New Year Message

Dec. 29, 2013

J Oliver Jones

The Bible tells us that we should “judge ourselves that we not be judged with the world” (1 Cor. 11). We are on the Eve of a New Year…a time when it is common practice to look back over the past year, to make some judgments upon what we see there, and to then prepare our resolutions for the New Year.  Now, these resolutions are normally not very deep. We make personal resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, and eat better. We make family resolutions to spend more time with our spouse and/or children, to not work so many overtime hours, and to take that big vacation while the kids are still home to enjoy it.  We make spiritual resolutions to read the Bible on a more consistent basis, be more faithful in our giving, and to spend more time in serving others. In all of these we mean well, but before we know it we are back in the same old rut with few if any changes.

Few people really search deeply into their hearts and pass judgment upon themselves. Yet that is exactly what we are instructed to do.  The process of judging ourselves instinctively involves the idea of change. This last Sunday in December is a time for reflection, not just over the past year with its successes and failures, but more importantly over the coming months and years that we all hope to have by God’s grace. If I may this morning, I would like to share some Scriptural imperatives to consider as you make those resolutions for the coming year. These will key on the word WALK; learning to walk even as we are encouraged by God, Himself, and learning to walk as we, hopefully, desire to do.  We will take our lesson from Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus, the 4th and 5th chapters.

Introduction: Eph. 4:1

NKJV: I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. . .

KJV:  I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called. . .

NIV: As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

As most of you know, this past summer I found myself in the position of having to learn to walk again, and in this physical area that is something I am still learning to do even now.  Most of us, when found in such a predicament, would be willing to go through the discomfort, pain, and physical exercise that would give us the best hope of once again walking “worthy” . . . i.e. walking with the strength, agility, and confidence of an adult.  But in our passage this morning, the walk we are told to walk is not one of physical ability, but one of spiritual endurance. Paul is here, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, telling us how as true “Christians” we should live our lives. We have received the call to represent our Lord in and to this world.  We are His ambassadors!  Therefore, let us live like it!  And so in Chapters 4 and 5 we are told how we are to live this life.

I.     First, we are to Walk in the Unity of the Spirit

          A. We are to walk in unity with our fellow Christians – 4:2

with all lowliness (humility) and gentleness, with longsuffering (patience),bearing with one another in love

B. We are to walk in unity with God through the Spirit – 4:3-6

One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.

            C. We are to walk in the unity of our Faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, being mature, coming to the full measure of perfection (NIV) found in Christ.

          Result – Be no longer Infants: 4:14 – that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning      craftiness of deceitful plotting.

II.   Second, we are to Walk in Light: 4:17-18    This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;

                                5:8  For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

          A. Those walking in Darkness 4:18-19: are being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; 19 Having lost all sensitivity,             they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. (NIV)

B. Those Walking in Light – 4:25-32:

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.26 “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

          Result – 5:9: Fruit of the Light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.

III. Third, we are to Walk in Purity: 5:3-7 

            3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of        impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be     obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For           of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a person is an idolater            — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with             empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.     7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

            A. There are those who will tell you that these warnings are empty for the believer; that God does not see our present sin because of the blood of Christ. We thoroughly discuss these issues in our Wesley Institute classes. But here I simply will remind you that Paul is writing to the Church, not to the lost.

Result – 5:6   Heed the words, “God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient”!

IV.  Finally, we are to Walk in Wisdom: 5:15-17

          KJV: 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.

            NIV:  15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what         the Lord’s will is.

A. We must be wise as to how we live because our time on this earth is limited.  The Psalmist wrote, “Show me, O Lord, my ife’s end & the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life” (39:4).  Again we read,  “The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,… they quickly pass and we fly away” (90:10).

B. We must be wise how we live because eternity is long.  Again, there are those who will tell you that God will not punish sin or sinners. They will either proclaim universal salvation or annihilationism. Neither is Scriptural. You and I will spend eternity either in the Light of God’s presence or in the outer darkness of His absence.

Conclusion:  Three Questions to consider in making your plans for the New Year:

1)  What do you think is God’s will for you this coming year?

2)  What is it that you think is most important for you in this year?

3)  Which of these will be most important 100 years from now?