Sunday, 15 January 2017

A Clean Canvas

Well 2017 if finally here.  I can't believe that I have been in my current appointment for 12mths.  The days just seem to be flying past an incredible rate.  While in NZ recently on holidays I heard a sermon from a Salvation Army Officer that really did get me thinking  about the  year that lies ahead.  As a result of this challenge the following  extract from a sermon preached this week  came into being.  My prayer for each person reading this is that you will have a blessed 2017.

One of the things that I find humorous about the end of a year, especially on New Year’s Eve is the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. Have you ever made those? I wonder have you found yourself making them for 2017? Why do we do that? Why do people make New Year’s resolutions? Well I think for the most part people want to see something different happen don’t they? New Year’s resolutions stem from a deep desire for change, a desire to break from the status quo. I wonder though, how many people actually keep their New Year resolutions? Sometimes these resolutions never happen because life often gets in the way.   The concept of New Year’s resolution is great though isn’t it? It’s a time when we look to the year ahead with a clean slate. A time when we look to the future with hope that things are going to get better than they currently are.

(Reveal a blank Artist Canvas - Illustration)

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul wrote: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” Now Paul said this in the context of reconciliation with God. He said this because He was explaining to the Corinthians that through Christ and our relationship with Him, our old ways are gone and our lives and our spirits have gone through a time of cleansing and renewal. Through Jesus the sins of our past have been removed and the slate has now been wiped clean. This principle however, also applies to each of us here this morning. For some 2016 was a horrible year but friends I want to encourage you this morning by saying that 2017 is a fresh start. The old year has gone and the New Year is here. I wonder have you given much thought yet to what 2017 might look like? How will this year be different from last year? What are your hopes for your life in 2017? What are your hopes for your church and for Bairnsdale in 2017? 

Friends the good news is that 2017 hasn’t been written yet. For the things that we can change, we have an opportunity to bring about transformation not only in our lives but in the lives of those who live in Bairnsdale through the power of the Holy Spirit. The year ahead then is a year of hope, a year of renewal and growth.  This morning I want to share with you three scriptures that will help you navigate through the year ahead, 3 scriptures that will help you not only in your everyday life, but in your growth with God and in the way that we minister to others.

The first one comes from Matthew 6:25-27,31-33

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.

Friends we are each loved by God, so much so that God promises to provide for us our every need. You know in our humanness we are often concerned about what lies ahead. We are concerned about the events that might take place and how we might cope with these things. Maybe there are things that you will have to face in 2017 that are quite intimidating. But here in Matthew 6 Jesus reassures us with an amazing promise that we do not need to worry about tomorrow because God has it all in hand. Jesus reminds us this morning that if we seek first the Kingdom of God, then everything else will be taken care of. So my first point this morning as we begin a new year is that God is in control, He is the Omnipotent God; He knows what we need and He knows how to take care of us.

The second scripture comes from James 4:7-8:

“…Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

As we enter a new year and as we look at the blank canvas before us, can I encourage you this year to draw closer to Jesus. As God’s children, our first and foremost priority in life is to continue to grow in our relationship with God. In our scripture this morning Paul reminded us that the old is gone and the new is here. He reminds us not to be controlled by the things of the past. The past does not have to influence our future. How does this happen? By drawing near to God. No matter what happens in 2017, no matter what begins to appear on our canvas, God reminds us to stay close to Him. As God’s children we are most vulnerable when we begin to move away from God. As we reflect on the challenges of 2016 what was it that got us through? Were we moving toward God or away from God at these times? It’s interesting as we read the words of James because you will notice that God is always with us. If this is true then, why does James call us to draw near to God? Who is it that moves away in our God relationship? Us or God? We do. That is why James wrote draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Friends God never leaves us but we have to make the decision to move toward Him, we have to want to grow and change because God never forces himself on us. We are each responsible for our own spiritual growth and God relationship.

And so my second point is this: As the year progresses choose to draw closer to God in all circumstances.

The final scripture as we commence 2017 is this:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct
your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

This one is very similar to the verses from Matthew 6. We don’t know what lies ahead of us this year but God does. 2017 may be a hard year and God does not promise us that it will be an easy journey in this thing called life. But one thing He does promise us is that if we trust Him, regardless of how we interpret our circumstance; He will make our paths straight. You see our canvas will not always be full of colour. Sometimes a canvas needs to have a darker colour added to it in order to give definition and character so that the colours that really matter are highlighted. So too with the year ahead. Sometimes there will be dark patches on our canvas; but it is these dark patches that will shape us and give us growth. As the year ahead throws us difficult times let’s not see them as obstacles to make us give up; rather let’s allow God to use them to teach us and shape us the way He wants to.

Friends I don’t know what lies ahead this year for any of us. What I do know is that our 2017 canvas is currently blank and because of that, our year will be whatever we choose to make it. Some things we will be able to change and some things we won’t. Either way, if we work at staying close to Jesus and if in 2017 we are continuing to grow in Him then our canvas is going to look pretty good next December.

And so my final point is this: Trust God in every situation.

You know as I start a new year and reflect not only on the year ahead but reflect on the years past and all that Jesus has done for me; I am encouraged to know that God is a God of second chances. The old is gone and the new is here. I don’t know what your past few years have been like; I don’t know what 2016 was like for some of you or the challenges you have had to face. What I do know is what 2017 can look like for you.

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