I had the privilege of speaking to our church family on Jan 4, 2015 at our Resolution Sunday. This is a Sunday at the first of the year in which we design the services to help jump start our church family for the new year.
We sell a variety of devotionals, bibles, bible study resources and music with the hopes that people will use these devotional tools to cultivate their walk with Christ. In addition to the resources the sermons target the idea of having a fresh start to the new year and in a certain sense a fresh start with God. My prayer is that this would be a day we corporately take a spiritual inventory of our lives and ask God to change us with a broken dependence in the power of the gospel.
I have noticed especially this year that there is a growing negativity towards the idea of making resolutions. This was not evidenced by our church family but in christianity in general. I agree whole heartedly that there is nothing magical about January 1st. Where all of a sudden the first day on the calendar of a new year produces supernatural and widespread change in every area of our life. There is; however, great value in looking into the mirror of God's Word for the express purpose of discovering who we are and how short we have fallen from walking worthy of the vocation that we have been called to. Paul said in Philippians 3:13 that He counted himself not to have apprehended. Paul repetitively took a spiritual inventory of his life and considered his own spiritual condition. He knew there were many areas that God still had to change him in so he could reflect the glory of and image of Jesus. He stated in the same book that he had to learn to be content in whatever state he was in. That did not come natural to him. He had to learn that. When David asked God to try him and search him to see if there be any wicked way in him, he was not asking God to discover what his spiritual condition was. God already knew what was in David's heart. He was asking God to show him. James reminds us that we should not look into the mirror of God's Word , see what manner of men we are, and then resume life as normal forgetting what the word has revealed to us. That is a forgetful hearer. We should look into the perfect law of liberty that reveals to us the need of our hearts and be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. Christianity clamors for expository preaching but where is the cry for the need for expository listening. Actively approaching every sermon with a heart of worship that says God what do you want me to learn today. What is it about you that I have forgotten and need to be reminded of? What truths in the text do I need to appropriate by faith. What promises do I need to claim by faith? How have I neglected the power of the life changing gospel of Christ? A heart that asks in all sincerity: Lord show me one area in my life today that needs to change and then by your grace would you help me and give me victory? Expository listening actively is engaged in the sermon and pulling out of the text eternal life changing truths that apply to our everyday lives. Instead the focus many times is on the delivery of the message. Was it engaging? Was it boring? This isn't the best guy I heard this week. Why can't he preach like the guys I listen to online or in a podcast. Or a focus on the length the sermon. Wow he is really longwinded today. We have lunch plans. The game starts in thirty minutes, etc, etc, etc. Instead of being spoon fed by the preacher and critical of the preacher we should be examining our own hearts against the backdrop of God's personhood, precepts, and provision of a saving gospel.
With that in mind the morning service focused on the first chapter of the book of Joshua. Joshua was a man that did not live on explanations, he lived on the promises of God. God's servant moses was dead and it was time for Israel to rise up and take the promise land. A faith that moves forward is bolted to who God is and what He has promised. God spoke to my heart out of that text about God's perseverance. God will continue His work. None of us are indispensable to God. God will continue to build his church with or without us. He loves to use men to do His work and we have the great privilege to serve Him. But there is always the danger of looking back. I have a great propensity to rely on the victories of the past which keep me from pressing forward for greater things.
A faith that moves forward is bolted and connected to God's power. He promised them victory! Yet when the spies came back from surveying the land all the obstacles in their way loomed larger in their minds than the power of God. Ten disbelieved and only Joshua and Caleb urged the nation to believe the power of God. There is always the danger of standing still. The danger for the christian to remain stagnant in his spiritual growth. Instead of arising and claiming ground for Christ in our personal lives we settle for the status quo.
A faith that moves forward in 2015 has an unshakeable confidence in the presence of God. He promised Joshua and Israel that He would be with them. God knew there were 31 Kings in Cannan waiting to fight and resist the Israelites. God was fully aware of the problem of moving two million jews across the swollen Jordan which was at flood stage. God was aware of the fact that the Cannanites had superior weaponry, strong fortified cities, and strange giants living in the land. No doubt that is why God told Joshua not to be afraid or dismayed. God reminded Joshua that he would not fail (literally to cause to sink) or forsake him. God's presence did not mean that God would be simply watching but that He would be actively participating in the battle. He would fight for them. It is tremendously encouraging that God is not only with me but that the same power that rose Christ from the grave is the same power that is helping me daily fight my flesh, the world, and the Devil. Yet there is always the danger of quitting. It's so easy to look at all the circumstances of life and become discouraged. My heart is quick to surrender to the erroneous thinking that the strongholds of sin which have entrenched themselves into my life are invincible. Praise God He will not let us sink and abandon us but He is faithful to finish the good work he started in us.
A faith that moves forward and that will endure the hardships which may come this year has a confidence in God's Plans. He calls us to courage. He tells us to be strong and of good courage. The NT synonym for these OT concepts would be endurance. Undoubtedly trials and difficulties will arise in 2015. James tells us to count it all joy when we encounter various trials that reveal our weaknesses. If we will let endurance have her perfect work God will use those trails to perfect and change us for the glory of God. Jesus has already walked that road and has given us an example. In Hebrews 12:2 we are reminded that we should look to Jesus in our trails. He is the author and trailblazer who has navigated these difficulties. He endured the shame of the cross and is seated at the right hand of the Father. God told Joshua that he had given the promised land as an inheritance. How can we have courage and faith despite difficult and hurtful trials? Remember the spiritual inheritance and all the riches we have in Jesus Christ. Christ died, was buried, and rose again. He is living and seated at the right hand of the Father ever making intercession for us. We are no longer held under the power, penalty, and presence of sin in our lives. We have a loving relationship with the creator God through the cross work of His son. The Spirit of God lives in us to strengthen, convict, and change us. It is only when we reflect and meditate on who God is and the wonderful inheritance that we have in Christ that we can be strong and of good courage during any trial that 2015 can afford. However, there is the danger of falling short. Many times I fail to appropriate the reality of this wonderful inheritance that was graciously given to me.
Lastly, a faith that moves forward is trusting in God's provisions. Specifically the provision of His Word. A faith that moves forward has an unshakeable allegiance to God's word. Joshua was not to let the word depart out of his mouth. He was to meditate on it day and night and completely obey it. He was to be saturated with the Word, speak the Word, and show the Word with his obedience. God has given us everything we need to be thoroughly equipped to impact another generation for Jesus Christ with His Word. If we are honest we give into the danger of taking over at times. Ignoring the warnings and instructions of scripture to live our lives in a way that seems right to our own eyes. I lean to my own understanding about how life should work more than I care to admit. Saul did this as he began to reject the authority of the Word in his life. He made decisions solely based on himself. Samson failed to heed the instructions of the Word as he gave his life to lust. What one thousand men could not take by force one woman took by seduction. Judas betrayed the Lord and ignored the very living Word that discipled him. They all ended in suicide. Dear God please deliver us from leaving the counsel of God's Word by taking over our own lives. The only two times Joshua failed was when the city of Ai defeated the armies of Israel and when Joshua made an allegiance unknowingly with the Gibeonites. In both cases they failed to talk to God about it. They proceeded in a way that was logical to them and their wisdom. They ignored God and took over. Consequently they failed both times. I have done that so many times.
Dear God, please keep me from looking back, standing still, giving up, falling short and taking over. I want to resolve for my faith to have your perseverance, power, presence, plans, and provisions in full view. Please give me a fresh vision of who you are so that I can move forward by faith in 2015.