Making the New Year Count-Part Three


We have been looking at ways to make this New Year count for the Lord in a big way. As we’ve already said, every New Year brings with it new hope–the hope that this year will be a better year than last year. The hope that I can build on what’s good and put behind me what’s bad—that with God’s grace old things will pass away and this will be a new year of blessing and renewal.

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 any change.

Now it’s true that it’s a lot easier talking about change than it is to accomplish it–but with God’s grace and power anything is possible.

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–to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength” then let’s look at how we might accomplish that together. We have already looked at the first two admonitions that Jesus gave—loving God with all our heart and soul in our first two studies.

That brings us to the third admonition of the greatest commandment of all:

III. To Love God with All Your Mind

The mind is the seat of reason. When God said in Isaiah 1:18, “Come let us reason together…” He was appealing to the mind.  When God appeals to our minds, as believers, He wants us to do 3 things primarily—

  • Guard our thoughts
  • Prioritize our lives
  • Don’t worry about our needs

This is what loving God with all our minds is all about.

A.   Guard our thoughts

The mind is the processing center of our being.  Everyday raw data enters our minds through our eyes and ears in the form of images and verbal messages where it is then processed.  Most of it is useless information (advertisements that you saw on TV or read in some magazine, the stupid joke someone told at work etc.) and so it gets discarded into your mental trash bin the way you would delete junk mail out of the inbox in your email account.

Some of this information is somewhat valuable and so it gets filed away in your ‘mental file cabinet’ for later use–like the deal on a vacation get away that sounds interesting or some other piece of information that you might want to take advantage of at a later time.  Now some of this information gets internalized and becomes part of the core values of your heart–those things which are consistent with the ideologies and philosophies that you identify with and that make up your world view.

Your world view refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it. As a Christian when you go to Bible study and hear the Word of God taught, you should immediately internalize that teaching and make it a part of your core values–those principles and truths that you intend to live your life by.  We have an expression–“Taking it to heart” that refers to this very thing.

Now this is all very important to us as Christians because most spiritual warfare takes place in the mind for control of your thinking.  Satan wants to control your thinking because he knows if he can control your thinking he can control you. And so the devil wants to flood your mind with images and messages that will destroy your relationship with God by keeping you brain washed in his way of thinking–which of course is worldly.

You might be thinking, “How will I know if he’s being successful?”  You’ll know it by how you think about the world around you and how you interact with it.  If your love for the things of this world is stronger than your love for God—if you desire physical comforts and pleasures more than God or if you’re more concerned with laying up for yourself treasures on the earth than treasures in heaven—then know this, Satan is having his way with your mind.

This is exactly what John the apostle warned against when he said:

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”  1 John 2:15-17 (NLT)

That’s why it is imperative as Christians that we constantly are on guard as to what enters our minds.  Spiritual warfare is the battle between light and dark, truth and error, good and evil and the main battle field where it is fought is in our minds for control of our thinking—that’s why the New Testament has so much to say about our minds as Christians—

Romans 12:2 (NKJV) 
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.

Ephesians 4:23 (NKJV) 
and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

Colossians 3:2 (NKJV) 
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

Philippians 2:5 (NKJV) 
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

How about one more—

2 Corinthians 2:11 (NKJV) 
 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices (mind games).

The mind becomes the first line of defense in spiritual warfare against ideologies and values that Satan wants to use to destroy us and those we love.  When we talk about loving God with all of our mind it primarily means that we honor God with our thought lives.

Paul the apostle gave us some simple advice along these lines when he said–

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) 
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.

God’s Word teaches us that godly living always flows from godly thinking which is only possible by the renewing of your mind through the Word of God.

Psalm 119:9, 11 (NLT)
How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.  I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

I am absolutely convinced that the reason so many Christians are living worldly lives is because they’re thinking worldly thoughts.  Their minds are still conformed to this world’s way of thinking and they have not allowed them to be transformed by the renewing that comes from God’s Word. In other words their world view is carnal and not spiritual.

B.    Prioritize our lives

Secondly, to love God with all our mind means we have to cultivate the right mindset with regard to this life. God has to be our first (supreme) love which means we have to prioritize our lives placing God on the top of our list of priorities.

A medical doctor wrote a book in which he dealt with some of the major maladies of our time.  This doctor called our overriding malady “Overload,” and said that people try to do and have more than they can handle. Here is a summary of his conclusions.

1. We’re overloaded with commitments. We’ve committed ourselves to go here and there, to take part in this activity and that social function. As a result, we soon meet ourselves coming and going, because we have overloaded ourselves in the area of commitments.

2. We’re overloaded with possessions. Our closets are full, and our garages are overflowing. We’ve gone into debt to pay for all of these things we “simply must have.” Now that we have all that “we must have”, we’re afraid that someone will steal them. We are overloaded in the area of possessions.

3. We’re overloaded with work. We get up early, fight traffic, and experience intolerable working conditions, because — we have to, if we’re going to pay for all those possessions we “simply must have”. We find ourselves overloaded with work.

4. We’re overloaded with information. He said that as a doctor, he has to read some 220 articles a month just to keep up with all the changes in his profession. Now with the internet there’s an information superhighway. The problem is that we can’t possibly absorb all that information, so we feel an overload in this area, too.

