Start the Year Taking Fresh Steps of Faith
As most of you know, we concluded our 2019 New Year Essentials sermon series last week. This has become an annual set of sermons that address topics to which we must repeatedly return for God’s glory, our joy, and the good of others. Of course, this is not an annual repeat of the same sermons. Rather, they are different sermons that take different angles on subjects we need to come back to again-and-again.
Here is how our series came together this year:
My prayer for that series was for the Spirit of God to move each of us to take fresh steps of faith this year. Faith does not stay put for long. Faith moves (James 2:17). Faith is a living dynamic force, given and fueled by the Spirit, that changes our every day lives, in ways big and small, for the glory of God.
That prayer is what led to my weekly challenges, to the entire church, throughout the series. Each challenge was a practical suggestion for how your faith in Christ might move you to take fresh steps in the area under consideration. Here are the four challenges I gave to the church:
#1 Memorize one verse a week
In a world filled with words, we won’t make it unless we’re being fed and fortified by the right words. We need unshakeable words of truth to give meaning, strength and hope to our lives. Those words are found in God’s Word. Of course, the amount of Scripture will vary from person to person. What matters is that you are stockpiling the riches of God’s Word in your heart. What’s your plan?
#2 Do not mirror the divisions of the world, within the church, but heal them
One of the purposes of the local church is to show the world the new kind of humanity God is forging in Jesus. Unfortunately, the local church can look just as divided as the world. What do we do? The healing we long for doesn’t occur automatically nor by blaming others. It occurs when each one of Jesus’ people decides, in faith, to be an agent of healing themselves. In this sermon, we considered ten attributes of a Gospel-forged people from Romans 12:9-21. What are two or three relational dynamics in that passage that Jesus is inviting you to grow in this year?
#3 Refocus your prayer life
There is no other way to reboot your prayer life than to begin to pray afresh. To do that it is critical to not see prayer so much as a separate activity, or even means of grace (which it is), as much as a vital means of ongoing communion with God. In other words, if we’re not praying, we’re not communing. This week my challenge was twofold: (1) Read one book on prayer and (2) prioritize each of our church-wide prayer nights this year.
#4 Consider afresh the wonder of Jesus’ local church—and join in.
Jesus’ local church is not one of the many options. It is God’s Plan A for spreading his glory through the salvation of his people among the neighborhoods of Seattle to the nations of the world. There is no such thing as a churchless or free agent Christian. That is largely a modern phenomenon. Though it is unfortunately common, it is irregular and unbiblical. This year, link arms with this local expression of Jesus’ people (or join another) if you’re not yet a member. If you are already a member, keep in mind that membership is a living commitment to a living people. In what ways might Jesus be inviting you to become more deeply committed to his people this year?
Bearing Gospel fruit in our everyday lives
In all this, we must remember that none of these make us right with God, nor earn us more of his love. We have God’s love, in Christ, through faith. Full stop. That is not our doing, it is a gift of God (Eph 2:8). However, as the reality of God’s love sinks into our hearts, it bears grace-laden fruit, such as storing up God’s Word, healing divisions, renewed prayer, and a growing love for his church. Let’s ask God to use these massive gospel truths to bear lasting fruit in our lives this year. Who knows what He might do through us?
Christ is all,