Sunday, December 25, 2011 am
SOME REAL RESOLUTIONS
“Examine yourself that you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know that Jesus Christ is in you? – Unless indeed you are disqualified.” With 2012 only one week away, it is time to examine our lives to see if we have achieved those goals we set for this year.
While such examination is not exclusive to this time of year (it ought to be more frequent), certainly as a year comes to its culmination we take time to reflect on what we have accomplished. For many of us, as we look back, hopefully we see some progress, but we probably also see some failures – goals we failed to realize, tasks we failed to accomplish, perhaps there is stagnation in certain areas (no improvement) and maybe even set-backs. Are you “in the faith?” Have you “proven yourselves”?
If you know me, you know that lessons about resolutions are an annual occurrence. Often times we have examined specific goals to accomplish in various areas of our lives – i.e. reading through the Bible, winning a soul to Christ, praying more often, etc. Perhaps you have also made personal goals in your life that involve finances, health, family relations, organization, etc. While such things are good, we often fail to achieve them. Why? The reasons are many and varied. But perhaps part of the problem goes deeper than the external goal. Perhaps it is a problem with deep seated character traits that are not what they ought to be. So with that in mind, today I would like to present a lesson in which we examine some of the underlying issues to hinder us from achieving our spiritual (and perhaps our physical) goals. Next year (2012) I will resolve to:
I. Seek First the Kingdom of God –
a. This really is key to everything and something we need to think about often.
b. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt. 6:33
The word Kingdom is the
Greek word, Basileia, which means the dominion of a king (or ruler).
The Kingdom that Jesus spoke of is a reference to the spiritual realm where God reigns and the saved are. It is a spiritual realm (John 18:36) that Jesus said is within you (Luke 17:20-21). Its throne is in heaven, the final destiny of the citizens of this kingdom who remain faithful and loyal to Him throughout this life.
d. What does it mean to seek God’s kingdom first?
When Jesus challenged
His disciples (and us) to seek the kingdom of God first, He was saying
that serving God must be THE priority in our lives.
As our ruler, we are to totally
and unconditionally submit to Him over all others.
When we consider what our purpose for being her upon this earth
is, putting God first needs to be in that answer.
When we are faced with a choice of doing something to further the
cause of God’s kingdom in our lives or something else, we will ALWAYS
choose to serve God over everything or everyone else.
Like Joshua in Joshua 24:15 we will choose to serve the Lord.
On another occasion, Jesus said, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that He has cannot be My disciple.” – Luke 14:33, 26-27, Matt. 10:37-38
But this also means that
it must be the first thing we do.
As we examine our lives, this is the one thing that MUST be
right. IF upon examination
we see that God’s kingdom is not first, we must take whatever measures
are necessary to change that.
Life is but a vapor (Jas. 4:14, Heb. 9:27) and our time is
uncertain. We don’t know
when we will be called upon to give an accounting for our life.
If I am not ready right now, I must make that change.
Of those that Jesus chose to be His apostles we find they understood this – immediately they left their nets – Matt. 4:20-22; Matthew left the tax tables – Matt. 9:9 – he arose and followed Him. John 1:35-42 – Andrew and Peter when introduced to Jesus left John; 1:43-46 – Philip and Nathanael began following him as soon as invited.
The servant cares for his master first – Luke 17:6-10
Luke 9:57-62 we read of excuses that people made. In each of them there was an indictment against putting the kingdom of God first.
e. Do we really take this command seriously? I am convinced that everyone here would say they desire to put His kingdom first, but how many us have something that hinders us from fulfilling this command? Do we put Him first only when it’s convenient? How easily can we be drawn away from things first in the kingdom? Are there friends and family that we would put before God (friends you better think about this when you choose your companion and friends)? Are we more influenced by material prosperity than we care to admit?
f. If there is no other resolution that you seek to keep next year, let this be the one at the top of your list. Or shall we say, FIRST!
g. One final thought: When we seek His kingdom first, It will influence everything else we do. Furthermore, there are things we can do to help us put God first and His kingdom first in our lives. For the remainder of our lesson we will notice some of these.
a. Matt. 22:37-40 – on one occasion, Jesus was asked by a lawyer, “What is the greatest commandment?” His answer was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.” The second command, like it was, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Further, Jesus stated, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” If you examine the 10 commandments and other laws that Israel was expected to follow, you will find that they ALL were associated with either loving God or loving others.
