Happy New Year.
Before I get into today’s message, I really need to rewind first. You know how they roll the credits at the end of a movie, and they go on forever? It seems like the names never end. Yes, the stars on stage get all the glory, but somebody had to write the script, and design the sets, and sew the costumes, and arrange the music, and all that.
That is exactly how I feel about the 8 Christmas services we just offered our city called The Greatest Story.
We had four goals:
- That Jesus would be honored, for his birth and saving work.
- That you would feel safe in inviting your unsaved friends; that people who don’t know the first thing about Christ would be drawn in without feeling alienated by the church.
- That we would lift the spirits of all who came.
- That lost people would be saved.
Thousands of people came, spent an hour celebrating Jesus, and left. And their experience depended on hundreds of volunteers and staff who worked thousands of hours behind the scenes so that our city could be told in a fresh and beautiful way the message of “peace and earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
We had people who set up trees, decorated trees, chopped down trees, strung lights, detangled lights, went up to the ceiling and hung lights, worked with kids choirs, provided food and drink to all these workers. We had people who sang, and played, and composed, and performed. We had people who drummed. We had sets, and lights, and costumes, and constructions, and feedings, and greetings. We had people who prayed, and people who invited, and people who served as ushers, greeters, coffee bar… And now there are teams of people who are doing the very unglamorous job of taking it all down, and putting it all away.
I’m telling you, it’s like the credits at the end of a feature film. This was the body of Christ in action, and to me, it is beautiful to behold.
You know, the world evaluates our message by the care we take in presenting it. Our message is the gospel —
- The good news of Jesus come to save sinners like all of us.
- The gospel of an old rugged cross and of an empty tomb.
- The gospel that can save forever every person named on one of the name cards we had on our walls.
- The gospel that was believed in by 237 men and women and kids during our services in the month of December, plus dozens more in our special youth events.
- The gospel of eternal salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
- That gospel was proclaimed, and sung, and danced, and celebrated with excellence, and with joy, and in a language our culture can understand.
I am proud of our church, and I am thankful for every single person who helped or prayed or sang or served in any way shape or form.
The gospel still works. Amen?
If you are one of those rare people who can make a New Year’s resolution stick, I have a lot of respect for you.
I also don’t like you very much. Because yes, you inspire me.
But you also make me feel messed up. If you can by sheer resolve of will make an important change in your life, and make it stick, way to go.
Please don’t tell me about it. And quit posting about it on social media.
I have a long, depressing history with making New Years resolutions.
Especially as a Christian.
Should we have resolutions in our relationship with God? Absolutely yes.
But unless those resolutions grow out of a deep sense of God’s eternal resolutions for us, they’re going to always be a burden.
They’re always going to weigh down our hearts.
We love him BECAUSE he first loved us! And until the “he loved us” part is hardwired into our psychology, the “we love him” part will always feel like pushing a boulder uphill.
We will soon be relaunching the series we were in before Christmas season. The Book of Ezra. The series Regather and Restart.
But that’s not for today.
For today, I would like to spend the rest of my time on this first weekend of the New Year, thinking with you on this topic:
The Resolutions of a Resolute God
So with humility and gratitude, here are God’s Resolutions for 2020. The Resolutions of a Resolute God
I RESOLVE to employ all my power to effect your eternal salvation.
To save you from sin. To save you from death. To save you from condemnation and judgment and wrath to come. I will flex my omnipotent arm, and deliver you from every dark consequence your sins have ever deserved.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16).
Every time God saves a soul, he flexes his omnipotent biceps, and scoops you into his loving embrace. Nobody can overpower the all-powerful, so you are secure in his grip forever.
Once you’re saved, you’re always saved. Once you’re in his grip, he’ll never let go.
He has delivered you from darkness; why would he ever let darkness take hold of you again?
Doesn’t his Son’s precious blood have the power to cleanse you to the uttermost, all forever, and completely?
To be resolute means to be determined. It means to set an intention, and apply all your energies to fulfill it.
On the day God saved you, he set his intention to bring you safely all the way home to heaven.
God is resolute.
“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)
If you are a saved person today, you will be a saved person a year from now, and five years from now, and five hundred years from now too.
Because you have a God who never lets you go. Happy New Year!
God has resolved to save you forever, and it is his power, and his salvation all the way. Believe it.
I RESOLVE to keep drawing to myself the world of unbelievers, that they might believe and be saved.
