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God’s New Thing for Your New Year

Based on Isaiah 43:18-21

The passage we are reading is quoted out of context quite often. I have heard well-meaning Christians say, “God says He will do a new thing… well this is it!” But what exactly is it that Isaiah is talking about? Remember that Isaiah very accurately prophesied of the Babylonian captivity to come. He gives the reasons, the indictments for which God is bringing the captivity as judgment.

What is the new thing that God will do? It’s a prophetic statement about the re-gathering together of Israel. Please don’t misunderstand the text, which was written with a direct application to the Jewish people. What is the principle we learn from it today? It gives us great insight into the character and heart of God. I believe we can learn some great lessons from God’s Word to Israel as we approach a new year…

I. We must forget that which is behind us. (v. 18)

God says that if we’re to move forward with the confidence of God, there are some things we need to completely forget but there are always things we must remember as well. Let’s sort it out.

A. What to carry.

1. The Word of God.
2. The work of God among His people.
3. The positive responses of God’s people.

2 Thess. 2:15 – “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”

B. What to bury.

1. The sins of our past.

Ps. 103:12 – “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”

2. The suffering of our past.

Here are two important questions for some self-evaluation as you start your new year:
1.) What do I need to bury from my past? What will hinder me from living for Jesus in ’06?
2.) What is something God has given me in 2005 that I need to carry with me?

II. We must face that which is before us. (vs. 19-20)

One of the most prominent ways we often face the new year is with fear and intimidation. We’re afraid of change, of the unknown, of the uncertainties of life. But God always gives us reason to “fear not.”

[bcoxlike]

A. When we are lost, He has a map for us.

B. When we are thirsty, He has a river for us.

C. When we are afraid, He has a Word for us. (go back to verses 1-3a)

What are you facing in 2006 that you need to pray about today? What do you believe God is going to lead you to do this year that you need to be ready for?

III. We must foresee that which is beyond us. (v. 21)

Notice something about this statement. God makes it through a prophet to a people who are being very rebellious. Isaiah’s message has been one of judgment because the people are backslidden. But here God looks at His people and says, “They will show forth my praises.” God looks at Israel and He sees what they can become.

We can look forward to the ways in which God might use us this year if we are fully surrendered to His will. We can also look forward to the great worship service in the sky when all of God’s people will be gathered together.

Philip. 2:10-11 – “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Are you looking forward to 2006? If Jesus is in charge, then you can anticipate God being active in your life this year. What are you praying for God to do in your life this year? What kind of growth do you want to see?

Resolutions are faulty only because they are uttered by such weak lips. In reality, it’s good to make commitments to God periodically. Jonathan Edwards made some great resolutions at a very early age and one was to meditate more upon his own impending death. Another was to always be doing what he would want to be doing if he knew Jesus was going to come in the next hour.

What if Jesus came today? Are you prepared for His coming?

Help Is On the Way

”Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” –James 5:8

Imagine yourself a Jew living in Palestine in the days leading up to the birth of Jesus. Like Anna and Simeon, you’ve been expecting Messiah to come any time. You’ve read the prophecy of Daniel which foretold the very day that Jesus would be rejected by Israel (the seventy weeks’ prophecy). Micah had recorded that the place would be Bethelehem. Perhaps you’ve even heard about the miraculous birth of the Messiah’s forerunner to an elderly priestly couple.

Have you noticed that we live and feel differently when there is an expectation and anticipation in our hearts? James says to suffering believers who are scattered throughout the world, “Endure. Stay strong. Jesus is coming.”

Anna and Simeon were an aged priestly couple who held on until they could see the hope and consolation of Israel. When they finally saw Jesus, they could leave the world in peace. Life brings its burdens but James admonished us to hold on for Jesus is coming. His appearance is nigh at hand. He came the first time in a manger and met rejection and crucifixion. He shall come the second time in judgment and victory over the world and over our enemy, Satan. Hold on today, for help is on the way!

The Point of No Return

”Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” –Hebrews 12:15-17

One of the hardest truths of Christianity to grasp is the teaching that there is a point of rejecting the will of God beyond which a man may never find repentance. Sin hardens the heart toward the things of God. When we are young, our hearts are tender, which explains in part why so many believers today came to Christ as children. As people progress through life without responding to God, His voice grows steadily silent to their souls. Eventually, through the deceitfulness of sin, their hearts are seared over and they will never repent.

The illustration of this is Esau, who made two decisions to reject God’s will for his life that he could never take back. Though he wept bitterly over his loss, he alone was to blame for losing his blessing and his birthright. God gives to us every moment of our lives in which to turn to Him in repentance and respond to Him by faith. But each time we say “no” to God, we inch our way closer to the point after which we will never say “yes.”

