Sun, Jan 01, 2023
Teacher: Mark Hull
Duration:24 mins 16 secs

Message text

New Years - A Change For the Better
Philippians 3:10-14

Years ago, a man hired an experienced guide to lead him on a hike into the Swiss Alps. After some hours of climbing they came to a high mountain pass. To the man’s dismay, he saw the path had almost been washed away.
What could he do? On the left was a sheer rock cliff, to his right, a precipice that dropped nearly 1000 feet. Looking down, he felt his head growing faint & his knees beginning to buckle.
At that moment his guide shouted, "Don’t look down or you’re a dead man. Keep your eyes on me. And where I put my feet, put yours there as well." The man did as he was told & soon passed out of danger to safety.
That is good advice for the beginning of a new year. No one knows what lies ahead for any of us. We all have plans & dreams but the times & seasons of our life are in God’s hands.
A little boy and his mother were crossing a river…
Mother: Please hold my hand
Boy: No mom, you hold my hand.
Mother: What’s the difference?
Boy: If I hold your hand and something happens to me ….
Chances are that I will let your hand go, BUT
If you hold my hand … I KNOW FOR SURE, YOU
Will NEVER let MY hand go!

Sooner or later we will find ourselves in a place where the way ahead will seem almost impossible. When that happens, we can panic & fall,
OR we can fix our eyes on Jesus & mark carefully his steps before us. If we will follow him, we’ll find at the end of this year that we have been kept safe by His amazing grace.
Someone once wrote:
I wish that there were some wonderful place called the land of Beginning Again,
Where all our mistakes,
& all our heartaches,
& all of our poor selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,
& never be put on again.

Sometimes I feel that way about New Year's resolutions.
I tell myself, "This year I'm going to exercise regularly & lose weight.
I'm going to do all kinds of things to improve myself physically & spiritually."
But then SOMEHOW I forget. 😊

Maybe you have that problem, too. 😊

So I have a suggestion for a New Year's resolution that we ought to be able to remember.
It is kind of broad & very general, but here it is …

In 2023 … as God's people … let's make this one simple resolution we're going to make a change for the better.
And to help us do that, let me suggest some ways in which we can make a change for the better.
FIRST OF ALL, each of us can make a change for the better by developing a better attitude toward life.

Ask yourself each morning whether the way you plan to spend your day is how you would spend it if this was the last day of your life.

I'm told that there was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, & noticed she had only three hairs left on her head. "Well," she said, "I think I’ll braid my hair today." So she did, & she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror & saw that she had only two hairs on her head. "H-m-m, " she said, "I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today." So she did, & she had a grand day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror & noticed that she had only one hair on her head. "Well," she said, "today I’m going to wear my hair in a pony tail." So she did, & she had a fun day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror & noticed that there wasn’t a single hair on her head. "YEA" she exclaimed, "I don’t have to fix my hair today"

That story may sound ridiculous, but how do you feel about your life? Is it worthwhile?
Or, let's change the question. What would it take for you to feel that your life is worthwhile? What would it take for you to feel better about your life?

That is the reason I have selected Philippians 3:12-14 as our text this morning. But before I read it to you, you need to realize that Paul is in prison, chained to a Roman guard, and living under horrible conditions.

Yet despite that, he writes these words, “I do not consider myself to have ”arrived” spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ Jesus grasped me.
“My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal…”

Now ask yourself, "What is Paul’s goal?" He answered that in vs’s 10-11, “Now I long to know Christ and the power shown by His resurrection: now I long to share His sufferings, even to die as He died, so that I may perhaps attain as He did, the resurrection from the dead.”
What is Paul’s goal? His goal is "the resurrection from the dead." His goal is eternal life with Jesus. That is what he is striving for every day. His goal is heaven.
Now here is the point. If our goal in life is heaven, then all these setbacks are but stepping stones getting us closer to the time when we will be with Him.

Philippians 4:8and 9
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

There will be trials & disappointments, but every day that passes is one day closer to when we will be with Jesus. If that is our goal, then Romans 8:28 is true.
"All things" do "work together for good to those who love God & are called according to his purpose."

The world says that the way to feel good about yourself is by climbing the ladder of success by making a lot of money by having influential friends by belonging to the right circles. Those are the things that we are told make you feel good about yourself. But the Bible teaches that we should feel good about ourselves because God loves us. You are such a treasured person in God's sight that He gave His only Begotten Son for you. That makes you valuable, & you can feel good about yourself.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

THEN IN Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had,

SECONDLY, we are to be a fruitful part of the family of God, His church.
Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:15, 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and [a]ground of the truth."

And again, he says to the Christians in Ephesus in Ephesians 2:19, 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

The Bible does not speak of Christians isolated from other believers. In God's family we are connected to every other believer. Romans 12:5 says, "In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."

As Christians, the Bible says that we are “put together, joined together, built together, heirs together, fitted together, held together" & also that we "will be caught up together in the air."
The Bible calls the church "The body of Christ," & to Paul, being a "member" of the church meant being a part, a vital organ of a living body, the Body of Christ.

Romans 12:4-5 tells us, 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

"Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people.
"Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of His body.

If an organ is severed from its body, it will shrivel & die. Cut off & disconnected from the life of Christ’s church, our spiritual life will wither & eventually cease to exist.

That is why the first symptom of spiritual decline is usually inconsistent attendance at worship services, bible studies & other gatherings of believers. Whenever we become careless about fellowship, everything else spiritual begins to slide, too.

It is written that: "A Christian without a church home is like an heart without a body, a sheep without a flock, or a child without a family. It is an unnatural state."
Membership in the family of God is neither unimportant nor something to be casually ignored. Jesus said, "I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." Matthew 16:18
The person who says, "I don't need the church," is either arrogant or ignorant. The church itself is so significant that Jesus died on the cross for it. In fact, Ephesians 5:25 says, "Christ loved the church and gave His life for it.”

So do you want to have a better life in 2023? Then become more active in the church - which Jesus loved & for which He gave His life.
Realize too, that as Christians, it is not good enough for us just to lift our voices in praise & prayer to God above.

And that brings us to OUR THIRD POINT:
we must take advantage of the time that we have.

The Bible teaches us that life is uncertain. Time is like a valuable commodity in a very precious & delicate vessel. It might break at any moment & we might lose it all.
So we have this moment. We don’t know anything about the future, but we have this moment & that is all that we really have.

Because of the uncertainty of life, the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, "Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation."
and Hebrews 3:15 tells us, "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts." Because life is uncertain, we must take advantage of the time that we have.

CONCLSION. Maybe more than any other new year’s resolution we may make is the commitment that this year
1) "I'm going to develop a better attitude toward life.
2) I'll be a more fruitful part of the family of God - His church.
3) And I'll take full advantage of the time I have."

May I remind you that we are a year closer to heaven than we were this time last year? Everything is on course, folks. We need to trust the Lord & love Him to place our lives in His hands & allow Him to use us to His glory.
Happy New Year to you and your family…
Our hope he is not in the new year
but in the ONE who makes all things new!
Whatever your need is this morning we ask that you respond by coming forward as we stand & sing the song of invitation.


Sermon Contributor: Melvin Newland


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