I have been waiting for you for such a long time. There is so much I want to say, but I don’t really know where to start. I can remember going through this same routine with your sister 2006, but we didn’t hit it off so well. For that reason I must admit that I am a little timid in finally meeting you, even though I have been waiting like a school boy anxious for his first kiss. I have been praying that with you I will be able to make the changes in my life that I desperately want to make, but haven’t been able to carry out in the past. I really don’t think it is all my fault though, I mean, I looked to 2006 to help me. Was that false hope! In the beginning she had me so excited, I knew the feelings I was having had to be real. There was fireworks, confetti, and smiles breaking out like the chicken pox. I guess she gave all she could those first few days because after a few weeks there was no one there to cheer me on—I felt so alone. Oh, 2007, I know things are going to be better with you. It’s not only me that’s counting on you, all of my friends are as well.
Here are just a few of the things that I want you to help me work on: I have to improve my outlook on myself. The older I get the more unsatisfied I become with myself. You’ve just got to help me. We’ve got to firm up those thighs, slim down that stomach, and tighten up that slumping attitude which has been down for way too long. I feel like an ugly episode of “Dr. Phil meets the Whiners.”
Next, we’ve got to work on my relationships. You know it didn’t use to be so hard to put on that “I-don’t-care-façade” when I’m around those I don’t get along with, but that face doesn’t seem to fit any more. I wish I could muster up the humility to apologize to those I’ve hurt. This Christmas was awful lonely without them around. I would give anything to be more positive and encouraging to my children. It seems like I am always on them for something and questioning what they are doing. I want to trust them so bad, but I’m not sure anybody can be trusted any more. And then there is my poor wife. I know God has given me the opportunity to make her feel like a champion, but it seems like every year I end up acting like a chump. Nit picking, put-downs, guilt trips, belly aches, and criticism—those are not the pillars a Christian marriage are supposed to built upon. Oh, 2007, you’ve got to rescue me this year! Don’t let me down. I want to be disciplined and devoted. I feel a new excitement. It’s different than it was last year or any year before. You’ve got to help me be an advocate for my family and friends this year, not an adversary. I just know this is the year that it’s all going to turn around—you won’t let me down. Thanks 2007. I know you will be cheering me on. Your enthusiasm won’t fade away like all of the other years…will it?
I have to ask the question this morning, “How many of you are making New Year’s resolutions to do things differently in 2007 than you did in 2006?” I hope that each of us has spent time in prayer seeking the Lord’s counsel for the new year. What changes does He desire to bring about in your life? If we will make those changes a priority in our life then we will see things happen. We need to be setting goals, making resolutions, striving to improve our relationships, to develop godly disciplines, and sharpen our skills. Are you planning on stepping up to the plate for the Lord in 2007? I do want to follow my question with another question, “How many of you really believe that your resolutions will resolve anything?” I believe most people don’t. Oh, because we still have hope we continue to hope for a better life, healing in broken relationships, a better self-image, a stronger walk with the Lord, and a better sense of God’s presence in our lives, but most of us can’t name the resolutions we made in 2006, and in a few months the resolutions we are making now will be a faded memory.
I haven’t come to scatter dark clouds over our hopes this morning; rather I have come to declare to you that there is hope for 2007. I want us to understand that we must begin with the right foundation before we can build a house that will stand the tests of time and we must base our decisions, our resolutions, on a solid base which gives purpose and direction for our lives.
There is great reason for you and me to have hope this morning—to hope for change, for renewal, for restoration, and reconciliation which will bring about all of the things we so desperately need in life. Take out your Bible and let’s read together from 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21 NIV)
“The old has gone, the new has come!” Aren’t those refreshing words to you this morning? The old has gone—old habits, old prejudices, old thought patterns that keep you boxed up and hemmed-in, old memories which are riddled with guilt and have ransacked your hopes of a brighter day. The new has come—new opportunities, new hope of a brighter, more fulfilling day, new ideas to help broaden your horizon and raise your expectations, and a new faith which convinces you that God does have a purpose for your life and that He alone can repair what has been broken in you—the new has come!
