Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Dedicated to a New Life

To our faith family and grace partners, due to an illness, I was unable to record the message for December 31. I am posting the message text and will record it as soon as I get over my illness.
-Sr. Chaplain Jesse

As the final moments of 2017 slowly come to an end, we look forward to the new year. Some are already worried that there will be more violence and only bad news to occupy our minds. For most, we are optimistic and feel that 2018 will be our year. Some will see major changes in their lives. Some will move to a new city. Others will see a new job or change in occupation. All of these changes are good, but are they the changes that we should have in mind when we look to the coming new year? Have we changed or are we ready to change?

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Since we belong to Christ, we have undergone a major change in our lives. We are new. Our old lives have gone away. As Christians, our old lives of sin are gone and we should be acting as a new person and follower of Christ. By continuing to revert back to our sinful lives, we are not acting as new creations in God’s kingdom. We still remain a part of the old sinful world. We do not see the new year as an opportunity to do more with our lives. We see 2018 as just another chance to do the same things over and over. 

Jesus, in John 3, talks to Nicodemus, a pharisee, about being born again. Nicodemus, like so many others, cannot grasp the thought of being born again. He asks Jesus how could an old man go back to his mother’s womb and be born again. Jesus was not talking about a physical rebirth. He was talking about a spiritual rebirth. 

Looking at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians and what Jesus tells Nicodemus, we see what must occur in our lives. Our old lives are to die and we are to be reborn in a new life, a life full of love, hope and faith. It is not enough to say that you are a Christian. You are to act like a Christian. Christians do not concentrate on violence, but rather on loving our enemies and doing what Christ Jesus taught us to do. We are to lift up those who have fallen and restore them by showing them the way back to the Father. By acting in this way, we can truly tell the world that God loves them. 

I have heard so many times that Christians are the biggest hypocrites. They say one thing and do another. I have heard some say, “I refuse to go to church, because Christians are hypocrites.” In fact I had read an article some time ago, that said that hypocrisy was the number one reason why people do not go to church. Our lives, our Christian lives, should be a testimony to those who are lost. Instead, they are shadowy reflections of our old, sinful lives. We try to be better, but we slip back to our old lives and forget why Christ Jesus came to this world. How soon we forget the lessons of his birth!

Each New Year’s Day, most of us go through the ritual of making resolutions. We say that we are going to spend less and save more. We say that we are going to eat less and exercise more. We say that we are going to better ourselves. Within weeks of those words, we have stopped what we should be doing and reverted back to our old lives. On average, most people break their resolutions with a couple of weeks. 

Instead of making resolutions, I suggest to you that you dedicate your life to be better a Christian. I know that sometimes it is tough to be a Christian when there are those who seem to go out of their way to poke fun at you for believing. But, I remind you that Jesus endured more than just simply being poked fun at. He was beaten for you. He was whipped for you. He was crucified for you. As his followers, we knew that there would be those who would persecute us for our faith. It is part of being a Christian. The world, like Nicodemus, cannot wrap its mind around the simple truth of God’s love and its manifestation through His son, Jesus.

So, I ask that you dedicate 2018 not to yourselves but rather to God and that you dedicate your life, your new life, to Him. Do those things that bring Him honor and glory.  James points out clearly how we should live our new lives in accordance to God’s will. Reading from James 1: 22-27 using the New Living Translation. “22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. 26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

We are to do those things and fix our sights on those things that bring honor and glory to God. In Philippians 4:8, Paul tells the members of the church there at Philippi, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
That praise is not directed to us, but it is directed to God. Our voices should lift up a new song. Not one of pessimism, disappointment or doubt. 

The psalmist in Psalm 98:1 gives us the directions on how to dedicate ourselves to God and to serve Him and our brothers and sisters. “Sing a new song to the LORD, for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power!” 

When we dedicate ourselves to the work of the Kingdom and serve God with all of our heart, mind and soul and, equally as important, by loving our neighbors as ourselves, we can rest assured that we can firm stand in His grace.

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