A New Year’s Committment

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INTRODUCTION:

If you were to make a list of everything throughout your life that you decided you were going to do but didn’t do it, how long would your list be? Just deciding to do something doesn’t necessarily get it done, does it? There is another necessary ingredient, and that ingredient is mentioned in the Bible in I Timothy 4:7 and other Scripture passages.

I. DISCIPLINE

In I Timothy 4:7-8 the apostle Paul says these words to Timothy: “. . . discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness: for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also the life to come.” The word “discipline” is the Greek word “gymnazo” or “gymnasia”. We get our English word “gymnasium” from that Greek word. The word means “sustained daily effort”. It was a term often used in athletics to refer to a training program or exercise program.

I’m sure most of us, if not all of us, have watched parts of the olympic games on T.V. We admired those athletes and marveled at their ability to stick to a rigorous training program for years in the hope of winning a medal. Paul is saying here that God wants each of us to apply that same dedication and daily discipline to the goal of “spiritual fitness” or “godliness”. God wants our schedules and our whole lives to be organized around, and  focused toward the goal of godliness, that is, becoming more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, that’s a tall order, but whenever God gives a command He also provides the means necessary for us to accomplish it.

II. THE PRACTICE OF DISCIPLINE

So how can we discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness? Two other verses that use the term “gymnazo” give us the key. The first verse uses it in the negative sense, and the second in a positive sense. II Peter 2:14 speaks of a “heart trained in greed”, and Hebrews 5:14 talks about “having your senses trained to discern good and evil”. What do these two passages have in common? They are both talking about habits, the first bad, and the second good. God gave us that amazing capacity we call a habit. Whenever we do something long enough it becomes a part of us. For example, when you buttoned your shirt or blouse this morning, did you button it from the bottom up or from the top down? Did it take you a moment to remember? Maybe you still don’t remember. That’s because you don’t consciously think about where to begin anymore. It has become a habit. Can you imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have this capacity to form habits? If we had to consciously think through every step of putting on our clothes, eating our food, brushing our teeth, and combing our hair, we would be mentally exhausted before the morning was over!

The bad habits are easy, aren’t they? But the good habits take time and consistent effort. Too many people give up because they want change too soon. We live in an age which has instant coffee, instant pudding, instant breakfast, instant messages, and instant just about everything. But there is no such thing as “instant godliness”. Studies have found that it normally takes at least three weeks of daily repetition before a person feels comfortable performing a new task. But many of us don’t continue for even three days. If we don’t receive instant success we often get discouraged and quit. There seems to be two basic philosophies of religion or morality in the world today. One says, “I will live according to my feelings. I will do what I feel like doing”. And the other philosophy says, “I will live as God says”.

III. THE EXAMPLE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

That was the apostle Paul’s goal in life. Would you like to be able to honestly say, at the end of your life, what Paul says in II Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith”? Well, God provides another means necessary for godliness, and I’ve saved it for last so that, hopefully, we’ll remember it if we remember nothing else from this message. It’s found in Philippians 2:12-13. Verse 12 says, “work out your own salvation in fear and trembling”. It doesn’t say, “work for your salvation”, but “live out that daily process of sanctification, becoming more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ”.  Verse 13 is the key:  “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”.  The principle here is this:  God must work in us before He can work through us.  God wants us to obey His command to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness, but at the same time we must realize that God will increase our desire to become more godly , and He will enable us to accomplish our spiritual growth objectives if we rely of His power.

CONCLUSION:  Do you want to be a godly person?  Do you want God to use you to accomplish the work He has for you in 2017?  There are no shortcuts.  It comes down to this:  the daily prayerful study of God’s Word and consistent obedience to it, applying its principles to all the situations and decisions of our daily lives, and growing in the knowledge of God.  May the Lord be with you this new year.