There is nobody who works harder at the salvation of lost people than God himself. God is the Great Evangelist.
If there are people in your life who don’t know Christ, God is witnessing to them already.
- He’s the Shepherd who goes after the lost sheep.
- He’s the Host who chases down the last stray guest.
- He’s the Physician who searches for the spiritually wounded and morally sick.
- He’s the Lover pursuing his beloved.
- He’s the Father who never gives up on his prodigal daughter and son.
- He’s the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.
- He’s the Light for those who wander in darkness.
- He’s the Sun of Righteousness for those in perpetual night.
- And he’s the Bright Morning Star pointing the wayfarer home.
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ (Luke 15:4-6)
If you love somebody who doesn’t know Jesus, God loves them more.
If you worry over them, God worries more — in his own perfect way.
If you labor for their salvation — and you should — God labors more. He promised.
God loves your family more than you do. He loves our city, our county, our region more than we do.
God wants lost people found, and folded into the family of faith… and he never rests in that endeavor.
May our church, and may each of us, remain forever willing channels of God’s saving grace.
Do realize, however, God is a gentleman. He will never force a person to receive Christ against their will.
But he will bring circumstances to bear to bring them face to face with Christ and with their need for a Savior. That’s love.
He is working, all the time, to effect the salvation of every single lost person you know and don’t know.
The resolutions of your resolute God.
I RESOLVE to prepare for you an inheritance that staggers the imagination and defies human language to describe.
When God saved you, he didn’t go on vacation.
He’s still working for you. Working in you, and on your behalf.
One of his projects is a great building project.
“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2, 3)
Where is Jesus now? He’s in heaven.
What’s he doing in heaven? He’s preparing a place for you.
What’s going to happen some day in the future? He’s coming to get you, and to take you to that place he has prepared for you.
On a scale of one to ten, how nice do you think that place will be?
The authors of the Bible run out of words when they describe heaven.
It is a place of pleasures, beauty, awe, exceeding joy, satisfaction, fullness, peace, love, grace, feasting, celebration, laughter, singing, rest, light, no more sorrows, no more tears, all things new.
If there is any resolution that can comfort you in sorrows, and strengthen you in trials, it is this: God is resolved to prepare for you —for you personally, for you by name — God is resolute in preparing for you an eternal home that will make every heartbreak on earth fade into oblivion when you step across to those golden shores.
The resolutions of a resolute God.
I RESOLVE to supply all your needs, always on time, and more than enough.
We stand on the precipice of a new year. A new decade. None of us knows what the year will bring.
Good stuff. Bad stuff. Blessings. Difficulties. It’s always a mixed bag, for all of us.
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
Please notice two things: the word “all.” According to this verse, is there any need in your life that God has overlooked?
Also notice the word “need.” Is it singular or plural? It’s singular. Because it collects all your needs into one.
No matter how big your need, how small your need, how sudden your need, how foreseeable your need… in every category, in every situation, in every circumstance, to every measure or intensity, go through this year assured that your Father in heaven supplies your need with perfect timing, and perfect supply.
God is Yahweh Yireh… the Lord who provides.
He is El Roi… the God who sees.
He is faithful… and he is determined.
None of your needs have ever taken God by surprise. God has already previewed your life. He has looked down the corridors of time. He knows every situation. Every circumstance. Every need.
And not only does he know your needs. He provides.
He has pre-provided all you need. Your help is on the way.
God’s provision might not take the form you hoped for, or the timing you wanted, but we leave those things in his sovereign hands.
Just because God didn’t answer a prayer the way you wanted, it doesn’t mean your faith was weak.
It means he is God. Your job is faith, and God’s job is outcomes.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)
You will never lack anything you need to accomplish God’s will, in God’s way, in God’s timing in your life. He promised.
I RESOLVE to uphold and sustain your dominion in life.
God is always working to bring you out of a mindset of defeat, and into a mindset of victory.
It’s okay to be depressed. It’s okay to be discouraged. It’s normal to feel the pain of loss. All those things simply remind us of the nature of the world: this fallen world is a morally broken Pain Machine.
Even so, God is working in you. He is empowering you. Enabling you. Strengthening you.
He wants you to rise above the Pain Machine.
To not let evil win. To not let darkness dominate. To not let brokenness prevail.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)
God has set you behind the drivers wheel of your life, and he wants you to steer where you will. You have all dominion. You have the right to rule. You reign in life (Romans 5:17).
- You are not to label yourself as a victim.
