Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:97-112
Sermon Title: New Year Resolutions – 2021 for the glory of God!
Memory Verse: On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
New Year Resolutions
Let’s take a sigh of relief in knowing that one of the most challenging years is behind us. We made it through 2020.
As we reflect upon last year, we need to ask ourselves how we made it through. What are the foundational truths that help us to thrive and grow?
On the one hand, we know that in difficult times, we grow and mature. God brought us 2020, and all the events and circumstances are providential. God makes no mistakes. Everything about last year is a design from God. It is all given to us to help us grow and conform to the image of Christ.
As we look forward, we can evaluate our response to the events and circumstances of 2020 and ask ourselves, how can we best prepare for the upcoming year? We have no assurance that the year 2021 will be better. Our life situation may become increasingly challenging. Certainly, our culture is becoming more averse to Christianity. There are likely more challenges to our health and well-being that will challenge our faith.
How can we best prepare for what is to come? The best way we may prepare is to deepen our faith and relationship with Christ. Therefore, we (the elders) desire to challenge the church to live in 2021 for the glory of God. We recognize that everyone wants to glorify God. We believe we can deepen our resolve by committing ourselves as a church body to be more intentional with discipleship.
Two books are very helpful for us to shape how we align our ministry of intentional discipleship: The Trellis and the Vine and Discipleshift.
Both of these books are very helpful and provide practical ways for us to create a culture in our church in which discipleship will thrive. We will talk more about these books as the year progresses.
For our church to grow more intentional in discipleship, we need to commit ourselves, all of us, to be good disciples of Jesus.
A disciple is more than a student. A student learns but does not necessarily imitate a lifestyle. A disciple is someone who imitates a person. They adapt their life, so they look like the person that they follow. A disciple of Jesus is intentional to change their life to become more and more like Jesus. God says that His goal for us is to conform us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). We are to look like Jesus.
For 2021, let’s make three New Year resolutions. Many people make resolutions to eat right or to improve their health through exercise. Some make resolutions to quit a bad habit or to start a new one. Let’s make 2021 a year that we resolve to improve our spiritual health and mature spiritually, so at the end of the year in December, we look more like Christ than we do now in January.
There are three areas we may address so that we may become more like Jesus. We can imitate Christ by growing in the knowledge of God’s Word, by increasing in godliness, and by being intentional in making disciples.
To imitate Jesus, we need to know God’s Word. It is essential to know God’s Word if we are to make disciples. Listen to these passages and how God promises to use His Word for us to be successful in our endeavor.
As we read the upcoming passages, allow the promises of Scripture to speak to our hearts and motivate us to know God’s Word. Notice as we read through these passages the promises God makes to us when His Word abides in us.
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. (Joshua 1:8)
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
All Scripture 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 3:16-17)
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.
God promises success, prosperity, bearing fruit, perseverance, restoration of the soul, rejoicing, enlightenment, and great reward to those who live by His Word.
Imitate Christ by knowing God’s Word.
Imitate Christ with Godliness
If we desire to follow Christ and imitate Him, we must endeavor to be godly. The Word of God teaches us how to be godly. The word “godliness” means to have piety, reverence, or a life of religiousness.
Jesus is the definition of godliness; therefore, imitate Christ with godliness.
By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)
The Apostle Paul tells Timothy that the common confession, which is likely stated as a saying known among first-century Christians, is that the mystery of what it means to be godly, is seen in the person of Jesus Christ. What is the mystery of godliness? It is Jesus Christ.
When Christ manifested Himself as God who became man, what was once understood to be godly, is revealed in a greater picture. The “mystery,” which had “been hidden from ages and from generations, and which was now manifest” (Colossians 1:26), becomes the definition of what it means to be religious. If we want to be godly, we are to imitate the person of Jesus Christ. All Christians everywhere are to look to Christ, who represents godliness in perfection.
Paul tells Timothy later in his letter to the young pastor that if we are to discipline ourselves, we will prosper. He writes:
On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
Often, when we think about the New Year, we think of ways to improve our bodies. Perhaps we see ourselves as needing to have more discipline with our diet. We seek to improve our life by having discipline with bodily exercise. Paul warns us not to fall into the trap of focusing only on our physical well-being.
Of course, the Bible teaches us not to be gluttons and not to be lazy. The Bible encourages us to live a healthy lifestyle. However, if we only focus on our physical life, and we neglect our spiritual well-being, bodily discipline is only of little profit.
The Christian life is to be marked with being disciplined to grow in godliness. Godliness takes many forms. It is accomplished by having spiritual disciplines consisting of being faithful to prayer, Bible study, memorizing scripture, fasting, serving, witnessing, and so forth. (Sermon on spiritual disciplines: https://redbarnchurch.com/Archives/pursue-godliness/.)
When we seek to discipline ourselves spiritually, the Bible promises that our pursuit of godliness holds promise for this life, and is profitable for our life eternally. The mark of a Christian with spiritual discipline is that their soul and spirit perseveres in times of difficulty.
When an athlete has a bad season, they will typically work on getting into better physical shape to prepare for the upcoming season.
What did 2020 reveal to you about your spiritual condition?
