What Will Be Different in 2014?
Over the next 12 months is the major difference in your life going to be the fact that you look at a calendar with a 4 at the end of the year and not a 3?
Will the most significant change be that you write 14 instead of 13 on your cheques or documents?
My aim is to challenge you to ensure that the coming months are more than a turning of calendar pages and a changing of a number.
Solomon sums up a potentially depressing review of life by pointing to how meaningless life is without the centrality of God in our lives. Indeed, he makes it clear that our whole duty is to fear God and keep His commandments.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
Is it then reasonable to ensure that in 2014 we do everything to give God centre place in our lives?
As we chart our course and make our plans, is it not wise for us to start first with identifying what is it that God would have us to do?
Should we not immediately dismiss plans that have the potential to put us in conflict with the principles of Godly living?
Here is a serious consideration:
The whole duty really means that this is our job description. It is THE assignment that we are required to complete.
When you look at what you did in 2013:
• Are you satisfied with your performance on the job?
• Are you at a place where you can’t imagine how you could have done a better job?
• If there is any room for improvement, commit now to working on fixing that in 2014.
The first place to start is with the issue of focus…. with the tuning of our minds.
In 2014, we must be constantly mindful of the need to be respectful and in awe of God. We must face up to our responsibility to be always doing His will.
We must see ourselves as being immersed in a mission. This is not about Sunday worship or our moments of personal devotion. Our every waking moment must be guided by our sole duty….doing the will of God.
With that mindset, we will be more resilient in the face of temptation. We will also get to the point where we have a desire to channel more energy and resources into things that are above.
Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Getting trapped in the rat race of the world will become more meaningless in our sight.
Let 2014 be different. Let us commit to taking more seriously the call to discharge your whole duty.
Decide now to spend more time thinking about God and having His will become more apparent in your life in 2014.
In order to let God’s will be manifested in our lives, we need to know what His will is in fact.
One critical difference in 2014 must be a commitment to learning more about who God has revealed Himself to be in the Scriptures.
We need to commit to internalizing His precepts and promises.
We need to buckle down to the task of understanding and displaying the mindset that Christ wants us to have.
Developing Christ-like thinking requires devotion to regular study and discourse with others. Commit in 2014 to be more involved in personal and group study of the Bible.
Let us follow the example of the Bereans and commit to significantly increasing our knowledge and application of the doctrines and teaching of Christ in 2014. (Acts 17:11)
Even as we step up our own focus on God and studying His will for our lives, we must pay closer attention to the commission that has been given to us.
We have been commanded to take to the world the message of sin, its wages and the pardon for sin that is available.
Matt 28: 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
As you reflect on 2013, are you comfortable with the role you have played in carrying out the “great commission”?
Will you right now, right here make a commitment to sharing the Gospel message in 2014?
Will you make every effort to better prepare yourself to effectively defend the faith (Jude) and to share with others how God is blessing your life?
Here is a practical action that I invite you to take on board in 2014:
We speak a lot about “inviting your neighbour”. The focus has been to get them to come to a worship service or Bible study.
I suggest that we add a twist to “invite your neighbour” in 2014.
Invite one or two of your neighbours or colleagues for a simple “getting to know you better” session.
This should ideally be in your home but if that is not convenient, you can go to a not too crowded, low cost location.
The objective of this session is not to conduct a Bible study or to present a message. The aim is merely to build a bond.
We are committed to friendship evangelism. Without friends the plan cannot even get started.
Let 2014 be a year in which we work seriously on developing and rekindling strong friendships.
Let us set about catching up with friends with whom we have been out of touch.
Critically, let us reach out in friendship to members of the body who have been missing.
As we look outside of ourselves to others, 2014 should be a year in which you take more seriously the call to be your brother’s keeper.
There is a desperate need for mentoring today. Family units are not what they need to be and a lot of the guidance and support that should be offered by families is in fact missing.
We invite you to implement another practical solution in 2014.
We encourage you to commit to passing on a skill, wise counsel or a personal experience to at least one additional person in 2014.
If you are handy in the kitchen, why not invite a small group over to show them how to prepare one of your favourite dishes?
If you are good at handicraft, why not pass on some of your skills and share your interest with others?
If you are able to provide wise counsel or encouragement to others, why not take the time to share insights with others?
If you feel that you have nothing worth sharing, give a listening ear. Make yourself available to simply listen.