God’s door is always open and anyone who ever repents of sin and trusts Christ as Savior will be received by the Lord. But beware of the point at which the Spirit of God moves on to other hearts and the soul is so embittered that it will never again respond favorably to the gospel.

This truth is essential for Christians as well as unbelievers. Paul’s greatest fear was that he might preach to others but himself be a “castaway” or be put on the shelf by God. God is loving, gracious, and forgiving, but a vessel which may no longer be used effectively for His glory is cast to the side. We’ve all seen the wasted ruins of a man of God turned aside to immorality and given to indulgence of the flesh. Let us beware, lest the same end should come to us.

Keep your heart tender and soft to the will of God. Remain yielded. Seek His righteousness and holiness, and keep the communication lines open with the Holy Spirit within. Finally, allow repentance to be a daily, even moment-by-moment exercise of the soul before God.

Prepare for History’s Greatest News

Christmas Sermon Series: God’s Christmas Messages to You, Part 4
Based on Luke 2:8-20

This is the fourth and final message in a series of Christmas messages based on the angelic appearances of the first Christmas. We’ve learned with Zechariah and Elizabeth to “prepare for the miraculous.” We’ve learned with Mary to “prepare to be God’s instrument.” We’ve learned with Joseph to “prepare to meet the Savior.” Today, we learn with the shepherds to “prepare for history’s greatest news.”

More than the others, God’s message through the angels to the shepherds represents His universal message to all of humanity. It was the only angelic announcement that involved more than one angel (it involved myriads) and it was the only one to more than one person (Elizabeth was not with Zechariah). It was a group of angels giving God’s message to a group of people who were looked at as “common” in Jesus’ day.

Christmas is, at least in part, the story of God sending His message to all of humanity, to you and me.

GOD’S MESSAGE TO THE WORLD…

1. God’s message is for real people living real life.

Notice that the shepherds were living in the fields with their sheep. That was their life and their livelihood. They were real people with real lives doing real things. I want you to understand that the Christian message is not for perfect people, but for real people. Notice that the angels said that the good news would be for all people.

2. God’s message for the world is good news.

There are two elements to be found in the reaction of the shepherds to the message of the angels and these two reactions should be ours today as well.

A. Fear.

Fear because God is holy, because He is great and awesome, and because He will judge sin. Fear because an encounter with the holy God is a reminder that we are ultimately sinful and unable to stand in His presence.

“For our God is a consuming fire.” –Hebrews 12:29

“For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” –Revelation 6:17

It is very true that the gospel (which means good news) is not such good news until we realize the bad news, that we’ve sinned against and offended a holy God who will punish us for eternity in hell if we do not repent and come to Christ by faith.

B. Joy.

Joy, sweet relief, peace in the soul. That’s what they felt when they realized that the message here on earth was not one of judgment (that will come for the unrepentant in heaven) but rather one of a Savior.

3. God’s message for the world demands a decision.

The shepherds decided to act on the message and go meet the Savior. Every time we hear the message of the gospel, God’s good news, we are called to a crisis of faith, a moment of decision. We must decide what to do with Jesus in this life or perish for eternity.

You see, we are all responsible to respond to the light God gives us. We should know from nature that there is a God and seek Him further. We should hear our conscience telling us that we’ve sinned and we should seek to repent. We should hear the gospel and respond to the light of God’s message, God’s revelation.

The Bible and the gospel preached by preachers across the land is God’s message of warning and consolation to us today and we must respond.

4. God’s message changes lives forever.

Notice the change in the shepherds’ lives. Their newfound faith prompted them to do at least two things:

A. Tell others about Jesus.

B. Offer praise to God.

Their hearts were changed! They had a new message to give and a new song to sing because things were different for them now. They had met the Savior!

What about you? Have you received His message? Have you met the Savior? Are you different now than before? What have you done with Jesus?

Pray For Your Pastor

”Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” –Ephesians 6:18-20

Paul completes his discussion of the armor of God with a final thought about the greatest resource of all, the resource universally applied to the Christian life with all the other pieces of armor… prayer. Look at the words he uses to emphasize this tool, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication… with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…” My how little we pray and how weak our prayers.

Then Paul makes a personal prayer request that reflects the request of my own heart. He requests that the believers pray that he would have the words and the boldness with which to preach the gospel in the power of the Spirit. There are many things that may aid a Pastor in his work such as education, training, and fellowship with others, but no aid is so powerful as the prayers of his people.

This is my request to anyone who will receive it, that you might pray for your Pastor on a daily basis, that God would give him utterance (the ability to speak) and boldness (the power to speak it with passion) as he steps into the pulpit each week. Pray for God’s provision and protection for his family and his ministry. Pray that God would use him as a change agent in the lives of countless souls.