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New Years Resolutions

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New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year!

 New Years is a time we look back at the year or years gone by; a time to reflect on the progress we've made and to make new plans for the coming year.   Being New Years Day and Sunday, I couldn't resist the opportunity to talk about New Years Resolutions.  I personally haven't been one to make a lot of them over the years, though I have tried a couple of times.  One year I resolved to floss everyday.  It lasted about 6 weeks.  I usually make at least a mental note to lose weight every year.  You can all see how that is going.  Has any one ever kept a New Years Resolution all year long?  Raise your hand if you have...   I would guess most resolutions don't last through the month of January. 

 As I looked through the list of top 10 resolutions, there was little surprise on which one would be #1.  Can you guess which one it is?  Losing weight is #1 of course. As I was preparing this sermon, I came across an amusing weight loss story I just had to share.  A woman walked into her bathroom at home. As she did, she saw her husband weighing himself on the bathroom scales, sucking in his stomach. The woman thought to herself, "He thinks that he will weigh less by sucking in his stomach." So, the woman rather sarcastically said to her husband, "That’s not going to help." To which her husband replied, "Sure it will. It’s the only way I can see the numbers."

Following losing weight, the top 10 list is as follows:  

1.     Lose weight - omit

2.    Exercise

3.    Quit smoking

4.    Quit drinking

5.    Be a better person

6.    Spend more time with family

7.    Spend less time on the internet

8.    Be more organized

9.    Get out of debt

10. Be more spiritual

Any surprises?  I don't think I've ever heard "spend less time on the internet" and "be more organized" on the list before.  I'm sure the list changes as society changes.  I also thought it was interesting that "be more spiritual" was #10, possibly another indication of society changing.   The word "spiritual" is such an ambiguous word it's hard to say if the people polled meant that they would be more like Christ or be more like Mohammad.

  So is it right for a Christian to make a New Years Resolution?  There is nothing in the bible that speaks for or against making New Years Resolutions.   I would caution you however to look at the focus of the goals and the motivation behind them.  I'm going to lose weight, I'm going to get out of debt, I'm going to a better person, and I’m going to exercise more.  Where's the focus?  It's all about me.  Why do most Resolutions fail so quickly?  There is no power in them!  There is no power in these goals because God isn't a part of them.  As Christians, our spiritual resolutions will fail just as fast as our non-spiritual ones when it's all about what I'm going to do. If God is the center of your New Year’s Resolution, it has chance for success – depending on your commitment to it.  Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” If it is God’s will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfill it.  If a resolution is not God honoring and/or is not in agreement in God’s Word – we will not receive God’s help in fulfilling the resolution.  So, instead of making the traditional New Years Resolution this year, lets do something else.  Let's make a "New Life Resolution" and go to the bible for its foundation and formation.   Let’s take a look at Proverbs 3, and see what's on the top 10 list of the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon.  To help you follow along, we have included a handout in the bulletin for your reference. 

Solomon starts off this 3rd chapter of Proverbs with a very matter of fact statement. "1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, 2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. “He then gives very specific details of 10 principles that we should live by in order to have long life, prosperity and peace.

 Resolution #1 LET LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS NEVER LEAVE YOU

Proverbs 3:3-4
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

Love and faithfulness should be two qualities in everything we do.  They should be our guiding lights at home, at work, at church and with our children, friends and coworkers.  Jesus tells us that love is also the greatest of the commandments.  Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.  We reflect God's love for us in the way we love each other.  Keep love close to your heart this New Year.

Resolution #2 TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL OF YOUR HEART

Proverbs 3:5-6

 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 

Do we trust in God with our whole heart?  Do we acknowledge God with all our ways?  Do we behave differently on Sunday than the rest of the week?  2nd Corinthians tells us that we are Christ's Ambassadors, Christ's representatives here on earth, everyday, in every situation.  We need to trust in the Lord, trust that he will provide the words, the strength, and the courage to face the world and “do what Jesus would do” everyday. 

Resolution #3 DO NOT BE WISE IN YOUR OWN EYES

Proverbs 3:7-8

 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. 8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

When was the last time you made a decision because you thought you knew best, and it turned out it was the wrong decision?  How did things work out?  What King Solomon is saying here is not that we should disregard our intelligence or common sense but that we should not depend on them. We need to look to God in all we do.  Letting God direct our paths and staying away from evil will keep us out of trouble.  Let the Word be a lamp unto our feet.

Resolution # 4 HONOR THE LORD WITH YOUR WEALTH

Proverbs 3:9-10

 9 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

 Here it is January 1rst and we are talking about money already.  But it's not really about money - it is about the heart.  If we really want God to direct our paths this New Year we can't divide the material from the spiritual.  Everything comes from God and belongs to Him.  If we really love Him (res.1), trust him (res. 2), depend on his wisdom and not ours (res. 3) we will honor him with our blessings.  Giving of ourselves, whether it be time, talents or treasures, is heart preparation for what God wants to say to us and do for us. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matthew 6:21.

Resolution #5 DO NOT DESPISE THE LORD’S DISCIPLINE

Proverbs 3:11-12

 11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father b the son he delights in.

Does anyone really like discipline?  I don't think anyone does but God disciplines us because He loves us and we are His children.  Heb 12:11 "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."  A couple of weeks ago Pastor told us a story in Sunday school about a couple who decided to never tell their child no.  It is anybodies guess how the child turned out or even if he survived.  There are times when we don't like to hear no, but discipline is essential to help us build Godly character and to protect us from ourselves.   

Resolution #6 SEARCH DILIGENTLY FOR WISDOM AND FIND IT 

 Proverbs 3:13-14 
13 Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, 14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.