Similarly, when you study the New Testament, the law we are under, you will find the same to be true.
One thing that will help
us to seek first the kingdom of God is to love God as we ought to.
The way the Bible uses love is not the same as what we are used
to in the English language.
We often equate love with emotional feelings or something we have great
affection for. The word has
a variety of meanings that are often confused.
But in the Greek language, there are different words which are translated love in the English language.
Agape is a love found primarily among Christians and it is the most prevalent used word describing how we need to love God (and how He loves us). It is a word that means we care enough to sacrifice for what is best. While not primarily about emotions, it demonstrates that we do care so much about Him that everything we do is influenced by how it will affect our relationship with Him. We do not want to bring reproach upon Him in anything. We live wanting to please Him and glorify Him (cf. 1 Pet. 4:11 – whether we speak or minister, we do it with the ability that He supplies so “that in all things God may be glorified through the Lord Jesus Christ”; 1 Cor. 10:31, etc.)
In Philippians 1:9-11 we read, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
In these verse we find a number of things associated with loving God – 1) It is abounding and increasing; 2)it seeks out that which is excellent; 3) it is sincere and without offense; 4) it is filled with fruits of righteousness.
John in his 1st
epistle summarized HOW we demonstrate our love for God – we keep His
1 John 5:2-3 says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”
1 John 2:3-5, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”
d. Obeying God is something we ought to take seriously. We live in times, perilous times, where men are lovers of themselves. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him (Titus 1:16). There are many who THINK they are obeying God but in reality they have failed to keep His commandments (Matt. 7:21-23, Luke 6:46). Friends it is important that we KNOW what God would have us to do so that we can keep His commandments. Then and only then will we truly understand the love for Him He expects of us.
How well do we
understand Christian love? Is it as it ought to be?
Do we truly love God the way we should?
In this coming year, let us resolve to love God by obeying His every commandment. If this is our resolve, we WILL study His word regularly because we want to be pleasing to Him (2 Tim. 2:15).
III. Renew my mind –
a. Rom. 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Have you thought about
what it means to renew you mind?
When you renew something, you are reinvigorating it.
The word in the New Testament means to make it like new again,
with the implication of becoming superior or better than it was before.
The word is used a handful of times including: 2 Cor. 4:16 which speaks of the inward man being renewed day by day;
Col. 3:10 which speaks of putting off the old man and putting on the new man, “who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…”
Eph. 4:23 speaks of being renewed in the spirit of your mind whereby you put on the new man created according to God in true righteousness and holiness.
c. What does this have to do with resolutions? It is actually a key element. If you have resolved to seek the kingdom of God first, to love God with your all, for that to happen you HAVE TO renew you mind. In our modern language, we say that you need to MAKE UP YOUR MIND that God is going to be first. Friends until you have a deep-down conviction of your need to change (we call it conversion) you are not going to have the willingness to transform in your life into what you know you need to be.
d. As you examine your life, if you find that it has not been what it ought to be. If you find that you are easily distracted by the things of this world and that God is not your choice when you are given options, chances are it is because your mind is not totally made up to serve Him.
a. As you make up your mind to do right things, it doesn’t take very long before strong determination begins to weaken or even wear off. Furthermore there are the temptations that Satan is constantly hurling at you. But you have to keep going and you have to resist. That is where self-control comes in.
important in the success of anything we do.
IT is also behind every sin we commit, whether it be doing what
is prohibited or failing to do what we know we ought to do.
A lack of self-control contributes to the overcrowding of our jails, multitudes of broken homes, failed marriages and single-parent families, money troubles, poor grades in school, damaged friendships, hurtful words, poor health, etc. It can cause equally damaging spiritual problems such as ignorance, weakness, indifference, division, dissentions, compromise, discouragement, etc.
It is probably one of the PRIME factors in our failure to keep our resolutions this past year and why we have not spiritually matured as we ought to.
