives of our family and in the life of our community, then we need to be filled to fullness with the Holy Spirit.
But, what does this look like?
A.J. Gordon, one of the founders of Gordon Conwell School of Divinity, told of being at the World’s Fair, where at a distance he saw a man pumping furiously at one of those old hand pumps. He said, “That man is really pumping water.” And the really remarkable thing is that this man didn’t slow down one bit even after some time had passed.
This peeked the interest of Gordon, and so he began to make his way closer, but when he got closer, he discovered that it was a wooden man connected to an old-fashioned hand pump powered by the water that made electricity, and it was this electricity that caused the pump to operate. Therefore, the man was not pumping the water; the water was pumping the man.
What a beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit at work within the life of a believer. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, what we do in this life is not from our own effort, rather it is from the Holy Spirit that is at work within us, enabling and empowering us to live a holy life that is pleasing to God.
And so we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Now the wording used by Paul is in the present tense, which means that this to be a continuous act on a daily basis.
And so, if we want that new beginning for this New Year, and then have it renewed day by day thereafter, we need to seek out and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Think of it this way, let’s say you put a lot of mileage on your car every day, and to keep the car running you have to stop at the gas station and get the gas tank filled up, and then top it off. This is what we need to do in getting our lives filled with the Holy Spirit. Every day we’re to seek the Holy Spirit’s filling, and then throughout the day keeping our spiritual lives topped off with the Holy Spirit. In other words, it is a continuous action on our part every day, and throughout the day.
3. Be Thankful
“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV)
Complaining is the enemy of thanksgiving. The two cannot co-exist in the same heart. A grumbling spirit is not compatible with a Holy Spirit filled life.
Psalm 77:3 says, “I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed.”
Christians who are filled with the Spirit do not grumble as their witness to a world filled with those who know of nothing better, as negative responses to stories inundate the airwaves and social media sites.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” (Philippians 2:13 NKJV)
Instead of grumbling and complaining, we are to be filled with gratitude, that is, we are to be thankful.
There is something inside each of us that needs to give thanks to God. The reason why is because when we spend time giving thanks to God we feel closer to Him. I think that’s why Paul wrote,
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV)
Paul is saying to give thanks “in” everything, not “for” everything. This is where some people have missed it and why so many people think Christians are whack. To be thankful “for” everything just doesn’t make sense.
We cannot be thankful for evil, but we can be thankful in the evil we encounter. We don’t give thanks for cancer, but we can still give thanks knowing God will work everything out to the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
We can thank God because He will not permit anything that is beyond our capabilities without providing a way by which we will be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). But I also know there are some who say that this isn’t true, that what they are facing is beyond their ability to handle it, and that God hasn’t made a way out of it.
Let me just say what I have known as a truth in my life and in God’s word, and that is God provides a way, our problem is that we don’t like the way God has provided.
We can, however, give thanks to the Lord because we know He has a purpose bigger than the problem we are facing, and that He will give us the power to overcome it. We give thanks because we serve a God who is bigger than the problem.
Paul also tells us that being thankful is God’s will for our life. If you want to live in the will of God then give thanks in everything. Develop that attitude of gratitude.
It is God’s plan; it is His will for us to give Him thanks. That is the way He made us so that we can have a better day tomorrow than yesterday. And the reason is because the giving of thanks brings us into the presence of God.
Psalm 100:4 declares, “I will enter His gates with thanksgiving and I will come into his courts with praise.”
The New Year is upon us, will we make it the best year we can by being careful, being filled, and being thankful, or will it simply be the same old, same old? The choice is ours to make. Yes things will happen, bad things, evil things, but it is our choice as to whether we’ll allow them to rule our lives. We get to choose. Will be turn bitter or better from the hand life deals us?
Determine today in your resolutions to take it all to God, and receive His grace in your time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
Wednesday Evening Bible Study