Welcome to 2017. Today I want to continue with the challenge I left you with last Friday. I love this time of year because it is the beginning of a new year, and it kind of gives us a new start on things. Many people make what we call “New Year’s Resolutions.” It is a time to start the things we know we should be doing, but we keep putting them off.
I confess that I am a procrastinator. The beginning of a new year is a help to me, and it may be the same for you.
I love what Charles Spurgeon said:
No matter your Past — Your Future is Spotless.
We have a clean slate for this new year. If you made mistakes in 2016, leave them there. Don’t let them be stumbling stones, use them as stepping stones. Don’t get bitter, get better. Most of all, don’t stumble at the start. Let’s get some routines going that will keep us going in the right direction.
And if a man also strive for masteries, [yet] is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. (2 Timothy 2:5)
The Bible compares our lives with a race, and we have to run the race according to the rules. We can’t run in someone else’s lane, we must run in our own. You will not be crowned unless you run the race lawfully. Don’t mess up at the beginning of the race. I also want to encourage you not to falter at the finnish. This is a new start for us.
We all struggle with the issues of the flesh, don’t we? I remind myself that when we become a child of God, He makes us a new creature.
Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
We don’t get something new, we become someone new. The old things fall by the wayside, and all things become new. Not just the easy things, but all things.
When a person gets saved, he gets full redemption. He becomes a child of God, 100%. Salvation is instantaneous, but sanctification is a process.
Our sanctification is our development as we grow as Christians. It is our progress in our yielding to the Spirit of God. As we yield to Him, we are made more and more like His image. We have more and more victory over sin, temptations, and the flesh.
In the last year you may have had some slipups. Maybe in the beginning of 2016, you commited to read your Bible through during the year, or to have a regular quite time with the Lord, or some other thing, and you started out well. Maybe some time during the year, you dropped the ball. Don’t let last year’s failure keep you from trying this year. This is exactly what the Devil wants you to do. Let’s not let him have any victories this year.
If we are going to strive for mastery, if we are going to run the race before us, we must run lawfully.
Let me tell you a story. In 1924, it was the world series. It was being played at the Polo Grounds in New York City. The New York Yankees were playing the Washington Senators. It was game 7 in the series. both teams had won three games, and Washington was ahead 1 run to 0. The pitcher walked the first batter, so there was one on base. He struck out the next two. The last batter was up and the count was 3 and 2. The pitch was hit for a home run over the right field wall. The runners ran around the bases and as the runner passed home plate, they tag him out, and no points are awarded. The batter failed to put his foot on first base. He stumbled at the start.
If we are going to win, we must run lawfully.
We have an opportunity this year for a new start. What do you need in your spiritual walk this year? Maybe you need to develop a time for prayer. Maybe you need a time for Bible study? David spoke of rising early in the morning, and many will tell you that you need to have your quiet time in the morning as you start your day. My point of view is that it is always best to do it when you are at your best. If you are not a morning person, and there are a few of us, then the morning may not be your best time for your time with God. This much I can tell you, if you begin to form habits and routines, it will help you tremendously.
I struggle with routines. I have never wanted restraints. My parents tell me that as a small child, I never wanted to be held. I see routines as restraints but I find that routines do help. I used to see routines as a rut, and a rut as a grave with the ends kicked out. The older I get, the more value I see in routines.
I find that when I keep to a routine, I do a better job of keeping up with my daily prayer and Bible study. This year we have an opportunity to set up some new routines that will help us do better than last year.
We need to understand that it takes a while to develop routines. There will be failures, and we can’t let them stop us. You may say, I didn’t start on the 1st, well you haven’t missed much so far this year.
You may say that your routine is listening to Christian radio. There is some benefit there, but it will never be a substitute for studying God’s Word for yourself, or spending time in prayer.
Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Determine to be in an attitude of prayer this year.
We sometimes wonder why our churches are without power and Christians don’t have victory over sin. Sometimes the answers are really obvious. It is often because we are not spending time in prayer and in God’s Word. These things are what nurture us spiritually. We must do these things if we are going to have victory in our lives.
The reason our nation is in trouble is that are churches are not being the leaders they should be. The reason our churches are not what they should be is that the people in the churches are not what they should be. It all comes down to the individual.
Maybe there is something you should have been doing, but you have been putting it off. Maybe you are not part of a church. Many people use Christian radio as a substitute for being in church. Christian radio can never be a substitute for the New Testament Church.
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)
God has given us a place to assemble together, it is the New Testament Church. He has put a pastor, an undershepherd, as our spiritual leader. We go to him for our spiritual teaching, and for proper interpretation of the Word of God.
We must never forget how important the preaching of God’s Word is. Hebrews 13:17 tells us how we are to relate to our pastors.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that [is] unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)
As Christians, we are to be submitted to a pastor, and some people out there are not doing it. Living a life outside of God’s plan and order is not profitable for you.
Lets make this a year where we assure that we are in a good church. Not every church preaches the true doctrines of the Word of God. We should be like those in Berea, and search the Scriptures daily to see if what is being preached conforms to the Word of God.
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11)
Let’s also have that personal time with God in prayer and Bible study on a daily basis. Let’s make this year better than the last one.
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