A lack of self-control keeps us from studying God’s word, praying like we should, keeping lust out of our lives, attending worship services as often as we should, etc.
c. TRULY we can see how important it is that we develop self-control if we are to keep our resolutions.
d. The Bible emphasizes the importance of this trait:
i. Acts 24:25 – it was one of things Paul reasoned with Felix about that caused him to tremble and put off obedience.
ii. 2 Pet. 1:6 – it is to be added to your faith with diligence (we sometimes call this text the Christian graces).
iii. It is a fruit of the Spirit of God - Gal. 5:23.
iv. The lack of self-control is in the list of the sins of selfishness in 2 Timothy 3:3.
e. Self-control involves self-discipline. You might call this the positive side of self-control. It means that we do what we need to do with the vigor we ought to manifest, even if it is a task we really don’t like. It means doing without some things for the better good. Paul illustrated this in 1 Cor. 9:24-27 where he describes the temperate athlete in training.
f. May we in the coming year learn to master our own bodies rather than letting our bodies and desires master us. When we want to give up, sleep in or “just let it go this one time”, let us remind ourselves of what is at stake. Self-control will press on.
Since the beginning of
sin, man has been dealing with worldliness.
IT comes in many different forms – materialism, pride, the
pursuit of pleasure, worldly wisdom, immorality, selfishness, etc.
What it is really about is loving the world more than you love
Considering the affluent society we live in, it is so prevalent among us. We are so blessed to live where we do. No many of us lacks very much of what we need, and most of us have great excess everywhere we turn. We live in luxury and complete material satisfaction.
b. But often such prosperity can become a curse so that we forget about the more important things.
i. Like the rich fool of Luke 12:13-21 who in his prosperity forgot about God, we might find ourselves in the same circumstances.
ii. NO wonder Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Luke 18:24-25).
iii. No wonder James said, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” (Jas. 4:4)
c. John wrote clearly in 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world…”
d. IF we are to have a hope of heaven, we need to think “other worldly”.
i. Col. 3:1-2 tells us to seek those things that are above and to set our mind upon such.
ii. Paul is an excellent example of what it costs to seek first the kingdom of God. He had it all and walked away from it - Phil 3:4-9 explains this where Paul describes his former life and how he was willing to count all things loss for Christ.
iii. Moses, “by faith” refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and gave up the prosperity and “passing pleasures of sin” to suffer with God’s people (Heb. 11:24-26).
e. What are we truly willing to give up to follow Him? I am fearful that one thing that stands in the way of us putting the kingdom of God first is our unwillingness to really give up things in this life. Are we too attached to this world? If so, that is something we need to work on next year.
a. Because of our prosperity, it is difficult sometimes to be satisfied with what we have. But it is a key element to a quality life of service to Him. It is contentment with what we have that will help us to overcome the world.
b. Contentment means to be satisfied with what you have. For the Christian, his perspective is different than that of the world. Even in times of want or difficulty he can be content. And, perhaps even more difficult, in times of prosperity he learns to be satisfied.
c. The Bible deeply emphasizes the importance of contentment.
i. 1 Tim. 6:6-8 – “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing with these we shall be content.”
ii. Phil. 4:11 – Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am to be content.” Notice some different states he finds himself in. Yet he is still content.
iii. Prov. 30:8-9 says, “Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches – feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ OR lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.”
d. Truly contentment goes hand in hand with seeking first the kingdom of God. Are we truly content with whatever material possessions we have been blessed with? Let us resolve to develop and enhance this attitude next year.
