Making The New Year Count-Part One


Today we stand at the beginning of a new year. Of course what makes a new year special is the fact that it’s  new!  Every new year brings with it new hope–hope that in this new year God will make things in our lives new in the sense of new opportunities, new strength for victory over old sins, a new relationship (if you’re single and wanting a spouse)–the hope of a better year than last year.

As we have entered this new year there are probably certain things you’d like to see changed. The problem is for most people, when they enter into a new year, all they do is hope that things will change. All they do is engage in wishful thinking that things will be different but they never do anything to bring about change. It doesn’t take long for the hope of a new year to become the same old defeat and discouragement of the past.

As one author said, “We can waste the New Year away by sitting around and worrying about the things we failed to accomplish last year, or the mistakes we made through out the year. We can sit around and mope or have a pity party because things didn’t go the way we wanted them to. Or we can decide to make the most of this New Year that God as granted us. This could be the greatest year of your life if you make a conscience decision to do whatever it takes to have a great year.”

So what are you going to do with 2010? How are you going to make it count? How will this year be any different than last year?

Last year was a tough year for many in our country. 2009 might have been, for many of you, a year filled with more disappointments, setbacks and failures than it was a year filled with joy, victory and blessing.  The bad news is there is nothing we can do to change last year. The good news is we can learn from the mistakes and heartaches of last year and today we have the opportunity to start over and make some changes.

It’s like God is saying, “Let’s start over—old things have passed away I want to do something new this year in your life.”  Now it’s true that change isn’t easy but with God’s grace and power it’s certainly not impossible. God brings life to us in small pieces that we know as hours and days. And if we make small changes hour after hour and day by day–those small changes will add up to big changes month by month and year after year.

Of course any change for good in our lives will ultimately come from God’s Spirit working in us. However it’s wrong to think that God does everything and we do nothing; that change comes about with no effort on our part.  Certainly God has a part and we can’t do His part; but we also have a part and it’s just as certain that God will not do our part either.

Now when we talk about making changes in the new year, I can’t tell you what to change–I can only work on me and you can only work on you.  In John Maxwell’s book, “Developing the Leader Within You” he shares a story of a Middle Eastern man who said:

“I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: ‘ Lord, give me the energy to change the world.’ As I approached middle age and realized that my life was half gone without my changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: ‘ Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come into contact with me, just my family and friends, and I shall be satisfied.’ Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: ‘ Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start, I would not have wasted my life.”

Bottom line: You’ll waste your life trying to change others—only God can do that. Instead make this a year that you purpose with God’s strength to be a better person by making some positive changes in your own life. In my life I want to make this year a year that I keep the greatest commandment of them all–

Mark 12:30 (NKJV) 
‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first (supreme) commandment.

If you’re thinking to yourself–”Yes, that’s what I want more than anything else this year. I want to love God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength” then let’s look at how we might accomplish that together.

I.    To Love God with All Your Heart

The heart is the seat of conviction and commitment. To love God with all your heart means to have a heart of commitment toward Him. But that won’t happen unless you purpose in your heart to do certain things.

A.   Purpose in your heart to live a life of total obedience and commitment to God

In a recent George Barna survey that came out not long ago—

    • Although large majorities of the public claim to be “deeply spiritual” and say that their religious faith is “very important” in their life, only 15% of those who regularly attend a Christian church ranked their relationship with God as the top priority in their life.
    • The notion of personal holiness has slipped out of the consciousness of the vast majority of Christians. While just 21% of adults consider themselves to be holy, by their own admission large numbers have no idea what “holiness” means and only one out of every three (35%) believe that God expects people to become holy.

From the results of another survey taken a few years ago, in comparing the ethics of Christian and non-Christian adults, it was found that:

    • Almost as many Christians steal from work as non-Christians
    • Almost as many Christians use company phones for personal long distance calls, as non-Christians
    • Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to:

a. Falsify their income taxes
b. Commit plagiarism
c. Give bribes to obtain a building permit
d. Ignore construction specs
e. Illegally copy computer programs
f. Steal time from work
g. Exaggerate their products
h. Selectively obey the law

I’d say that we Christians need to make some real changes in order to make our “walk” equal our “talk”.  Obedience and commitment to God won’t happen by accident they are only going to happen ON PURPOSE.

“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies…” (Dan.1:8)

B.   Purpose in your heart to control what comes out of your mouth

Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”.

Psalms 17:3 (NKJV)
You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

1.   Lying

I found this article in my local newspaper a couple of years ago. The title read, “Lies fuel Illinois firm that charges for alibis”. The article said in part:

“Roughly 50 percent of the company’s business revolves around hiding infidelity from a spouse. Mary is married, and Mary is having an affair. The Chicago wife told her husband she was sightseeing in Los Angeles last August, but that was a lie.

