What will the New Year bring about for you and me? That’s a huge question looming in the minds of many people as we get ready to turn the page on the calendar and begin a brand new year. I would guess that most people will look back on 2020 and just be glad it’s over. They are hoping and praying the new year will be better. We’re thinking, “How could it be worse?” We’re hoping things will get back to normal, like it was before the virus came to our land, but we’d settle for less uncertainty and drama in the New Year.
This time of year, every year, you can find those who will make predictions about the upcoming year so I thought I’d make some of my own. You can bank on these predictions because I’ve seen them come true every year, regardless of whether we are in a pandemic or not. Are you ready?
I predict that those of us who make the decision to seek the Lord with all of our hearts each day of 2021 will grow in our walk with the Lord like never before. Our opportunities will be understood as gifts of grace from His Sovereign hand. The challenges and trials we’ll face will be seen as invitations to trust Him with all of our hearts, even when the evidence points in the other direction. Our victories will be celebrated and relished with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Our defeats will be understood as lessons in faith and trust that are meant to draw us to the One who can comfort and restore us. For those who choose to seek the Lord with all their heart and stay rooted in His Word, our year will be filled to overflowing with the presence and peace of Almighty God…regardless of what comes our way.
I predict that those of us who choose to spend another year walking half-heartedly with God will spend another year being frustrated. We will continue to give God lip service, but refuse to serve Him with all our hearts. We will continue to go to church now and then, but only go to God when we need Him. We will continue to pat ourselves on the back when good things happen to us and wonder where God has gone when troubles come our way. We will live half-heartedly, dream colorless dreams, and pray powerless prayers. At the end of the year we will look back and realize that we are not where we should be, but that won’t stir us enough to move us to make the sacrifices we need to make to get to where we belong.
In the years that I have been here at Britton Christian Church I have seen a trend that repeats itself over and over again. Let me share with you what I have observed. At the beginning of each year there are many folks who feel compelled to rededicate their lives to the Lord, get serious about their walk with God, or maybe make the decision to begin to walk with the Lord for the first time. They begin to have a daily quiet time, sign-up for Bible study, decide in their hearts that they will make every effort to attend worship, and they mean it. There is no question in my mind but that the Lord has stirred their hearts and led them to make these decisions.
Somewhere along the way they hit the wall like a marathon runner at the 20th mile. The “wall” comes in many shapes and forms. Sometimes it comes in the form of prosperity. They began the year prayerfully considering every decision to be made in their business or work life. They dedicated themselves to doing their job in a way that would honor God. A promotion came. Advancement arrived. The business prospered. Somewhere down the road they realized that they had the Midas touch when good things kept happening at work. There were appointments to keep, more business than they could keep up with, and time for the study of God’s Word and worship were pushed from their calendar.
For others the wall comes in the form of hardships. Like the victims of prosperity, these sincere folks decided that they would do life differently this year. They began attending a Bible study and maybe even Promise Keepers at 6:30 am every Wednesday morning. Then tragedy struck. It wasn’t planned for nor was it expected, but it bullied its way into their lives and the first thought that came to mind was, “Why bother? Why serve God and make all of these sacrifices if it isn’t going to pay any dividends?” Suddenly, the time that was once spent seeking to grow closer to the Lord was spent sleeping in, playing golf on Sunday morning, or tinkering around the yard.
We are so easily sidetracked aren’t we? We are not any different from those who have gone before us my friends. The human heart wanders and strays with no difficulty whatsoever. God has warned, encouraged, and repeated Himself over and over again throughout the ages concerning the waywardness of the human heart and the need to seek Him with all of our hearts. Included in God’s sermon throughout history are warnings of the consequences for those who allow themselves to stray. Let’s take a look at Deuteronomy 30:8-20 this morning and learn some valuable lessons from those who have gone before us.
8 You will again obey the LORD and follow all his commands I am giving you today. 9 Then the LORD your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The LORD will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, 10 if you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. 15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 30:8-20 NIV)
“If” is a mighty big word in the Bible. The Scriptural promises of Deuteronomy 30 are dependent upon the little word “if.” God greatly desires to bless His people. He called them from the mud pits of Egypt to lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey. He led them through the desert with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night so they would not get lost. He promised them that He would be their King and that He would reign and rule over them with compassion and lovingkindness—something no human king could ever deliver. God greatly desires to bless His people if… He will bless His people if they will seek Him, if they will serve Him, if they will not be led astray and make something less than God their highest aim.
God speaks to His people in Deuteronomy and tells them that if they will seek and serve Him alone then He will prosper them. They will flourish as they serve Him. On the other hand, if they turn away from Him then they will struggle in all that they set their minds and hands to do. God not only warns them that they will struggle, but He says that if they turn away then they will be destroyed. How many times does destruction have to pass before our eyes before we realize that God is always right, His ways never fail?
A promising young woman sets her sights on being successful and because she makes success her highest aim, she compromises her principles and ends up losing her integrity and character. A middle-aged man who is unhappy in his marriage decides that what he needs is a change of scenery so he begins an affair to liven up his boring life. In the end his wife and kids are shamed and humiliated—and he is left all alone. A young girl wants to fit in so badly with the right crowd at school that she is willing to do anything to fit in. In the end she feels used, she’s the topic of conversation in the locker room, and she realizes that instead of fitting in she is an outcast. An entry level employee shows great promise and the manager has his eye on the young guy for a promotion until he finds out that the promising employee has been pilfering funds from the cash register, now he’s without work. How many times do we have to hear stories of destruction before we realize that God’s Word is given to us to teach us the way to life, the way to peace, and how to avoid the path that leads to destruction?
