Looking towards the New Year
Making Commitments for the new year
Making Commitments for the new year
In case you didn’t know this Friday is the first day of the New Year. In some ways it is hard to believe that this year is over already, and in some ways, it didn’t seem like it could come soon enough. Now, a lot of people like to make New Year’s resolutions, but if we are honest, most of them do not work out for us. We might make it a week or two into January and then, they are no more. Most of the famous resolutions is to lose weight, to excercise more, to be better. But how many of us continue that past February? I have been thinking of a resolution that will be different for me this year. I think I could keep it going the entire year. I think my resolution would be to eat more and exercise less. Ok, in case you didn’t know, that was a joke. But seriously, this morning I want to talk to you about some commitments that would make a radical difference in our lives if we just follow through on them. Today I am going to suggest four commitments that God in his word encourages us to make. I want to challenge you to make these four commitments for this new year.
Commit yourself to forget your failures.
Let’s look at our first passage today. Philippians 3:13-14
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
This has stood the test of time. I can’t think of any more relevant and practical advice for us at the start of a New Year than what we just read. We don’t have to live our lives imprisoned by our past. All of us have failed in some way in our lives over the last year. Thankfully we won’t see our failures recorded for history on tv but they are recorded in our hearts and minds. For some of us, our failures are painful memories. Perhaps it is a memory of a failed relationship, you made the wrong decisions, said and did the wrong things and the relationship ended. For us parents, we know we have failed our children in some way, for the kids, perhaps you are aware that you have failed your parents. Many of us know that we have failed ourselves in some ways. All of us should know that in some way we have failed God. What God’s word is saying to us here is that we must not allow ourselves to be bogged down by our past failures. We need to not dwell on our past so much that it stops us from moving forward into the future that God has for us. I think for the New Year, it is a good time for us to rise to that challenge. To say to yourself that I am going to, with the help of God, forget my past. I am going to stop torturing myself about what I did or didn’t do. This New Year is a good time to stop being chained to our past failures. God’s word reminds us that he doesn’t want us to go through our lives branding ourselves as a failure. Christ died on the cross so that we could be forgiven. When we become Christians, that forgiveness becomes a reality in our lives. When we have received Christ’s forgiveness, it allows us to forgive ourselves and forget our failures. Maybe you need to do that this morning. Maybe you need to accept Jesus’ forgiveness and then forgive yourself.
The second commitment for the new year is
2. Commit yourself to give up your grudges
The next location we will go to is in Colossians. When you hear these words, you will hear the second challenge that we should rise up to if you want to make a significant change in your life.
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Did you catch that? In not so many words, God is challenging us to give up our grudges. That is what he is meaning when he is talking about if anyone has a complaint against another. A grudge is a deep ongoing resentment that we cultivate in our hearts against someone else. It is an unforgiving spirit that leads to unforgiving attitudes and unforgiving actions. Harboring a grudge is about nursing a dislike for someone. One thing you need to know is that grudges are dangerouse because they are destructive. Grudges destroy marriages. Grudges break up families. Grudges ruin friendships. Grudges split churches. If we are honest one of the problems of the church in general is the grudges that christians hold against one another. If you are holding a grudge against someone then God has something to say to you. He says “give it up.” Grudges are not just destructive, they are also self-destructive. When you hold a grudge against someone, you will hurt yourself as much and perhaps more than you will hurt the person you are holding it against. If you keep harboring a grudge, then it will eventually destroy you, if not physically, certainly emotionally and spiritualy. It will make you a bitter and twisted person. The book of Job in chapter 21 describes people who have no happiness at all, they live and die with bitter hearts.
Is that how you want to be remembered? Do you remember that parable that Jesus told about the servant who was forgiven a huge debt by the king and then refused to forgive somoene else a tiny amount? His unforgiving spirit landed him in prison. Listen to this quote from Max Lucado, “Unforgiving servants always end up in prison. Prisons of anger guilt and depression. God says to you in His word, “don’t sentence yourself to prison.” Set yourself free. Give up your grudges. Forgive each other whater you may have against one another. According to God’s word, the way to give up a grudge is to forgive. It’s just that simple. Notice what God is saying here. He isn’t asking you to ignore whatever the person has done to you. He isn’t asking you to pretend it didn’t happen. He doesn’t ask you to condone it, to pretend it didn’t matter. What God asks you to do is to forgive the grievance. That means to acknowledge how wrong and painful what was done to you was but to decide to forgive the person who did the wrong to you. I am sure there are people here who need to give up their grudges and forgive the grievance they have against someone else. Some of us need to forgive the grievance you have against your parents for what they did or didn’t do. Some may need to forgive your children for the same reason. Some may need to give up the grudge you have against someone at work because of the way they have treated you. Some may need to give up the grudge that stems from an argument you had with someone. God says that deep-seated resentment you have against that person has to go. What better time to make that difficult decision to forgive than the start of the new year? Don’t tell God you can’t fogive, because what you really mean when you say that is you won’t forgive. If Christ can forgive you your sin despite the fact that it had cost the pain of the cross, then surely you can give up your grievance you have with someone else.
The question is, will you do it?