Part 3 - 1/1/12
a. Another key ingredient to seeking first the kingdom of God is a determination to live in the past. Far too many today have chosen to live lives of mediocrity. There are many who have given up on work. Others have struggled with various addictions – alcohol, drugs, smoking, over-eating, pornography, laziness, gambling, social media, etc. Because they don’t want to put forth the hard work necessary to overcome they just give up and accept where they are at.
b. How truly sad, because such things destroy the body, undermine confidence, and adversely affect those around us. I am reminded of the reality show, The Biggest Looser. It is a show about people whose poor habits have led to extreme obesity and all the health issues accompanying it. What is interesting about the show is that the trainers are interested in more than the contestants simply dropping pounds. Most of the contestants come to the show with “baggage” that transcends their eating habits. The trainers want changes in lifestyle and their perspective of life. They want a realization that you can’t keep living in the past and stagnate. They need to move ahead.
c. Christians need that same mindset. We can’t stagnate spiritually and expect God to be pleased with us. We can’t stay where we are at and reach the finish line.
d. Continually in the Bible we are challenged to move ahead.
i. Paul in Phil. 3:12-14 spoke of his realization that he still had work to do. In spite of all he had accomplished he knew that he had not yet “apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things that are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
ii. In that race we spoke of a few moments ago, we are reminded of the need to run to win! Heb. 12:1-2 challenges us to lay aside the weights and sin that ensnares us and to run with endurance the race before us.
iii. Don’t lose heart – Galatians 6:9 reminds that we will reap if we do not lose heart.
e. May we as we enter the new year, resolve to never give up and to never stop moving toward the goal of heaven. When we do fall down, and we WILL fall down, let us get up and keep going. The race of life is not a sprint, but a marathon.
a. Faith is a key ingredient in the life of a Christian. It is at the foundation of his service to God. It is that upon which we build everything else (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Faith means that we believe God and we trust Him.
b. How many of us fail to mature spiritually because our faith is simply not as strong as it ought to be? How many of us while we believe in God, don’t really believe that He can do all things and that He can help us to overcome whatever comes our way. Quite often our lack of faith keeps us from doing things we ought to do – i.e. speaking up for Him, doing the hard things, trusting him when things seem hopeless, etc.
c. The Christian’s life is built upon faith. And it to be an ever increasing faith.
i. 2 Cor. 10:15 Paul praised the brethren there because their faith had increased.
ii. Rom. 1:8 – Paul commended the brethren in Rome because their faith had been spoken of throughout the world.
iii. He commended the brethren at Thessalonica because of their faith had gone out in every place (1 Thess. 1:8-9)
Luke 17:5 the apostles
said to Jesus, “Increase our faith.”
What a noble prayer.
Like the man who came to Jesus to cast out a severe demon from his son. Jesus said, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” The father cried out, “Lord, I believe, Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24)
v. Psalm 37:25 David said, “I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.”
Because of the
foundational nature of faith, if we want to seek the kingdom first, we
have to keep developing our faith.
Let us resolve that in the coming year we will trust God more and
NOTE: This will come naturally if we simply keep doing what we ought to do.
a. As our final point, let us again visit Matt. 22:37-39. The first commandment, as we have noted is to love God with your all. Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Recall that we said ALL the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.
b. Our faith, our love, the kingdom of God, whatever we have been blessed with in this life – God wants us to share it with others. You cannot fulfill the Christian’s life without thinking about others.
c. 8 times in the New Testament we find the command to love your neighbor as yourself. 5 times in the gospels (cf. Matt. 5:43, 19:19, 22:39, etc.) and 3 times in the epistles – Rom. 13:9, Gal. 5:14, & James 2:8. This is accompanied by a myriad of passages that speak of our concern for others such as Phil. 2:3-4, Gal. 6:10, etc.
d. The truth is we need to care enough to share. It really is a good way draw closer to God. The wonderful about the kingdom of God is that it is something you will give anything to attain AND something you want to share with everyone you have opportunity to do so.
e. Let us resolve next year that we are going to share the kingdom of God with others. What about you? Can we count on your help in this.
And thus we can see some REAL resolutions to consider as we approach a new year. If you know me you know that I am not saying that specific goals are not important. I suggest that you make yourself a private list of things you want to accomplish next year. Then put that list away. Then put forth your efforts to seek first the kingdom of God in all that you do. If you do, those noble goals that you have listed will take care of themselves. You will adequately study God’s word and pray. His church will be important to you and demonstrated in your conduct. You will by example and teachings seek to reach others and do good as you have opportunity, and you may even achieve personal goals such as weight loss, better health, better financial stability, etc. I challenge you to give it a try. May the New Year bring us closer to God and closer to one another.