On 31st December for New Years eve I was preaching my last time at The Lantern Church before flying off to Los Angeles, listen below:
What a week it’s been! I imagine most of you have been out and about seeing family, or back to work. I for one have been busy, seeing Dad’s parents on Boxing Day and then Mum’s parent’s till Friday. Then friends on Saturday and now we’re here!
Somehow we’re expected to be doing something for tonight as well, apparently it’s New Years or something?
How do you celebrate or not celebrate New Years? Maybe you go out to watch fireworks, or like us just watch it on the TV, maybe relaxing with friends, or going out for party.
Thinking about it, is it really that important? Like, is it not just the start of another year in the Gregorian calendar, like literally just the change in our measuring system?
Either way it seems that most of us like to take the opportunity to celebrate and use it as a fresh start, to start again and attempt new years resolutions.
A couple of years ago whilst I was at university, I decided to set myself the resolution that I would run at least 2016km over the year. I figured this was achievable, most days already I would do about 5-10km anyway. And it started working, got to about mid October time and I’d done about 1500km already, but it started getting darker and darker, work was piling on and so I just let it slip.
It’s this service that we usually expect to be told to make some new resolutions this year even though we know we’ll fail within the first week or two.
Well, you’ll be glad to hear that today I’m not going to tell you to set New Years resolutions, so you can at least relax about that.
Before I get onto talking to you about spoons, I’ll just humour you with some traditional statistics as we love to hear.
|1||Lose Weight / Healthier Eating||21.4%|
|2||Life / Self Improvements||12.3%|
|3||Better Financial Decisions||8.5%|
|5||Do more exciting things||6.3%|
|6||Spend More Time with Family / Close Friends||6.2%|
|7||Work out more often||5.5%|
|8||Learn something new on my own||5.3%|
|9||Do more good deeds for others||5.2%|
|10||Find the love of my life||4.3|
|Resolutions maintained through first week||72.6 %|
|Past two weeks||68.4 %|
|Past one month||58.4 %|
|Past six months||44.8 %|
|Percent of people who felt they were successful in achieving their resolution||9.2 %|
As you might have guessed, this is a video that Facebook automatically makes for you at the end of the year to show you some highlights of the past year for you, and here is mine.
As cheesy or bad as it may be, I think it’s a great reminder to us all of some of the things we can be thankful about.
I’ve got some incredible memories that were just shown there, from sharing the gospel with people in Malta, to walking alongside new and old friends on their many journeys along the way.
It’s been incredible to hear this morning some testimonies of how God has been helping, transforming, healing and renewing us in so many ways.
Wouldn’t it be great to look back on this last year and remember some incredible memories of how God has been by our side every step of the way.
I think it’s worth us thanking God for everything he has done and everything he is to us.
I’ve got a helpful way of reminding me whenever I talk to God.
Now, when I was a kid, mum brought me up to always come to God first in any situation, whether a problem or great news, he so wants to talk to us and hear from us all the time.
If you’re a fairly new Christian, or maybe aren’t very used to chatting with God (what we call praying) then I use this teaspoon to help me.
Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming knowing what to say when in direct communication with the creator of the universe, but remembering ‘teaspoon’, shortened to TSP can give us some great pointers with how to shape our prayers.
Firstly, ‘T’, I’m sure many of you have heard this acronym before but yeah, T stands for Thank you.
So how do we start off by preparing our hearts for next year? Let’s Thank God.
Thank you to God for all that he has done for us this last year. Thank you to God that when we trust him, he guides us and helps us on our journeys. Thank you to God that he sent Jesus to die on the cross taking the punishment for our sin and wrongdoings so that we could chose to have a relationship with him.
Most of the Psalms, the songs and poems written by David in the Bible are praises and thanks to God.
Someone gave me Psalm 40:5 the other day, another example of David in his awe and gratefulness of God when he says:
“Many, Lord my God are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”
The kids have got some paper they can be drawing or colouring in which will have the acronym if they’d like to write something on that, but for the rest of you, you should have three different coloured post-it notes under your chairs. Thank you is the Yellow note.
Jared or anyone else who’s colour blind might need some help with this.
Why don’t we spend a minute now thinking of just one thing we’d like to thank God for, for this past year, maybe something personal or something on behalf of us as a church or family. And then near the end of the service, we’re going to stick them up on the cross over here.
Right, what’s next, we’ve done Thank you, what’s next in our Teaspoon, TSP?
That’s right, Sorry.
At New Years, as well as a celebration, it can also be a time where we might remember the times that we’ve done something wrong.
We all make mistakes and fall down and none of us are perfect.