The third commitment for the new year is
3. Commit yourself to restore your relationships.
When you turn on your car, you see all the lights come on and hopefully go off. Each time they do that, it is doing a check on your car to make sure everything is working properly. God issues a very similar invitation. it’s not to see if our car is working properly, but to check to see if our personal relationships are working properly. We can see that challenge in Romans 12:18
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
We have studied this passage before, but it serves a good reminder. The important phrase in there is “as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” God uses that phrase to personally challenge each one of us to do all we can to restore our relationships. He wants us to do everything we can to restore any relationships that may have gone wrong in our lives. Some relationships might have gone wrong in our lives because of what other people have done and they might not want that relationship restored. God recognizes that. That is why he starts by saying “if it is possible.” But if we are honest, some of our relationships have gone wrong because of what we have done. When God’s word says as far as it depends o you, live at peace with everyone, it is saying if you have caused a rift in a relationship, then you have a responsibility to do everythig you can to restore it. That everything includes the one thing we all probably find most difficult, asking for forgiveness. I know I cannot be the only person to find it hard to say “I am sorry” to the people I am closest to. I wonder how many relationships are not all they should be or could be simply because somoene won’t say “I was wrong, I am sorry, will you forgive me” I am certain that some of us need to ask forgiveness for harsh words and cutting remarks that have really wounded others over the years. maybe God is saying to some of you that this change of the year is the right time to restore the relationships you ahve ruined by going and sincerely saying that you are sorry for those angry words or those selfish and unthoughtful actions.
Keith Drury is an author and has this to say about the subject of restoring relationships with talking about restitution
“Restitution deals with more than property. It is also going back and making things right for hurtful things I’ve said or done. It’s far easier for me to tell you some story than to tell you of the difficult and painful times I’ve had to ask my wife, my boys, my boss, friends and secretary to forgive me. Restitution is asking forgiveness for harsh words, quick tongue, or cutting remarks. It is asking forgiveness from a brother you hurt, a mother you caused heartache to, or a former spouse which you hurt. Restitution is confessing and seeking forgiveness from an old business partnere, neighbor, or roommate. It is admitting my past errors in relationships and humbly seeking forgiveness from the one I’ve hurt. And it’s harder to make personal restitution that property restitution.”
Make no mistake, it will be hard to do, but one of the most significant things that you can do to mark the New Year is not set off a firework, but to admit your past errors in relationships and humbly seek forgiveness from the one you have hurt.
will you rise to that challenge and make a cimmitment to restore your broken relationships in this new year?
The fourth and final commitment of the new year is this
4. Commit yourself to turn your back on your transgressions
You know, our kids have been learning about the birth of the nation that we live in, and part of that is learning about slavery. After the civil war was over and the slaves had been set free, many slaves decided to stay with their former master and continue to do what they were told. They were set free but they chose to live as slaves. The New Testament says that is exactly how many christians choose to live. Christ died to set us free, the Holy Spirit has given us the power to be free, but just like those former slaves, many christians still choose to obey their old master, sin.
Check out what Romans 6:12 says
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
This is the last challenge for us. When God says for us to not let sin control the way we live and to not give in to its lustful desires, he is issuing the challenge to tunr our backs on our transgressions. christian writers used to talk about something called besetting sins. What they meant by besetting sins were particular sins that a particular christians was prone to doing time and time again. For most of us, when we are saved we give up certain sins easily but there are other things that we know are wrong that we really battle with. Those are our besetting sins. many of us end up choosing to give into our besetting sins and end up living double lives. There was an article online by an anonymous pastor that described his battle with his besetting sin, pornography. How he gave in to that sin time after time and then was overcome with guilt. maybe that is how you have lived over the last year, constantly defeated by the same old sin. There was a man with a huge growth on his neck he wouldn’t do anything about it, he had just learned to live with it. That sums up too many christians attitudes to their besetting sin. They won’t do anyting about it and htey learn to live with it. I have to ask you, is your spiritual life crippled because you have learned to live with a bestting sin? Do you have a quick temper that you constatnly give in to? Or a tongue that loves to assassinate other people’s characters or wound their feelings? Have you learned to live with that critical judgmental attitude you know is wrong? Is there some other sin that you keep giving in to? God in his word challenges us to turn our back on that sin, whatever it is. To stop letting it control the way we live. To stop giving in to it. He wants you to stop obeying your old master. let’s be clear about this: Jesus’ death broke the power of sin, the holy spirit can give us the power to resist sin. That means that we don’t have to gi into this new year still being defeated by the same old sin. You can have the victory over it. God says you are no longer a slave to sin, so live like on or act like one. If you will ask for God’s forgiveness for your sin and his power to resist that sin, then this new year can be for you. Not just a new era in history, but a new era in your spiritual life. Don’t miss that opportunity.
It all boils down to this: Will this new year be just a calendar changing event for you, or are you willing to rise to these challenges from God’s word and make these commitments and make it a life changing event? are you willing to make this four commitements for the new year?
Will you commit yourself to forget your failures?
Will you commit yourself to give up your grudges?
Will you commit yourself to restore your relationships
Will you commit yourself to turning your back on your transgressions?
This new year will really be something to celebrate if you’ll make forgiveness the heart of what it’s all about for you. Have the courage right here today. To forgive yourself and forget the past. To forgive others who have hurt you and forgive whatever grienavances you have. To ask for forgiveness from those you have hurt and as far as it depends on you, live a peace with everyone. To ask for God’s forgivenss and no longer be a slave to sin.
Perhaps you have never accepted Jesus as your savior. I would encourage you to do that today. During this time of invitation, I encourage you to come up and speak with me.
If you would like to join this body of believers, you can come up to me as well.
Maybe you need just a few moments to pray, to reflect to see if you need to work on these challenges throughout this new year. Let’s pray.