01 January 2021
Ps Ben Hooman
A blessed New Year to everyone! It is a time to turn the calendar and count our lives to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as we face all the opportunities, all the challenges, and all the risks of another year ahead of us. We can reflect at the year past and dwell in all its difficulties and successes as we live in times like never before, but rather look forward to a life promised to us in the Word of God.
God says to us in Jeremiah 32:40, “… I will not turn away from doing good to them”. Whatever this year holds for you, this is a great promise for us, those that belong to Him. God will always be committed to your eternal good and always ready in any circumstance to act what is best for you according to His will in your life. A great promise to hold onto as we enter this year.
In the message today I want out of the Word of God offer you six exhortations as seen in Philippians chapter 3, the finest passage to look at as we enter 2021, to encourage and to challenge us.
Please open your Bible in Philippians chapter 3 – six exhortations for the new year:
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
Face the fact that you have not yet lived as you want to
“Not that I have already obtained this …. Brothers I do not consider that I have made it my own.” (Philippians 3:12-13)
The apostle Paul so strikingly says that he ‘have not yet obtained this’, a person committed to live for Christ, giving himself fully to the cause of Christ. Not only did he give himself to the most demanding work of church planting, in addition to that he has suffered all kinds of abuse, been through all kinds of persecutions, through all kinds of difficulties, and now even in prison writing these words. And yet, after all that, he feels that he not yet lived in the way he wants to live for Jesus Christ.
I don’t know about you, but I identify with Paul here, not in his suffering but in not living in a way I want to for Christ. What about you? Not yet fully lived the Christian life that we want to, not yet become the Christians we want to be.
These verses forced me to face those realities in my own life and I am not nearly there yet. If you feel that at the beginning of this year, it is actually a mark of spiritual health! A shallow Christian will rather feel he or she is doing well. If Paul, that wanted to do more in following Christ, felt that he fell short of it, so much more we do. Face the facts and own it in the beginning of this year.
Don’t give up on becoming the person God wants you to be
“… but I press on to make it my own.” (Philippians 3:12)
Notice how the apostle Paul goes on to say, ‘I press on to make it my own’. We so easily can become discouraged and the reason is this, we saying: I have been a Christian for years and I have still not reached the point of living this life for Christ the way I want to, I guess I never will and can just as well give up’.
This is exactly where the apostle Paul did not go! He says: I have not yet lived this life for Christ that I really want to, but I am not giving up. I press on to make this my own!’
He decided to live an even deeper life of devotion and of worship to Jesus Christ and fully pursue to press on with everything that is in him. Can we also do just that for Christ this year?
Energize your passion from the redeeming work of Christ
“… I press on to make this my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.” (Philippians 3:12)
In other words, the energy for me to pursue a more fully devoted life to Christ, arises out of Christ’s activity in claiming and making me His own child. Energize your passion from the redeeming work of Christ!
For Paul this happened on the road of Damascus. Jesus Christ swept into the life of this angry young man, Saul of Tarsus, and Christ made this man His own. And this was done by God’s grace alone. This is the mercy of God that got hold of Paul and turned him around. At that moment of your new birth in Christ, this is what happened to you. You look behind your own commitment to Christ and you see the reality that the Father has drawn you to Him as Christ said: ‘No one comes to the Father unless the Father is drawing them’.
The Son has redeemed you and the Holy Spirit gave you a new birth as He baptised you into Christ. A new life, a new affection, a new hunger and a thirst to live a life for Christ also in this year.
Where does it come from? It comes from Jesus and that is energizing the passion to live a Christ exalting life in 2021. I press on to do just that because Jesus has made me His own.
Don’t let your past hinder your pursuit of a Christ exalting life
“… But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind …” (Philippians 3:13)
What ever you do this year, don’t let your past prevent you from pursuing a life in Christ. The easiest way to waste your life, is to get hung up on stuff that happened in the past. It is the single most common way to waste your life, so easy to slip into. Something you did and you live in regret of it forever, or something someone did to you, and you are being bound by things that happened to you in the past.
If you press on, you have to draw a line behind the past. Refuse to let the past ruin your future in Christ, to define who you are, for you are a new creation in Christ!
God can use the most painful things in your past to open doors of ministry into the lives of others who may have suffered in a similar way. Instead of looking at what happened to you, why not coming to Christ in the beginning of this year and say: Lord, take all that I have, including all of my past, and use it in whatever way You choose, for Your kingdom, for Your honour and purpose, and to the good of others’. You will be amazed to see what God is doing in your life and the life of others.
Don’t be defined by your past. If Jesus looked at the fruit of what He suffered and be satisfied, how much more shall we not pursue to do the same!
Extend the maximum effort in the light of the ultimate price
“… forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on …” (Philippians 3:13)
It is not only that we have to draw a line from the past, we have to strain forward to for what lies ahead. The image Paul uses is one of running a race; not a marathon, but a short race like a hundred meters or two hundred meters. If you run a short race you cannot afford to coast, you cannot run it as you run a long-distance race. You have to have a real good start, get well out of the blocks, have a real strong middle, and flat out to the finish line.
This is how Paul thinks about his life. You in a race and it is a short race. You cannot hang around for ten years after conversion. We got to fully devote to Christ right from the start. We have to sustain it in the middle of the race, and straining even more to what lies ahead.
Do you at the beginning of this year think of this race you are running for Christ, or who do you run for? Do you see that there is more behind you than what lies ahead of you? Exalt the maximum effort in the light of the ultimate price.
Anticipate the future with hope and with joy
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Thinking of being in a short race, what price is there beyond the finish line? It is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Paul says that is the price he has in view. He says that not very long before God is going to call him upward and he is going to strain towards it.
Earlier the apostle Paul says,
“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
If you live for anything that is in this world as your main consuming passion, then to die are all lost for this reason. Think about it, if your consuming passion is golf, or reading, travel, technology, food, music, family, if your consuming passion is anything in this world, then to die is all lost because it puts your consuming passion beyond your reach. But if you live for Christ, to die is gain because you getting more from the One who is your consuming passion.
Paul says, ‘The consuming passion of my life, the price I am after, is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Think about this at the beginning of this year. If you live for this world, your future will become darker for you because as your remaining years become less, you will find that life is closing in, and the things that really matters are getting further away and eventually beyond your reach all together. But if you live for Jesus Christ, your now will be filled with joy and your future will be bright.
As your remaining years become less, then you become aware of the limitations of time, you are getting closer to the price which you be living for, which is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
That is how to become old with joy and peace and a hope to endure. All of that in Christ for me to live is Christ! The price is the upward call of God.
Six exhortations I hope is helpful as we are facing this year ahead of us: As you faced the fact that you have not lived the way you want, at the same time don’t give up to become what God wants you to be.
Energize your passion from the redeeming work of Christ, and don’t let the past hinder your pursuit of a Christ-centred, a Christ-exalting life.
Extend your maximum effort in light of the ultimate price as you anticipate the future, not with a sense of dread and despair, but because you are in Christ, in anticipation of hope, and in anticipation of joy.
There are a limited number of years for each of us until the day of our upward call. To die is gain when you have lived for Christ.
I guess the question for all of us as we take these things in and we say these things are true and we embrace this truth is: What are you going to do this year in the light of this? What are you going to do as from this day? What are you going to give yourself to this year? What are you going to pursue particularly more aggressively this year than you have done last year? Are you going to extend yourself, stretch yourself out in living for Christ?
I hope this is a real question for you on this first day of 2021 to make a decision to live fully for the Lord.