As we look to the New Year, I am filled with excitement about the possibilities that a new year brings. I often consider the goals and resolutions from the previous year (some of which I have successfully completed and a few I have not) and I look forward to the future.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, warned us that life is like a vapor—here today, gone tomorrow. When we consider it, our lives are short. That’s why we must make the most of our time and seek the Lord’s will (James 4:14). We don’t know what the Lord will allow us to accomplish each year or what situations He will allow to come our way. However, we do know that He is in control and that He wants us to be using this time to serve and honor Him. But what guidance does the Bible provide for us in considering the direction of our lives for 2020?
First, Jesus gave us the motive—love. When asked which commandment is greatest, He answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The first commandment is a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. In this quotation, Jesus summed up the first four of the Ten Commandments. The second greatest commandment, Jesus quoted from Leviticus 19:18 and this commandment sums up the last six of the Ten Commandments. Jesus’ point is that in all our efforts we should seek to love God and others by obeying God’s Word toward them. So as you look to the possibilities of the future, will you ask, “How can I love God and others in accordance with God’s Word in 2020?”
Second, Jesus gave us the mission—make disciples. When someone gives you his last words, those words are usually extremely significant. Some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples are found in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The main command of this passage is “make disciples.” That means to guide people to become followers of Jesus. Jesus used three others words to describe how we are to make disciples: going, baptizing, and teaching. Going means that we have to make intentional effort to go to people and places we normally would not go. Baptizing is the symbolic act of showing that someone has come into the family of God. It is about bringing someone into our church family and caring for them. Teaching them means that we are to explain God’s Word to them and exhort them to obey it. As you look to the new year, will you ask yourself, “How can I make disciples for Jesus in 2020? Who can I pray for about salvation? Who can I share the gospel with? How can I care for my brothers and sisters in Christ? How can I encourage others to study God’s Word and obey it?”
Third, Jesus gave us guidance—the Bible. Before He was crucified, Jesus promised His disciples, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come (John 16:12-13). This passage is primarily about the Holy Spirit inspiring the Apostles of Jesus to write the New Testament. As born-again Christians read the Bible today, He gives us the desire to obey what He inspired to be written. This is why Peter tells us that God has provided all we need for life and godliness through the Bible (2 Peter 1:2-3, 19-21) and Paul says the Bible is “able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” and the Bible “is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Jesus provided the Bible so that we would know how to love God and others and how to make disciples for Him. As you prepare for the New Year, will you ask if your goals are valuing the things that the Bible values? Will you ask if your goals are obeying the commands of the Bible? As you look over your New Year’s resolutions, will you consider if you have neglected some command of our Lord’s Word?
Finally, Jesus gave us a promise—grace. As we seek to glorify and honor Christ the short time we have in 2020, we will likely have set backs and struggles. As we do, we do not need to get discouraged. Jesus has come to show us “grace upon grace” (John 1:16). First, as Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to work hard for the glory of God and the well-being of the church of Ephesus, He reassured him. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim 1:7). Thank God for being right there with you. Ask Him to keep you from fear and to grow the power, love, and discipline in you that He has already provided so that you can serve Him in 2020. Also, John teaches us about the grace of Christ, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). In 2020, when times arise that you fail to glorify Christ by disobeying His Word, run to Him in confession—He will forgive and cleanse you.
May God bless you and your family in 2020!
Thank you, Eric, for this enlightening message. Happy New Year.