An End-of-the-Year Exhortment
|View from our rental van as we headed to Louisiana for Thanksgiving.|
Earl preached a wonderful sermon this morning. I just had to share it with you. It was the perfect sermon for the last week of the year. It challenged me in guiding how I look back over the past year and how I look forward into the next.
His sermon (or rather, his rallying cry) was entitled "The After-Christmas Sail" and it was based on Luke 2:18-20. If you know anything about Earl and I as a couple, then you know that this has been our "mantra" for the past 18 years, thanks to Earl's leadership in our marriage. And it has shaped how we have parented our children and what we have sought to impart to them before they leave our home. And it influences our hearts as we relate with friends, family and neighbors.
While most of those around us are thinking about those "after Christmas sales", we as the Church should be thinking through the after Christmas sail, or journey. How will we navigate through the days after Christmas, in a way that glorifies the LORD? Have you ever stopped to wonder what the shepherds went back to after they left the stable? Sure, they most likely went back to watching over their flocks (or washing their socks, as one young girl thought the Scripture said). In other words, they went back to their normal lives. And yet, how did the knowledge that a Savior had been born . . . for them . . . affect that normal life?
Point #1: Live (talk and walk) like you have a Savior. (Luke 2:10-12) What is your response when you see your sin? Do you live like you are hopeless or can save yourself or can be saved by mere men? John Bunyan is quoted as saying, "One day as I was passing into the field . . . this sentence fell upon my soul. Thy righteousness is in heaven. And me thought, withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he wants (lacks) My righteousness, for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself."
Point #2: Live (talk and walk) like you have a God. (Luke 2:14) Where do I turn when my needs aren't being met or when I'm not happy? Do I live like I have no resources or hope or like I must meet my own needs or as if I can find satisfaction in the things of this world? "You shall be My people, and I will be your God." (Jeremiah 30:22)
Point #3: Live (talk and walk) like you have a message. (Luke 2:10-11, 14, 17) We have a message of hope! Our message is the good news of an able and willing Savior to all and the wonder of sovereign grace to many who refuse to come to God for mercy. The opposite of living like this is to live like I have nothing to say to those who are in my life or to live as if I can only speak hope to some in my life. "Today, a Savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord"! Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying, "None of us loves men as Christ loves them; and if the love of all the tender hearted in the world could run together, they would make but a drop compared with the ocean of the compassion of Jesus . . . if anything can call faith into exercise [it is the knowledge] that Christ is willing to receive thee . . . All our Lord's sermons were so many loving calls to poor aching hearts to come and find what they need in Him . . . Beloved, there is nothing that so delights Jesus Christ as to save sinners . . . You misjudge Him if you think He wants to be argued with and persuaded to have mercy; He gives it as freely as the sun pours forth light. . . . Paul had no stinted Savior to present to a few, no narrow-hearted Christ to be the head of a clique, but he preached a great Savior to great masses, a great Savior to great sinners . . . My Lord Jesus, by His death, has become immensely rich in pardoning grace - so rich indeed that no guiltiness can possibly transcend the efficacy of His precious blood. . . . Do you know what it is you are rejecting this morning? You are rejecting Christ, your only Savior . . . I should be worse than a fiend if I did not now, with all love and kindness and earnestness, beseech you to "lay hold on eternal life'".
Point #4: Live (talk and walk) like you have a vision. (Luke 2:15, 20) My vision for what to do in every situation and in every relationship is simply this: to trust and love according to the Word of God.
Point #5: Live (talk and walk) like you have a mission. (Luke 2:20) I am to live as a satisfied servant to my family, church, workplace and world. Am I on a mission to make a difference . .. to the glory of God . . . in the various arenas of my life? (Matthew 5:13-16)
As I am encouraging my own heart this afternoon with what Earl encouraged us at Coast with this morning, let me also encourage you as you wrap up this year to get alone with God and to ask Him, "Have I lived this past year like I have a Savior, a God, a message, a vision and a mission?" Confess where you see you haven't (there is no condemnation for those of us in Christ) and plead for grace to grow and to seek to go "higher up and further in" as you pursue greater intimacy with Christ and fight complacency!
May the God of the New Year bless us with more of Himself in 2014!