So where do we find wisdom?  We can search the world over but never find true wisdom except for one place, and that one place is Jesus Christ.  Many of you who are familiar with Billy Graham will know who George Beverly Shea is.  A man with a deep baritone voice, he has been a fixture along side Billy Graham almost since the beginning of his ministry. One of his most popular songs talks about the wisdom that comes from knowing Jesus. See if you remember it. 

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold.

I’d rather be His than have riches untold,

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land,

I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain

And be held in sin’s dread sway.

I’d rather have Jesus than anything

This world affords today.

Resolution #7 HAVE NO FEAR

Proverbs 3:25-26

 25 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, 26 for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. 

Paul writes in 1 Peter 3:14-15 “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”  15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. 

What do you suppose the wicked fear more than anything?  I believe it is death.  The wicked believe that death, at best, is the end of their existence.  This life is all there is.  They are no more, gone forever.  Some believe they are coming back, reincarnated as another person or a dog or whatever.  I'm sure that there are other thoughts about what happens to them when they die but I think there is always the nagging suspicion that hell is real.  We as Christians have the assurance that hell is real, but we also have the assurance that heaven is too.  We don't have to be afraid, for Christ conquered death and hell for us.  If you have a chance sometime, do a computer search of the bible for the phrase, "do not be afraid" or "Fear not".  It is surprising how many times God says this to us in the bible.  God does not want us to fear the things of this world or of the next but to trust in Him and His Providence.  Jesus says to us in Luke 12:32 -  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Resolution #8 DO NOT WITHHOLD GOOD FROM THOSE WHO DESERVE IT

 Proverbs 3:27-28

 27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. 28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow”— when you now have it with you.

You may notice that at this point Solomon changes his focus.  Much like the 10 commandments, the first section of resolutions deals with our relationship with our Father; the second part our relationship with our neighbors.   Solomon changes his focus to warn us against becoming so occupied with our proper relationship with God as to neglect our responsibility towards others. James, the brother of Jesus, warns us that "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins."  From the parable of the Good Samaritan we learn that everyone is our neighbor.  So what does our neighbor need?  Ultimately, he needs to hear the good news of salvation, and he needs to hear it today.  One statement about Christianity I ran across somewhere has stuck with me, and I hope it sticks with you also.  The statement is this: "Our job as Christians is to spread the Gospel, and, if necessary, use words." 

Resolution #9 DO NOT PLOT HARM AGAINST YOUR NEIGHBOR

  Proverbs 3:29-30

29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. 30 Do not accuse a man for no reason— when he has done you no harm.

It seems like the world today is is a world of litigation and lawsuits.  Working in the warranty department of a large builder, I see this all too often.  "If I don't get a new shrub, I'm going to sue you."  "I don't care if it's not covered by the warranty, you'll be hearing from my lawyer."   I actually had a homeowner tell me that we should just go ahead and upgrade his flooring now during the initial repair because it would save us a lot of time and grief later. He threw such a fit during the repair process that he eventually got the vinyl flooring in his kitchen and dining room replaced with hardwood for free.   In Resolution #9, Solomon warns us not to be like the world which is quick to sue and act dishonestly for personal gain.  Our conduct in all our business and personal affairs needs to be one of fairness, respect and even love.

   

Resolution #10. DO NOT ENVY A VIOLENT MAN OR CHOOSE ANY OF HIS WAYS 

Proverbs 3:31 - 32

31 Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, 32 for the Lord detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence.

 How many times have you thought about how unfair it seems that the wicked seem to prosper while most of us Christians have to struggle through life barely getting by?  It sometimes seems like good things just fall into their laps, no matter what they do.  We need to be careful not to envy the "perverse" man for the bible verse says that God detests him.  We cannot let the ways and things of the world be a stumbling block to our salvation.  Let's keep our focus on the things of God and store up our treasures in Heaven.

The top 10 resolution list of the world is so unlike our "New Life Resolution” list that it made me think about the Christmas story, about the inn keeper at Bethlehem.  As Mary and Joseph ride into Bethlehem, they look for a place to stay.  I imagine them walking into the inn, Mary ready to deliver Jesus at any moment.  The place is bustling, people eating, drinking and talking, hardly noticing the two enter.  They search for the owner.  They find him running about, busy with all he must do.  It is a good time for him, business is great because of the census, and the inn is full.  I imagine him dismissing them with a wave of the hand, "No, I have no rooms.”  The two plead for a place to stay, any place, as they are tired from their journey and Mary is ready to give birth.  He mentions the stable to them in passing, preoccupied with other things.  The lowly travelers go to the stable and settle in for the night for the Savior will come, whether the innkeeper has room or time for Him. 

We can be, and are, the inn keeper in the story. Jesus has come and will come again, whether we have time in our lives or room in our hearts for Him.  We sometimes push Jesus to the stable of our life, finding Him a hidden corner out of the way as we make room for all the other things.  The world's "Top 10 Resolutions" reflect the busyness in our lives, our inward focus.  Through Solomon's wisdom and his 10 resolutions, God shows us a new direction.  Our "New Life Resolutions” are not about losing weight and exercising, but about our spiritual fitness.  They are not about what we try to do on our own but about what God does by His power in and through us.  They are about our relationship with God and each other. 

Over the past several weeks we prepared for Jesus’ coming in Advent, celebrated His birth at Christmas and now as we celebrate New Years Day and look to the future, I pray that God will help us keep our focus on being ready for His return. As inn keepers, we need to give Him the best room in our hotel, the Kings suite of our heart. Throughout this New Year, remember Proverbs 3 and our "New Life Resolutions" and look to the Heavens for His glorious return. The King is coming, and we must be ready.

May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen


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