I have to believe that if conditions were conducive to growth we would realize many of the resolutions which will never be realized. So many of us live and exist in conditions where the possibilities for our growth are about the same as the possibility of growing petunias in the Sahara. So many of us are surrounded by negative, cynical, pessimistic people who don’t have the motivation to get out of their rut. It’s not enough that they are in a rut, they want you to join them. These are the folks from whom you will never get any encouragement or affirmation. That is not enough to excuse us though. We all know that we’ve been encouraged in times past yet we still didn’t make the changes that we desired.
This morning I want to examine the life of Paul and the compelling Scripture which lays a foundation for us to see change become a reality in our lives. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, was writing to a group of folks who had it in for him. There was a bunch in the church that thought Paul was weak and what they wanted was a strong leader. Paul was always being persecuted, he was ill too much for their liking, and their general assessment was that Paul was weak. I can hear them now: “Paul you’re weak! What kind of preacher do you think you are?” Do you know the funny thing about Paul’s critics? They were right. Paul was weak. Paul wasn’t relying on his own strength and challenging the Corinthians to an arm wrestling match. Paul knew he was weak, but he also knew Who was strong and it was in His strength that Paul found his motivation for every thing he did in life.
There are so many things that you and I would like to change about our lives. We’ve tried so many avenues to see those changes come to fruition in the past, but this morning I want to recommend a different course of action. Let’s read together from verses 14-16.
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:14-16 NIV)
How was it that Paul, a Jew who used to go around persecuting Christians is now a missionary on a mission to those very people? How could a Saul become a Paul? “For Christ’s love compels us…” Christ’s love puts blinders on our eyes so that all we see ahead is the mission to which we have been called. It is Christ’s love which draws us like a magnet to the task at hand. In a world full of preferential treatment we are convinced that Christ died for all! For the governor and the gardener, the plumber and the President, the housewife and the hairstylist, the student and the sanitation worker, and the teacher and technician. Jesus died for all! Do you realize what ground that places you and me on? In God’s eyes we are all on level ground. You will never find a level playing field in this life, but with the Creator of the Universe you hold the same position as the most prominent person in the world. He loves you so much that Christ died for you. I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to stand up and cheer!
We have become inundated with so much information on “How To Improve Our Self-Esteem,” but I have to tell you today that there is no program you can subscribe to which can be a greater boost to your self-esteem than to realize who you are in God’s eyes. You are His child. He is your greatest advocate. His love is of such great proportion that Jesus came to teach us how to live, then He died on our behalf.
We have seen study after study which shows evidence of the importance of supportive and encouraging parents in the life of a child. If a child is to become well-adjusted and capable of becoming a productive member of society then the child must have an active parent or significant adult who is willing to go the extra mile with him or her. Those children who are left to struggle on their own are all too often caught up in the undercurrent of life. There are countless numbers of folks who want to pull them down to their level rather than strive with them to help them realize their potential. The information which we do not receive from the experts is that the same holds true for adults. We all need a cheering section who constantly rallies the troops behind us, cheering us on, and convincing us that we can do it.
I declare to you today that you and I have a cheering section! He is the Father that you never had, the Brother who will show you around the block, the Mother who will comfort you in your distress and turmoil, and the Sister who provides a warm, listening ear. The One who paints the morning sky is the One who stands in your corner giving you a standing ovation. The One who gave the song to the birds is the One who will put a song of hope in your broken heart. He loves you and His love is more than simplistic clichés—it is backed by the life of His Son.