5. We’re overloaded with activities such as school functions, sports activities, etc., etc., without number.

The list could go on and on, but you get the picture. There are so many demands on our time, so many good things that should be done.  However, there are only 8,760 hours in a year. If you are going to make this New Year count—then you are going to have to prioritize the things in your life that are screaming for your time.

The best way I know how is to prioritize what is most important to you—whatever is most important you will make time for. When people tell me they’re just too busy to come to church I know that getting close to Jesus through fellowship with the Body of Christ and the teaching of the Word isn’t that important to them.

Jesus said, “Wherever your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

One pastor had this to say on the subject—

“It never ceases to amaze me, that when an activity such as a ballgame or something else is rained out and rescheduled during a church activity, I hear — and God hears.., “Well after all, we’ve committed to this activity, so it must take priority.”
You know what, I can’t remember too many times when a church function was “rained out” and rescheduled on a school or ballgame time, that the same standard was applied by saying “We’ve made a commitment to Christ and the church, so this church activity must take priority.   You can piously say whatever you want, but when those choices are made, I can tell you without question, where the priority is.., and it is NOT with Christ and the church.”

The main problem is they are not obeying the biblical injunction to: “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus” Who said, “I have not come to do My Own will be the will of Him Who sent Me.” And, “I must be about My Father’s business.” The only way we can prioritize our lives is to make a list and decide what is important and what is not.

It’s amazing most people never do this. They never stop and think through and write down on paper what’s really important to them.  Maybe some of you have never done this.

If not ask yourself, “What’s important to me?” What really counts—what do I really value in life?”  We can’t do what’s important until we first clarify what’s important.  Otherwise you’re going to be pushed around by the pressures of life—a slave to the tyranny of the urgent—and before you know it the year will be gone and you’ll say,

“What happened? Where did this year go and what do I have to show for it in the way of significant change?” Most people have never made up their mind what they want out of life and if you aim at nothing, you’re going to hit it. Most people have this vague feeling of, “I just want to be happy.” But happiness is a very subjective and elusive thing.

I want to challenge each of you to, make a list of things that are important to you, a list of things that you want to accomplish. Question:

  • What does God want me to do with my life? 
  • Why am I here? 
  • What do I value? 
  • What do I want to change? 

Put it down.  Then make this your prayer list. Pin it up on a wall and review it every day and pray about it. Make sure that your goals honor God—then do whatever you have to, to make the most of this New Year and watch God do miracles in your life.

The key for most Christians will be learning to choose, not between the good and the bad, but learning to choose between what’s good and what’s best.

May I suggest three things that need to be at the top of your list?

1.    Your relationship with God needs to be #1.

What are you going to do this year to strengthen and improve your relationship with God? What are you going to do to become more intimate with Him? How much time are you going to set aside each day for prayer and for the study of His Word. You need to make your relationship with God the top priority.

2.    Your relationship with your family.

What are you going to do to build a stronger and better relationship with your family? What are you going to change about yourself that will help you to become a better husband, wife or parent?

3.    Your relationship with your church and church family.

What are you willing to do to improve the quality of your church? How involved are you willing to get to help your church accomplish the work that God has given it? How committed are you going to be in your attendance and the support of your church?

These are the three things that many a Christian on their deathbed wishes they had given greater priority to.  I have never heard of anyone coming to the end of their life and saying, “I wish I had spent more time at the office building my career.”

Clarify what’s important—don’t wait to begin!

Do it now! These three words can change your life. Do it now!  There will never be an ideal time to start making changes to get your priorities in order.  If you’re going to make this year count by accomplishing your goals then start now, don’t wait.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NKJV)
He who observes the wind will not sow, And he who regards the clouds will not reap.

In other words, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

And finally when we talk about loving God with all of our mind,

C.    Don’t worry about your needs

The Bible has much to say on this subject, but we’ll just look at a few passages.

Luke 12:29-30 (NKJV)
“And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.”

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Do you see that Jesus is teaching the very thing we’re talking about—get your priorities right, put God first and concern yourself primarily with building His Kingdom and He promises to take care of all your physical needs.

John 16:33 (NKJV)
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The reason so many Christians are anxious and stressed out is because their minds are not resting in the promises of God and trusting Him to take care of them. We are living at a time when, because of the uncertainty of the future, many people are experiencing a considerable amount of fear, anxiety and stress—and even Christians are not immune.

Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

The Hebrew is “You will keep him in peace, peace…” Double peace, perfect peace!  But to experience this peace you have to have your thoughts fixed on God, because you trust Him and have absolute confidence in His strength, love and wisdom towards you.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) 
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

To summarize, loving God with all of our mind first of all means to guard what gets into our minds by guarding what enters through what we look at and listen to. Secondly it means to cultivate a mindset that would prioritize our lives around what’s really important–God, family and church. And finally it means that we stop worrying about our daily needs and rest our thoughts on God’s promises and trust Him to take care of us.

I hope that these thoughts will help you make this New Year a year of blessing and intimacy with God. Next time we’ll finish up our study in “Making the New Year Count”.

May the Lord richly bless you as you walk with Him day by day.

Pastor Phil