Mary and her boyfriend were vacationing in Las Vegas, and Mary paid a professional cover-up company $350 to ensure that her husband would never find out. He didn’t. The Alibi Network, an Illinois company that specializes in its namesake — alibis — armed Mary with a fake airplane itinerary, fake hotel reservations and a fake hotel answering service; when her husband phoned Mary’s fake room in Los Angeles, the call was routed to her real cell phone in Las Vegas. Three months later, Mary doesn’t want her name printed in the paper.

She’s planning on using Alibi again. Roughly half the Alibi Network’s clients use the service to hide an infidelity says, Michael DeMarco, vice president of marketing for Alibi. DeMarco doesn’t feel guilty. “If there was no demand, we’d have no company,” DeMarco said. “We didn’t invent lying. We didn’t invent infidelity. We just found a niche in an existing market.”

We read something like that and say, “Yea the world is full of liars…” But in that same survey I mentioned earlier, taken among Christians:

    • 91% said that they lie on a regular basis
      75% said they lie to their friends
      69% said they lie to their spouses regularly
      50% said they regularly called in sick, when they aren’t

Once we get saved the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth moves into our hearts and truthfulness must be the hallmark of the Christian life.

2.   Gossip

God’s Word has a lot to say about the evils of gossip.

“In a multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)

“Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” (Proverbs 26:20)

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

3.    Bitter, angry and unkind words

“Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the rebellion of the workers of iniquity, Who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows–bitter words…” (Psalm 64:2-3)

I hope that you know that bitter, hateful words are like arrows that, once fired, cannot be recalled, and once lodged in the heart of another can continue to cause pain for many years to come.

We all remember the adage growing up, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Our parents taught us to say that to the kids who were making fun out of us by calling us names.

As a kid I tried using that tip several times as a defense against the mean words that some directed at me, but I have to be honest it really didn’t stop the pain of those hurtful words. As I got older and reflected on that saying a little, I came to realize, that although our parents meant well, the reason their advice didn’t help to stop the pain of unkind words is because that saying isn’t true.

Sticks and stones can inflict physical pain and may even break a bone or two—but those wounds usually heal without any lasting effects. But an unkind word spoken carelessly or in a moment of anger can wound for a lifetime.

Warren Wiersbe—“Never underestimate the power of words. For every word in Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, 125 people died in World War II. Solomon was right: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). No wonder James compared the tongue to a destroying fire, a dangerous beast, and a deadly poison (James 3:5–8). Speech is a matter of life or death.”

“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless”. (James 1:26)

C.    Purpose in your heart to honor God with your finances

1.   Giving to God

We have heard the T.V. evangelists quote from the prophet Malachi with regard to giving to God:

Malachi 3:8 (NKJV) 
“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.

Malachi 3:10 (NKJV) 
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

Now, I personally don’t believe tithing is for the New Covenant. Tithing was a law of God given to Israel not the Church. Tithing was a law that related to free men and women not slaves because a slave didn’t own anything it all belonged to his master.

We are bond-slaves of Jesus Christ—

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV) 
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

So I don’t believe that we are under the law of tithing anymore as members of the New Covenant. But I also don’t believe we should give less to God under grace than they did under law. Just remember this—

2 Corinthians 9:6 (NKJV)
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NKJV)
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

2.    Spending on self

Most Christians spend their money as if it were theirs. They have forgotten that, even as they now belong to God, so does all of their possessions and resources.  Paul tells us that we are all stewards of God. A steward didn’t own anything he simply took care of what belonged to another. The main responsibility of a steward was to be faithful. (1Cor.4:2)

As Christians our rewards will be determined by how faithful we were on earth in whatever the Lord called us to do as His stewards—over our household, our finances, our time, our kids and our ministries.

D.   Purpose in your heart to bring God into every decision

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.

God is so much wiser than I am. I accept that in principle but not always in practice. I can’t see the big picture like God does. I only have limited information of the situation. That never seems to stop me from making decisions based on my limited understanding—decisions that I often make without prayer and God’s guidance. This often has devastating results in my life. How much better to seek God and not lean on my own understanding when making important life decisions.

The One who said, “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer.29:11)

In this New Year purpose to love God with all of your heart each and every day. Firstly, by purposing to live a life of obedience and commitment to Him in every area of your life. Secondly, by controlling what comes out of your mouth—purpose to use your mouth to honor God and build people up and not tear them down. Thirdly, purpose to honor God with your finances using them for His glory, storing up for yourselves treasures in heaven and not on the earth.

And finally purpose this year to bring God into every important decision you have to make so that God may direct your paths.

If you make these changes moment by moment and day by day when you come to the end of 2010 you’ll be able to say “To God be the glory great things He has done!”

We will continue our study on “Making the New Year Count” next time. Until then, may the Lord richly bless you this year as you walk with Him day by day.

Pastor Phil