- You are not to label yourself as a slave of sin.
- You are not to label yourself as anything any bully called you.
- You are not to label yourself according to your dysfunctions or addictions.
- You are not to label yourself the phony winner your obsessed parents may have told you you were.
- You are to label yourself as royalty with God. Entitled to nothing, but granted powers you don’t deserve.
This year of 2020 represents a wide open space for you. Where will you go? What will you do? What kind of person will you be?
This whole year is a blank canvas for you to paint your masterpiece. And it will be a masterpiece if God is in it. Guaranteed.
And the incredible truth is that God has given you the right to choose. And he will go with you wherever you may go.
I RESOLVE to be for you, and with you, and on your side no matter where you go or what you do (Rom. 8:31).
God is infinitely more committed to you than you will ever be to him. This is the glory of his grace. This is the glory of God.
Christianity is far less about what we do for God than it is about what he has done, and will do, for us, because of Jesus Christ.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
Let all your resolutions, and determinations, and strivings, and dedications — as good and holy as they might be — let them fade into nothingness against the bright light of the incredible truth that God is for you.
- He is for you because of Christ.
- He is for you because of Christmas.
- He is for you because of Good Friday.
- He is for you because of Easter.
- He is for you, because Christ has done all the work to save you. That is to say, he has so adjusted you to the righteous demands of God that God is now eager to bless you and care for you.
This was his shed blood and death and resurrection all combined as one great saving act.
What shall we say to these things? To what things?
To the wonders of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. Those things.
- Justification — that God declares you good enough for heaven when you believe in Christ.
- Redemption — that God sets you free from the slave market of sin, and death, and darkness, and hell, and the devil.
- Reconciliation — that the war is over, because God has made peace between himself and you at the price of his son.
- Adoption — that you’ve become a child of God, and heir of heaven, and joint-heir of Jesus.
- Sanctification — that God has made you a saint and is working out your holiness in life in this sea of monsters in which we all swim.
And on and on it goes.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31, NKJV).
When you look at a sunrise, say, God is for me, who can be against me.
When you look at glorious sunset, say, God is for me, who can be against me.
When you look at bills you can’t pay, doctors reports you can’t change, relationships you just can’t seem to fix, addictions you haven’t conquered, heartbreaks that haven’t healed… say God is for me, who can be against me.
When you look at your sins. When you look at your failures.
Look through the lens of Calvary, and you can say, God is for me. Who can be against me.
When you look at any circumstance this coming year might bring. Any testing. Any trial. Any opportunity. Any loss. Any open door. Any closed door. Any failure. Any dying dream. Any new possibility. When you see whatever stands before you…
First, look back to the Cross.
Remind yourself of the immense devotion and love displayed there.
Remind yourself of a God who is for you, and on your side, even to the point of death…
And then look to your problems, and look to your opportunities, and declare, The Almighty, Infinite, Creator God is for me. Who can be against me?
May this be a year in which we rest our anxieties in resolutions of a resolute God.
So, I have one more resolution, and then we’ll be done.
These first six come from God to you. The resolutions of a resolute God.
This one comes from you to God, and it’s based on Romans 12:1,2. I resolve.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 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. (Romans 12:1, 2, NKJV).
Notice that phrase, “the mercies of God.”
When God looks for a lever to pry the human heart from fixation to itself, and into a devotion to God, what lever does he use?
By the lever of guilt and shame? No.
By the lever of duty and obligation? No.
By the lever of threats? Reprisal? Punishment? No, no, no.
What lever does God use to get our hearts where our hearts need to be? By the mercies of God.
Why do Christians sin? Too much grace? No. Too little grace.
Why do Christians behave badly? Too much grace? No. Too little grace.
Why do Christians strive and sweat and strain to do in their own strength what only Christ can do through his? Too much grace? No. Too little grace.
Why do Christians fail? Too much grace? No. Too little grace.
Why do Christians give up on God, and give up on Church, and give upon the Bible, and give up on prayer? Too much grace? No. Too little grace.
It’s a deficit of grace at the heart of all our woes.
So if there’s one resolution, I might suggest for 2020 for you… one I would beseech you to embrace… it is this.
I RESOLVE to rest my heart more deeply in your mercies, your grace, and your truth, that I may be better conformed to your perfect will.
May 2020 be the year you sink deeper roots than ever before into the marvelous, infinite matchless grace of God.
That is one resolution I think I can actually keep.
That is one resolution that will truly give you a Happy New Year.