NEW YEAR 2014

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Are you in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions?  One dictionary defines a resolution as “a firm decision to do or not to do something”.  Another dictionary says:  “a serious decision to do something.”  From those definitions I get the impression that resolutions are choices we commit ourselves to do. What are you looking forward to in 2014?  What are you dreading?   What do you hope to find?  What choices did you make in 2013?  Are you satisfied with those choices? The search engine Google put a short film on U-Tube entitled “What Did The World Search For This Year.”  It focused on personal and world events that made life worth living in 2013.  At the end of the film are written these words:  “Search On“. I hope that you have come to this site to gain an eternal perspective on life, and to seek God’s  wisdom to guide you on your continuing search for answers and meaning to life.   The Bible tells us that there are only two things in this world that are going to last forever:  God’s Word and people.  In Matthew 24:35 the Lord Jesus told the parable of the fig tree, and said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”  In I Peter 1:24-25 the apostle Peter quotes from Isaiah 40 when he says:  “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord abides forever.” The other entity that lasts forever is people.  They will live forever in one of two places:  heaven or hell.  In John 5:24 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My words, and believes in Him who sent Me, has eternal life.  He will not come to judgement, but has passed from death to life.”  By contrast, the apostle John records in Revelation 20 what he saw in a vision:  “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it. . . . And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life. . . . And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” The wonderful and exciting thing about heaven is that it lasts forever.  The terrible and terrifying thing about hell is that it lasts forever.  Each year brings you closer to death, and also to eternity.   May you choose to have a joyful eternity by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Savior and Lord.  Then every day and every year until eternity will be filled with joy, inner peace, and unfading hope.

Please let me know your honest reaction to this New Year’s Eve message.  I will gladly respond to any comments you make and any questions you might have.  My purpose was not to dampen your spirit, but to put the year in perspective.  These were a few of the thoughts that came to my mind this New Year’s Eve.  I’m interested in knowing your thoughts also.  Thank you for visiting, and a happy New Year to you!

NEW YEAR’S 2013 – ARE YOU READY?

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New Year’s Day is the closest thing to being the world’s only truly global public holiday or day of celebration.  It may be celebrated on different months and different days but the new year is celebrated in almost every nation and culture.  Most countries use the Gregorian calendar as their main calendar, and New Year’s Day is observed on the first day of January.

The month of January originally owes its name to the deity Janus, the Roman god of gates, doors, and beginnings.  Janus had two faces, one looking forward and the other looking backward.  January 1 represents the fresh start of a new year after a period of remembrance of the passing year.  In our country we celebrate New Year’s Day with New Year’s resolutions, parades, football games, and fireworks.

2012 has been a very eventful and alarming year in many ways.  It has been a very stressful year for many who have lost jobs or who have lost family members in very traumatic ways. Thoughts of the end of the world have filled the minds of many of us.  Have you given your fears, concerns, regrets, and disappointments from the year 2012 over to God?   Pastor Ray Steadman once told his congregation, “On New Year’s Eve we realize more than at any other time in our lives that we can never go back in time.  We can look and remember, but we cannot retrace a single moment of the year that is past.”

Looking ahead, are we ready to move on into 2013?  As we’ve waited for, and been warned about, the end of the Mayan calendar and the predictions of the end of the world, are we ready for the calendar of events God has revealed to us in the Bible?  According to the Scriptures, the next thing on the world’s  calendar is not the end of the world.  That won’t occur for over a thousand years.  The next thing we need to be ready for is the rapture of Christians.  By “Christians” I mean those who have repented of their sins and have invited Jesus Christ to be their Savior and Lord, and their changed lives bear witness to the fact that their commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ is real.  I Thessalonians 4:15-18 and I Corinthians 15:50-53 tell us that all genuine Christians will suddenly disappear.  They will be caught up to meet Jesus Christ in the air and be taken to heaven.  Are you ready for that moment?  If not, you will be left behind, and there will be seven years of Tribulation – the wrath of  God upon the earth.  Please make a New Year’s resolution to come to a personal knowledge of, and commitment to, Jesus Christ.

Dr. Dennis DeHaan shared the following message in the New Year’s Eve Daily Bread brochure in 2004.  16th-century Venetian artist Titian portrayed Prudence as a man with three heads.  One head was of a youth facing the future, another was of a mature man with his eyes on the present, and the third head was that of a wise old man gazing at the past.  Over their heads Titian wrote a Latin phrase that means, “From the example of the past, the man of the present acts prudently so as not to imperil the future.”

This has not been an easy year to look back on, and the coming year may not be an easy one to look forward to, but we are not alone.  In the Old Testament book of Joshua, chapter 1, after Moses died and God told Joshua to enter the land of Canaan and conquer it, He also gave this promise:  “As I have been with Moses, so I will be with you. . . . Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Let’s dedicate ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ so that we might enter the year 2013 with courage and joyful excitement!