Summary: A New Years Message
A Fresh Start
A New Years Day Sermon
January 1, 2017
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TEXT: Turn to Philippians 3.
Well, we’ve all come to a new year. 2016 is gone and 2017 is here. If you’re like most people, you probably made some new resolutions for 2017, some special changes for the new year—how you’re going to “turn over a new leaf.”
Someone has said, “The trouble with “turning over a new leaf” is that once you’ve done it twice, you’re right back where you started.” In 2017, maybe what we need is not new resolutions or turning over any leaves. Maybe what we need is a “fresh start.”
How many of you here today would like to have a fresh start this year? All of us here this morning have made many mistakes in 2016 and…well, we’d rather not talk about them, right? Some of us have experienced setbacks and failures last year and earlier in our lives. Sometimes we allow these mistakes, these setbacks and failures to enslave us to the point that we never enjoy the full life that God wants us to experience.
But I want you to know that God wants you to have a fresh start this year. Let me share with you four ways you can have a fresh start in your life this morning:
I. FIRST, GET YOUR ETERNAL DESTINY SETTLED – Verse 4-9
At one time Paul was relying on what most people rely on even today, 2,000 years later, to find God and have a relationship with Him—until he discovered the truth. Paul said at one time he thought his salvation all depended on HIM and he was trusting his own self in Philippians 3:4 – “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh [my own efforts]. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more.”
He elaborates on this false foundation for salvation in verses 5-6:
1) Before he discovered the truth, he relied on his RELIGIOUS HERITAGE – He says in verse 5a – “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews;…”
Some people think they’re going to heaven because they were born in a Christian family. But your religious heritage won’t save you. Being born in a Christian family will no more make you a child of God than being born in a garage makes you a car.
Some think they have eternal life because their parents were good Christians. The truth of the matter is that you can’t, for each of us must answer to God for ourselves.
2) Paul also relied on his RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION to put him into a right relationship with God – verse 5b – “...as touching the law, a Pharisee...”
He prided himself in being a member of the strictest of the religious denominations of his day, which he was sure secured God’s approval. But he came to understand that his religious affiliation was of no value. You cannot get to heaven by your membership in a certain church. See, being a Baptist or a Lutheran or a Catholic will not make you right with God and wash away sins, for salvation is not about denominational affiliation.
3) Third, Paul trusted in his SINCERITY to gain God’s approval – verse 6a – “...concerning zeal, persecuting the church...”
Paul was so sincere in his religious dogma that he thought he was doing right by persecuting the early church. But he later found out that he was deluded.
Many think that as long as they are sincere, in the end, God will accept them. Have you ever heard someone say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you’re sincere”? That’s untrue for you see, it’s possible to be sincere but be sincerely wrong.
Illus. – I remember one time traveling to a pastors’ fellowship, following the host pastor’s directions to the church. At one point we were supposed to turn RIGHT, but misreading the directions, we turned LEFT instead. There were 10 different turns in the instructions we were given. We followed EVERY OTHER instruction exactly right: When it said go STRAIGHT, we went straight; when it said to turn RIGHT, we turned right; when it said to turn LEFT, we turned left. The only thing we did wrong was one wrong turn out of ten, and in 15 minutes we were lost as goony birds. No matter how sincere we were, we were going the wrong way!
A lot of people are like that: They’re very sincere in their religious beliefs. But God says there’s only a certain way to Him and if you go any other way, it doesn’t matter how sincere you are—you’re going the wrong way and you’ll end up at the wrong destination and there’s only one other destination besides heaven and it’s considerably hotter there!