Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year's Resolutions for Christians

2013 is a new year and a new chance to start living our lives the way we really want to. As part of this process, we often make New Year’s resolutions. We may promise to START doing the good things we always wanted to do. We may promise to STOP doing the bad stuff we really do not want to do. Whatever type of resolution we make, the goal is for the New Year to be better than the old one. But as Christians, should we make resolutions that look differently than the world's? How does God want us to look at the New Year? What resolutions might God want us to make? We can find some answers to those questions in 2 Corinthians 5:17-19.

Verse 17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
                        Christians have an advantage in the New Year’s resolution process, because Christ is helping us become new creations.
                        In a theological sense, if we are Christians, we have already been made new.
                        For Christians, the sins, mistakes and stupid things we did in the past have already been washed away by the blood of Christ.
                        Though theologically Christians may already be new in Christ, from a practical perspective, we still have a lot of changing to do in order to be all that God wants us to be.
                        One resolution God wants us to make is to START one new spiritual discipline while getting rid of one old bad habit.
                        It is important to realize that when an old thing goes away, it creates a vacuum in our lives.
                        We must put a good thing in that vacuum or else the old thing will just come right back.
                        We must learn to replace the negative aspects of our lives with positive things.

Verse 18 - Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
                        In the context of this verse, the word everything is referring to all the new things God has brought into our lives to replace the old things that need to go.
                        We should pray and ask God to help us keep everything good He is bringing into our lives instead of trying to do it all in our own strength.
                        If we pray and ask God for help, we can be sure God will listen and respond.
                        One difference between Christians and non-Christians is that we are guaranteed God’s help in overcoming our difficulties and becoming new.
                        Non-Christians do not have that guarantee.
                        God does often listen to the prayers of non-Christians, and because He is a God of grace and mercy, He often responds to them, but God is not obligated to do so.
                        But God has promised that every Christian can come before Him and have access to Him through prayer. (Romans 5:2)
                        Prayer works for Christians because we have been reconciled with God through Jesus Christ.
                        The word reconciled refers to the reunion of those who had been estranged from each other.
                        Reconciled means the animosity between people has been removed and there is no longer a barrier between them.
                        Reconciled means that the relationship has changed from one of hostility to one of friendship.
                        Christians have been reconciled to God.
                        Before we became Christians, we were not friends with God.
                        We were not living our lives the way God wanted us to.
                        In fact, we were living in a way that opposed God, even if we did not realize it.
                        We did not have a meaningful relationship with God before we were Christians.
                        But when we became Christians, things began to change in our lives.
                        Our perspectives and our priorities change.
                        The way we spend our time, our energy and our resources all change.
                        Once we became friends of God, we began to work with God instead of against Him.
                        Once we begin to realize that everything good in our lives is a gift from God, it changes our motivation.
                        We become filled with gratitude toward God for all His kindness to us.
                        One resolution that Christians should make is to serve the Lord this year out of love and devotion instead of guilt or obligation.
                        One of the greatest things that changes in our lives is that God gives us a ministry of reconciliation.
                        That means that God calls us to help others become friends of God as well. This is not just the pastor’s job. It is the ministry of every Christian.
                        Our culture is so far from God that pastors, elders and deacons alone will never be able to reach everyone.
                        Every Christian should resolve to share the faith with others during the New Year.
                        We can do this in a variety of ways, but we should ALL be involved in sharing Jesus in some way.

Verse 19 - that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.
                        Notice that as God is working to reconcile the world to Himself, He does not pay attention to the sins of those He is trying to reach.
                        This does not mean that God is not saddened by our sin. It means that God reaches out to us despite our sinfulness.
                        Though God sees each of us as a sinner and in need of Savior, He does not count one person as more sinful than another.
                        God wants all of us to choose Him and continues to love us until we do.
                        Just as God loves us all, regardless of our sin, we should make sure we do not share the Gospel ONLY with people whom we think are good enough.
                        We should share Jesus with anyone who will listen and trust God to draw sinners to Himself and change them in His time.

New Year’s Resolutions for Christians:
                                    Start one new spiritual discipline while eliminating one old bad habit.
                                    Serve the Lord out of love and devotion, instead of guilt or obligation.
                                    Share our faith with others without judging them in the process.

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