2014 is the year in which you are going to set out to impact the lives of others in meaningful and lasting ways.
As we reflect on practical factors impacting lives, we also need to turn the spotlight on non-spiritual yet vitally important components of our daily walk in 2014.
The first consideration is the treatment and care of “God’s temple.”
2 Corinthians 6:16
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Our health is central to the experiences that we encounter in life.
Good health is a blessing that we celebrate with unbounded joy. Ill health is a challenge that darkens our outlook and burdens our minds.
Consequently, in 2014 we must commit to paying closer attention and discipline to our diet, our exercise regimes and our thought processes.
Will you commit today to eating right in 2014? Will you be more disciplined with respect to what you eat, how much you eat and when you eat? Will you do this consistently throughout the year?
Will you commit to a regime of regular exercise or physical activity?
Will you commit to freeing your mind from the stress-inducing thoughts that are endangering your health?
Will you engage in the kind of positive thinking that is a platform for healthy living?
Talk about money tends to get some Christians nervous. The misunderstanding about wealth is widespread among the brotherhood and many of us are ill-informed about financial matters.
Yet, money matters are central to so many of the challenges, conflicts, distractions and even temptations that we face.
In 2014, let us get awake to the importance of wealth management in our lives.
Let us commit to learning more about how to acquire, manage and appropriately use wealth.
2 Corinthians 9:
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Let us forsake the notion that wealth is taboo.
Commit now to stepping forward to use the talents that God has given us to create and use wealth in His service.
Let us now take on the perspective of the congregation.
• What is going to be different in 2014 for the congregation?
• Will there be growth in membership?
• Will the members be more grounded doctrinally?
• What will change the culture with respect to a consistent commitment to evangelism?
• What is going to cause us to be more attentive to the needs of brethren and those in need?
• Is this the year in which we achieve stronger bonds among members?
Then let us also look beyond our congregation to the wider society.
Is 2014 the year in which we stop moaning in our private circles about the decaying society and step forward and make a practical difference?
Could you be so moved to write a letter to the media or make a post on Facebook about an issue that runs counter to a firmly held principle?
Would you raise objections to inappropriate behaviour wherever you are planted?
Would you be willing to go against the tide and redirect naysayers to positive thinking?
Will you commit even now to resist with every cell of your body the consistent drive to remove God from the public sphere?
Year of salvation
If you have not followed the plan of salvation as outlined in the Bible, let 2014 be the year of your salvation.
If you are a Christian – repentant sinner, who has confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and been baptized for the removal of your sins – then let 2014 be the year in which you are influential in bringing at least one person to Christ.
The Plan of Salvation:
A review of all the conversions in the New Testament and supporting passages point to the following process for putting on Christ:
You must hear the good news of Jesus, His atoning sacrifice for your sins and His resurrection.
Romans 3:21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
You must also believe the good news.
Heb 11: 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Faith is not enough. We are called to act on our belief and to make a decision to no longer let sin reign in our lives but to seek to live in obedience to God. This is the very important act of repentance.
Luke 13: 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
You then have to confess Jesus as Lord. This is a public declaration of your belief that Jesus is the Son of the Living God:
Rom 10: 8-10 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Another major step is that you must be baptized for the removal of our sins. This is a step that is either left out completely or is comprised in attempts to make salvation more convenient.
Gal 3:26 For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.
1 Peter 3: 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
At that point you have put on Christ and you are in Christ. Many opportunities are now opened to you. One is that you are added to His Church. There you are able to access the exclusive blessings that are in Christ. You have now met the requirements to be called a Christian.
Baptism comes from the Greek baptizo which means to immerse. Sprinkling is not the same as immersion. We have to ask if God who is fussy about the kind of fire that is used to light sacrifices to Him and who will punish one of His leaders for using a tried and proven method to get water for his people will notice the difference. Is it worth it to take the chance? Why not just do what He commands, however childish and petty it may appear to our human minds?
Baptism is also for the remission of sins. Therefore, baptizing infants who are without sin does not appear to fit the pattern laid down for us in the New Testament.
If you are accessing this information and you are in any doubt about whether you are in Christ, do not delay, do something about it now.
If you have questions as to whether the process for putting on Christ that you have gone through is in keeping with what I have just outlined, make a commitment to investigate your status fully. We are willing to go respond to any questions you may have.
If you have not been immersed for the remission/removal of your sins, then I urge you to do so before it is eternally too late.