Over and over again in God’s Word we find God sending messengers to remind the people of the waywardness of their hearts so that they won’t walk in the path of destruction. Moses delivered the last warning to the people found in Deuteronomy, but after Moses died the people were not left without a voice speaking for God. In Joshua 24:14-15 we read,
14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15 NIV)
Throughout history, and in each generation, there have been those who echoed the calls of Moses, Joshua, and others throughout God’s Word. They were constantly calling God’s people back from apathy, back from rebellion, so that they might serve the Lord all of the days of their life. We need to hear that same call today.
Many people today see God as a giant killjoy, a party pooper, who desires nothing more than to steal our fun and keep us from really living it up in life. Nothing could be further from the truth my friend. God counsels us, He teaches us, and He woos and warns us to stay close to Him so that we might not be destroyed. God’s desire is that you and I will cling to Him, cleave to Him, seek Him with all of our hearts, and yearn to know Him better and better, more and more, each and every day. God has taken painstaking steps in order for us to have the tools necessary to walk with Him.
In Deuteronomy 5, God spoke to Moses with passion in His voice concerning the desires of His people. Moses relayed the conversation to the people. Read along with me in Deuteronomy 5:28-33.
28 The LORD heard you when you spoke to me and the LORD said to me, “I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. 29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever! 30 “Go, tell them to return to their tents. 31 But you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess.” 32 So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33 Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess. (Deuteronomy 5:28-33 NIV)
Do you hear the emotion in God’s voice when He said to Moses, “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” I want us to notice the two parts of this verse. First, God desires for us to be inclined to fear Him, to revere Him, which leads to a desire to know Him more and more. This is an important lesson for us. The guidance that God has provided for us is understood as nothing more than a bunch of rules to those whose hearts are not inclined to the Lord. On the other hand, for those whose greatest desire in life is to walk with the Lord and know Him intimately, then God’s guidance, God’s Word, is a letter of love written from the hand of the Lover of our souls.
Secondly, after God speaks about the inclination of our hearts, we read, “so.” So what? God says that if the first aspect of the verse is experienced then the second will follow in stride. God says, “So that it might go well with them and their children forever!” What an incredible promise! What a source of security for you and me! God promises that if we will follow Him then it will go well with us, and for our children. I know that some of you are already questioning that promise because of the phrase, “go well.” What does it mean? Does “go well” mean that none of our family members will ever get Covid? Does it mean that we will move into a bigger house and drive a more expensive car? Does it mean that your company will one day make it to the Fortune 500 list or that you will move from the cash register to management? Does it mean that your kids will never face hardships? “Go well” doesn’t mean any of those things my friend.
You may wonder how I can say that when “go well” seems so very easy to understand. Well, let me tell you how I arrived at my conclusion. Would you say that Jesus’ life went well? Scripture teaches that He lived a perfect life. The writer of Hebrews tells us that He was tempted in every way that we are, yet He did not sin—never, not once. Yet, when you measure Jesus by the world’s definition of success—He was a miserable failure. He lived in the hood, not on the hill. Nathanael wondered if anything good could ever come from Nazareth. Turn with me to John 1:45-46 and let me show you what I am talking about.
45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote– Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. (John 1:45-46 NIV)
Jesus wasn’t a success according to the world’s definition. He didn’t have a corner office, never had a personalized license tag that read, “Big Time,” and He was hated by the Union. They didn’t coronate Him as King, they hung Him on a cross. When He died there was no royal funeral Mass, they laid Him in a borrowed tomb. With all of this in mind we must conclude that Jesus lived well, He lived a life that was pleasing to God. And so it is with you and me. If we will seek the Lord of glory each moment and stay rooted in His Word then we are promised that things will go well for us as well. We will experience the perfect peace of Almighty God regardless of what comes our way. We will be grounded in the grace that will carry us in its everlasting arms. We will know God, we will see His hand at work, and we will experience the fullness that comes from walking with Him.
I can’t tell you the details of what is in store for you and me in the upcoming year, but I can promise you that this will be a year in which things will go well for you if you will seek Him with all of your heart.
At the end of each year many folks decide to make New Year’s resolutions. They want to get rid of some things and see some new things that have been absent from their lives come to be. For those of you who are drawn to the “out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new” mentality, let me share one final verse with you. I want to give you God’s prescription for emptying and filling your life and mine. Turn with me to 1 Peter 2:1-3 and let’s read together.
1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:1-3 NIV)
This morning I want to invite you to clean out the closets. Get rid of the grudge you’ve been holding onto for far too long. Stop trying to be who those around you want you to be. Discard those envious thoughts about what your friends have and you don’t. Take that bitterness to God and leave it there. Instead of holding on to these things, welcome a new appetite for the Word of God and watch your soul be filled to overflowing.
I want to invite you to make things right with the Lord this morning. If you have never accepted Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior of your life then won’t you do that this morning? If you know the Lord, but you’ve not been walking with Him then you know that He is calling you this morning to make things right. Won’t you come forward and spend some sweet moments in prayer asking Him to clean out your closets and fill you with a hunger for holiness?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
December 27, 2020