Perspective on: A Happy New Year

Having a True “Happy New Year”

How many times in the last few days have you heard these words, “Happy New Year”? Probably far more than you can remember. These words may have various meanings depending on one’s background and their own personal values. Have you ever considered the spiritual aspects and implications of this phrase?

Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount can so easily help us to see that the Bible speaks of happiness, not just at the beginning of a year, but about true happiness every day of the new year.

What is Jesus' perspective on a Happy New Year?

What is Jesus’ perspective on a Happy New Year?

Jesus began His first recorded discourse with the Beatitudes. The word “beatitudes” is a Latin word for being blessed. In His sermon, Jesus used the word “blessed” nine times. The Greek word found here is far different from the way we usually define the word. When the angel announced to Mary that she was to bear the Son of God, he said, “Blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:28). The windows of heaven had been opened and the favor of God had been poured on upon the virgin. The Greek word the angel used is not the one found in the Beatitudes.

Defining the word blessed in the Beatitudes. The word blessed in Matthew 5:3-11 indicates happiness and joy. Jesus defined the source of true happiness in this first sermon.

Who is the one who is blessed (happy)? What avenue should we follow to have true happiness from heaven?

· Have a humble spirit (poor in spirit), not filled with pride

· Learning how to deal with grief (those what mourn)

· Putting others before self (those who are meek)

· Longing to be righteous (hungering and thirsting for it)

· Have a forgiving spirit (those who are merciful)

· Purity of life and soul (pure in heart)

· Sowing peace (being a peacemaker)

· Suffering for doing right (persecuted)

· Reviled (all kinds of evil falsely said about you)

Look at His conclusion. “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” Now that’s real happiness!

What is the motivation for seeking this kind of a happy new year? Look at the verses again and pay attention to what awaits us: being part of His kingdom here and in heaven (v. 3); being comforted by heaven (v. 4); possessing the earth in a way the ungodly will never understand (v. 5); filled with His righteousness (v. 6); receiving abundance of mercy (v. 7); seeing God (v. 8); being called God’s child (v. 9); receiving His kingdom (v. 10); being associated with the prophets and having a great reward in heaven (v. 12).   Happy New Year!

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The Purpose of the Mission

The Purpose of the Mission

A Drill Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps: One of the most disdained, disliked, and maybe even in some cases detested – yet most vital and essential – people on the planet to those whom he has been charged with training and preparing for the life and death struggles they will soon be forced to face. His job is to take raw, untrained, and unprepared recruits, and turn them into elite members of the finest, fiercest, and most highly trained and capable fighting force known to man today. Should he ever even momentarily flinch or falter and for whatever reason forget the primary purpose of his mission, it would be at that precise point which he would then completely compromise and endanger both their mission, as well as their very lives.

Fulfilling the mission requires dedication and self-control.

Fulfilling the mission requires dedication and self-control.

He can never afford to lose sight of the fact that he is not there to make friends; he is there to make Marines. He is not there to win a personality or popularity contest; he is there to help prepare the unprepared to win whatever battles they may have to face in the future, so that they might live to make it back home to their loved ones once again.

Despite the potential loneliness, the perpetual resistance, and the persistent personal dislike for him and the essentiality of what he must continually seek to do if he is to give them the best possible chance of survival (during the worst firefights imaginable), he must “stay the course.” He must continue to push, train, challenge, and equip those under his charge, to become something far different, far stronger, and far better at and more capable of defeating the enemy than they have ever been or imagined they could be before. Otherwise, he knows that they will inevitably wind up enduring nothing but defeat and death at every turn. Ultimately, he knows that if he does not do what needs to be done in order to prepare and give them the best possible chance of victory later on – no matter how unpopular or uncaring that may make him seem at the moment – they will simply never survive to see the shores of home ever again.

As I’m sure many of my preaching peers will probably all too readily attest, there are certain similarities between a United States Marine Corp’s Drill Sergeant’s mission, and that of a faithful gospel preacher’s. As God’s faithful messengers (2 Timothy 3:14-4:5), we too are charged with taking raw, unprepared, untrained and newly converted sinners or ‘spiritual recruits,’ and guiding them through a divinely-designed, life-long and death-defying training process, so that they might be better able and equipped to identify, challenge, engage, and ultimately overcome and win the battle against the devil and his demonic deceptions and temptations on a daily basis (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:11-16, 6:10-18; James 1:12-16). Our mission is not necessarily to make men happy, but instead it is to make them holy (Galatians 1:10). We’re not here to make friends; we’re here to help make sure we do everything we possibly can, so that those we have been charged with training and equipping, can eventually win all their battles and make it home to be with us there forever.

However, amongst those whom we are divinely charged to constantly and consistently challenge, confront, convict, convince, change and better train and equip to win both their daily battles as well as the ultimate war for their eternal souls, there will almost always be some few who simply have no idea or understanding whatsoever of what is at stake or how powerful their adversary actually is. The continual resistance of such folks to this vital training and preparation process will inevitably come in many and varied – although very predictable – forms.

Some may come “kicking and screaming,” having to almost be “dragged” to such events as bible studies, worship assemblies, gospel meetings, and/or other spiritual service and training sessions. Some may come, but once there, simply choose to close their eyes, ears, hearts and minds to the messages, challenges, training exercises and instructions being presented, thus refusing to acknowledge – let alone going out and actually putting them into practice and/or honing and improving their skills with – them. It is quite likely that still others may simply cease attending such spiritual training sessions whenever strongly challenged to change or reconsider the way they have been approaching certain passages or practices, thus providing the enemy with a priceless opportunity for perpetually influential advancement into their eternal states and destinies.