I have already mentioned the predicament many of us find ourselves in today. So many of those around us refuse to believe that we can become any more than the mess we have already gotten ourselves into. I well remember when I was a teenager and I gave my life to the Lord. I had gone to a weekend retreat with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. On that retreat I made a decision to give up my old way of life and start living for Jesus. I must admit that I was more than timid to go home, back to my old buddies with whom I had spent many nights getting into trouble and doing things that were slowly killing us. When I got home I didn’t tell my buddies what had happened, but when the weekend rolled around and it was time to do our thing, I told them that I wasn’t interested in going. When they asked “Why?” I told them that I had become a Christian. I will never forget one of my best friends saying, “We’ll give you a few weeks and you’ll be back with us.” There was no, “I’m happy for you. I wish I could get my life straightened out. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.” Needless to say with friends like that I didn’t need any enemies. In a few weeks I was right back with them. Thank God there was a person who came into my life a while later who believed the words of Paul, 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! I well remember the summer before I went to college when my friend gave me the best advice I had ever received. He said, “Mike, when you go to college nobody will know you. You can be whoever you want to be and they will think you have been that way all of your life.” I made a decision right then that my past, with all of its scars and hair-brained decisions was not going to hold me back any longer—I was going to live a new life, a life for Jesus. The old was gone; the new had come!
As you begin this new year you need to hear those words—“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” I don’t care how entrenched you have been to old habits or old ideas, all I care about is the fact that you are being offered a brand new start! Your broken relationships can be healed. Your shattered dreams can be realized. Your destructive ways can be demolished and a new you can emerge.
I may be wrong, but I honestly believe the basis for most of the grief we suffer stems from fragmented relationships and a seeming inability to do anything to bring about reconciliation. I have heard on more than one occasion from people right here in our church, “Oh that’s just the way he is and you just have to deal with it.” “I would like for our relationship to be better, but I just can’t do anything about it.” “She has always been that way and she will never change.” Don’t believe that for one minute! “The old has gone; the new has come!” We can take all of those self-centered, me-first ideas and offer them to the King of all Creation for Him to change. God can take a cold cynical heart and soften it with His love. He can take a bitter, hate-filled attitude and turn it upside down with His mercy. I know He can, I have seen Him do it.
The remedy for our brokenness—our broken relationships, dreams, and lives is the prescription set forth by the One who created reconciliation. Paul writes,
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NIV)
Folks, we have been given a mission in life. Our lives are not about grabbing all of the gusto we can get, it is about being an active part of the ministry of reconciliation. If you have been reconciled then it is time to join the ministry team and begin today to take His reconciliation to others. God is reconciling humanity to Himself and you and I have been chosen by God to be Christ’s ambassadors, His representatives in this effort. Do you realize what a privilege this is for you and me?
When I was a kid I use to dream about what it would be like to play football with Roger Staubach and the World Champion Dallas Cowboys. As a kid, that was a dream that was beyond anything I could ever imagine, but today I’ve been chosen to join a team that is assured of victory. There is no foe that will defeat us, no adversary that can thwart God’s mighty plan. Our mission is immense as we are called to share the message of reconciliation with a world that is walking on its tip toes through the broken shards of life. The message that you and I have been given brings life and healing to those who so desperately need to hear it.
There are those of you who are here this morning whose lives are broken, and I am God’s messenger to share with you this beautiful, life-giving message of reconciliation this morning. God loves you. There is nothing you have ever done or will do which can cancel God’s overwhelming love for you. You have made decisions that have seemingly destroyed the lives of those around you, those you love the most. You are trapped in a deep and depressing life of drug abuse which is leading you closer and closer to the grave. You make no bones about how you feel about your parents—they are merely a thorn in your side and you can’t wait to pull the thorn out and be on your own. In the meantime you are severing the greatest gift God has given you as a young person. You are wondering how you could have ever married that girl or guy. You thought being married would be exciting and exhilarating, but it has turned out to be an extraneous effort in futility and so you are thinking about throwing it all away. If I am talking to any of you, and I know that I am, then you need to know that God loves you and He offers a new start, a clean slate, a fresh beginning to people like you and me. Simply to understand that cerebrally isn’t enough. You need to allow Him to begin to work in your life this morning as it is His desire to pick up the shattered pieces of your life and begin to piece them back together again. Once He has your life pieced back together again He will use you to reach out to others and enable them to allow Him to begin to work in their life. There is great cause to celebrate this morning. Great cause to have hope for 2007. I believe that this year can be a turning point for some of us because the God of all glory has demonstrated His love by giving His Son and declaring to each of us that the old is gone and the new has come! Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
December 31, 2006