If we are in good spiritual shape, when difficulty comes, we will persevere and bear good fruit. The sign of being out of shape spiritually is to fall away from godly habits in challenging times.
Paul again brings up the subject of godliness in his letter to Timothy. He writes:
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. (1 Timothy 6:6)
We need to stand on the promise of God that when we seek contentment with the life God provides and we accompany our contentment with godliness, we will find great gain. When we think about the promises of disciplining ourselves to know God’s Word along with the promise of having great gain when we pursue godliness, we will find the joy and satisfaction we seek.
Think about the life of Daniel and how he persevered in difficult times. His life is marked with godliness.
Often, we find disappointment and failure in life because we focus on the wrong things. We work hard to improve our education of the world and to enhance our physical appearance while we neglect to feed our soul and spirit.
If the year 2021 is anything like the year 2020, we need to pursue godliness more than ever. Let’s seek to imitate Christ by being diligent in our pursuit of godliness. As we do so, let’s come alongside others in the church and disciple them by encouraging them to join our quest for godliness. Let’s have discipleship conversations centered on growing in godliness. Let’s ask questions of one another and encourage one another with the specific goal of being godly like Jesus.
Imitate Christ by knowing God’s word.
Imitate Christ with godliness.
Imitate Christ by Making Disciples
Finally, let’s combine our efforts to grow in knowing the Word and in godliness to making disciples. There is a purpose to grow in maturity, and the purpose is to help others know Christ.
Imitating Jesus requires being a disciple-maker.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “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.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
We are all, myself included, victims of our culture. We have become consumers of what the church has to offer (in varying degrees). We are not called to be consumers of Christianity.
A consumer of Christianity attends church and expects the worship team to provide music so they may worship. A consumer attends Adult Bible Fellowship expecting to be taught (spiritual feeding). A consumer of Christianity listens to a sermon (at church or on the radio) to get fed. The desire is to receive encouragement or to grow in faith. We get fed, and often that is where we stop. We do not think of feeding others.
Our mission as a church is to equip each person to be a disciple-maker. Scripture teaches that spiritual maturity involves teaching others.
Participating in church for only self-fulfillment is a consumer mentality. Every Christian is called to evangelize and disciple others. We are to help people to know what it means to imitate Jesus. Jesus came to serve and not to be served.
A mature Christian, one who imitates Jesus, serves others. They think of others first.
Here is an example of what it means to be a mature Christian on a typical Sunday morning.
When it comes to worship music, a mature Christian enjoys worship but also listens to songs and thinks, “This song will be good for _______ to hear. I will share this song with them later this week.”
When it comes to hearing the Word of God taught or preached, a mature Christian listens for two reasons: self-growth and helping others grow. When we hear the word of God for self-growth, we listen for ways to grow in maturity. We listen for a truth that we had not heard. We think of how to apply the truth in our lives. Second, a mature Christian listens with the intent of sharing the truth with others.
A mature Christian has relationships with other Christians and with non-Christians. When they hear the Word of God taught, other people come to mind.
Maybe they know someone at work who is not a believer. They listen for new ways to share the Gospel. They hear ways of explaining sin that they never heard before. Or, they hear of a way to talk about Jesus that might be appropriate for the person at work. In other words, we may be a Christian who is well-versed in the Gospel, and hearing the Gospel on a Sunday morning will be boring if we only think of ourselves. We might think, “I am not learning anything new.” But, if we listen with the intent of teaching others, we might hear a new and creative way to share the Gospel with others. We listen with the intent of “adding to our repertoire.”
When reading through the Acts of the Apostles, we hear Paul will change up the Gospel to fit the audience. We need to grow in maturity, so we become experts in learning how to share the truth with others.
Jesus shows His love to us by helping us to become like Him. He lays down His life so we may grow in spiritual maturity. We know Jesus loves us because He serves us. He put aside His needs for the sake of meeting our needs.
If we genuinely desire to follow Jesus and to be His disciple, we need to be humble servants. A humble servant continually looks for ways to love and care for others. Sunday morning is a place to go to grow spiritually, help others mature (such as serving on the worship team, teaching Sunday School), and to hear of ways to help others during the week.
Just as we love our children and feed, protect, and care for them, we need to feed, protect, and care for others spiritually.
We are only a fully-mature Christian when we are helping other Christians mature. A fully-mature Christian is a disciple-maker.
Imitate Jesus by Living for the Glory of God
Jesus lives for the glory of God. On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus said to the Father:
“I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” (John 17:4)
Jesus does everything for the glory of His Father. If we are to imitate Jesus, then we are to glorify the Father by accomplishing the work He gives us.
The work God gives us is the Great Commission. By the authority of Jesus, our Lord, we are to go and make disciples. Will you join me and others in being purposeful to make disciples? Will you share the good news of Jesus with your friends, family, and coworkers? Will you seek to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word, and godliness? Will you help others in the church by engaging in discipleship relationships?
Imagine if all of us are intentional to imitate Jesus in the upcoming year! In doing so, 2021 will be among the best years of our life. We may face challenging circumstances, but we will together grow in maturity. Our souls will find the joy and satisfaction we seek.