It is also from within this small but often disgruntled group (which does not want to be charged or challenged to put forth the effort necessary to changing and becoming victorious; and which, obviously, cannot therefore honestly begin to understand the immeasurable size and scope of all that is eternally at stake and hangs in the balance for the winners and losers of this incredible battle), that most of the resistance, rejection, and rebellion against the spiritual trainer will originate.

However, for those who do have some idea of what is at stake, and therefore refuse to lose the battle for their eternal souls under any circumstances, the positive responses to this vital training and preparation process also comes in many, varied, and very predictable forms as well.

Although all such challenges and disciplines are somewhat difficult, they both embrace and endure them. Though the growth process may persistently pain them, they persistently push and grow through them. Comfort zones are constantly being exited and eliminated, while challenges are constantly being answered and overcome. They obviously do not enjoy every command or instruction to learn, exercise, exhibit, or practice some of their skills and abilities, but because they surely understand the eternal and essential nature of all such exercises, neither will they seek to deter, discredit, or disobey the instructor and his insistence that they do so.

These understand fully, that one reason he is constantly pushing, challenging, rebuking, correcting, and seeking to strengthen, equip, and transform them into the vital and invincible conquerors in this cosmic spiritual battle for their eternal souls that they so desperately need to be, is because he loves them – plain and simple. They also know that his orders (if he is truly insisting on only the black and white, “book, chapter, and verse” commandments contained in God’s holy word), come only and ultimately straight from the heavenly headquarters where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne of God – the same exact home that is exclusively reserved for those who train, prepare, engage in, and ultimately win and overcome in this war for their eternal souls! This is a battle that they dare not lose. Nor would they ever therefore, seek to resist the one who was diligently seeking to challenge, prepare, and equip them to overcome the enemy to get there.

 

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Powerful Words

Powerful Words

When we are kids, we are told that sticks and stones may break bones, but words can never hurt us. As many of us get older we realize just how wrong this is.

Words are powerful things, for both good and ill. The Bible, with more honesty than those who tried to inoculate us against words when we were youths, teaches, “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15; ESV)

Words... are powerful!

Words… are powerful!

Why are words so powerful? From a materialistic point of view, one might well wonder. They have no substance or strength of their own, being but a collection of sounds, or perhaps an arrangement of lifeless shapes. Yet, they are amongst the most powerful of tools in the human arsenal, and are imbued with an ability that greatly transcends their physical limitations. Which is, if one considers it, certainly an argument against a materialistically-centered world view.

Words, if we may take a moment to define them, are a vehicle by which ideas are conveyed. They are the tool which intelligent creatures use to communicate complex thoughts, allowing the sharing of memories, desires, and even commands. That in and of itself makes them rather special. But the believer knows that the truth goes beyond the mere way in which man uses words. For words are of a divine origin, being the very tool of God.

God is Spirit (cf. John 4:24). Spirit is a hard concept for men to comprehend, being limited by our own physical senses, but the one characteristic of spirit that we can relate to is “thought.” God thinks. Yet without a body, how does God work and act? One answer the Bible gives is, “words.” Words are the tool by which the thoughts of God are given shape and substance.

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth, and the tool He used was the spoken word. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). The thought of God, expressed in words, produced results. God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass,” and the earth brought forth grass. (Genesis 1:14). God said, “Let the waters abound with living creatures,” and it was so. (Genesis 1:20) All of creation was spoken into being by the divine word of God.

Later, when God interacted with man, He used words again; this time to teach and provide guidance. God said, “be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28) God warned, “Don’t eat of that one tree.” Man did not listen to that last one, and trouble followed. (cf. Genesis 2-3) Whatever God wanted to teach man was communicated to man through the divine word of God.

Words then are the tool of God, the means by which He interacts with His creation, and the words of God are quite powerful.

The Bible says concerning the words of God that they are pure. We add to them, or take away from them, at our own risk. (cf. Proverbs 30:5-6).

There are those who worry that God, being infinite, may have trouble communicating with finite man. But such fears are groundless.God, being infinite in intelligence and wisdom, says exactly what He means, and knows how to say what He means in a way we can understand.Words, even human words, were His invention and He is the master of the art of linguistics.

The Bible also teaches that God’s words are eternal and unalterable.

“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25a; cf. Isaiah 40:6-8) God does not change, and His divine words change not either.

All well, and good, someone might say, but, they would ask, what does this have to do with me? Simply put, an appreciation of God’s word is instrumental in our salvation.

Jesus, we might note, by divine inspiration is called, “the Word.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This same “Word” took on flesh and dwelt amongst us. (John 1:1, 14). God had a message for man and Jesus was the vehicle by which that message was delivered.

Jesus once asked the apostles if they wanted to leave Him. Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go – you have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) They knew and had come to understand that God had a message for man, and that knowing and understanding the message would bring life. Jesus had taught them this, saying, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63; NKJV)

Years later, there was a man named Cornelius, who God wanted to save. God sent an angel to Cornelius who instructed: “Send to Joppa, for Peter, who will tell you words by which all you and your household will be saved.” (Acts 11:13b-14) Peter had learned the words of Christ, and was able to share them.

Today we have those words written for us: the vehicle through which God teaches us how to have life and have it eternal. Through hearing, understanding and applying these words, we, like Cornelius and his household, can be saved. More than this, by learning these words sufficiently, we can convey them to others, sharing with them God’s plan for salvation. Thus, God’s will can be communicated from person to person, bringing the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of eternal life to those who obey the given words.

Words are indeed powerful things, for both good and ill. They are the very tool by which God communicates to man. We are fools if we ignore the word of God.

 

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