Romans 3:23 says:
“For all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
The great thing is this next verse, verse 24 which says:
“But all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
None of us live up to what is expected of us, but when others say we’re a failure, when we look to Jesus and say sorry, he says: “You may have failed, but you are my child and I forgive you”.
As Christians, we’re reminded that, even though we sinned, and turned away from God, in Romans 5:8 “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Because of what Jesus did in dying on the cross for us, we can now forget the bad stuff we’ve done and know that we have been completely forgiven for it.
On the screen there’s a picture of a Mikveh and basically what this is, and Ralph can probably do a better job of explaining this than I can, but it’s a Jewish ritual bath, used by worshippers to cleanse themselves ceremonially before entering the temple.
Just as ancient worshippers entered a mikveh unclean and came out clean, so too do those who are forgiven by Jesus are cleansed to be without blemish and have new life in him.
Isn’t that incredible? No matter what bad things we may have done in our past, when we come to Jesus, because of what he did for us on the Cross, we get new life in him.
This concept of new life is foreseen and talked about so much throughout the Bible and one of my favourite passages about it is Romans 6:11-14 which says:
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”
Isn’t that incredible? When we become Christians, and accept Jesus into our lives, an amazing transformation happens. Our old sinful bodies are considered literally to die, and now we are not under the power of sin, but of Jesus and because of God’s grace, we can know true freedom, and true forgiveness for the wrong things we’ve done.
In response to this now, we can say Sorry to God for the times this past year that we’ve fallen short of his plan for our lives or when we’ve turned away from him. Sorry to God that even though he is the best and he knows best, we’ve put other things in front of him as being more important and have looked to our own decisions instead of him. Sorry to God for the wrong things we’ve done, but then that he would forgive us because he loves us and wants a relationship with us, and that he would also help us to forgive others as well.
Why not take another minute now to write on your pink post-it notes something you’re sorry to God for about the last year or something that you want to give up to him, and then at the end we’re going to get rid of them, just like, when Jesus died for our sins, they are forgiven and completely forgotten about.
Finally, in our Teaspoon trilogy, we have P, Thank you, sorry and please.
Next year is a chance for us to give up our lives to God, and say, God do what you will with my life and use it how you want.
Just as we read in Romans 6:11-14.
Instead we are to count ourselves as alive to God in Christ Jesus, and therefore, from now on we should offer ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and to offer every part of ourselves to him as an instrument of righteousness.
What does it mean to offer every part of ourselves to him as an instrument of righteousness?
I have a feeling it’s not like becoming a guitar or keyboard. Sorry Phil.
It literally means, as opposed to wearing weapons of sin like in Romans 6:23 and mentioned at the first part of our passage, we are to wear weapons of righteousness.
In every part of our lives we should be looking to obey God and his decisions and to do his good works.
But how do we know what God wants us to do right?
I spent years asking God what he wanted me to do and where he wanted me to go, and I know now that at this time, or in 5 days he wants me to go to Los Angeles and work with Youth With a Mission for 6 months, then what? I don’t exactly know.
What I did realise though whilst I was seeking God’s guidance, is that, it’s not necessarily always big changes that we should seek his guidance over, but actually our every day lives, that’s how we can start to really tune into what he is wanting to say to us all the time.
So why don’t you let him use you for his kingdom this next year?
The fact that God gives us eternal life with him just shows how much he loves us and wants to give us gifts, so why don’t we be bold in our prayers and requests before him this year.
What would you like to be thanking God for this time next year?
In Ephesians 3:20-21, Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians ends with this:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
God is able to do more than we can ever ask or imagine, so why don’t we spend one last minute now thinking and praying and then writing down on your Green post-it notes something that we’d like to see God do in this next year, maybe in us, maybe for our church. Maybe you have a vision or have had a dream of what God is telling you about the future, that might be the holy spirit wanting to say something to you or someone else.
As we go into a time of response now, during our last song, with the first post-it note, the yellow one with our thanks to God, come up and stick it to the cross.
Whilst you’re up here, I’d like you to scrunch up the next piece of paper, the pink one with something this year that you want to give up to God and I want you to put it into this bin at the front, know that he has already forgiven you if you are truly sorry about it.
And finally, I want you to hold onto your green post it notes, maybe put it somewhere rememberable or stick it to the fridge or the notice board at home to remind you to give your lives completely up to God this next year, and be expectant to what he will do through you and for you and for us as a church.
Before we do this, we’re just going to go into a time of prayer for a moment, maybe God has something he wants to say to you.
If you don’t yet know Jesus, why not let today be your day and ask him to come into your life now and forgive you for anything you have done wrong so that you might have new life with him.
For others of us, maybe this is a chance to ask God to give us guidance for this next year or for him to help us give our whole lives to him in service ready for his good works.