Summary: What makes New Year’s Day so special is that it’s like starting all over. You can thank God for a great year, ask forgiveness for all of your mishaps, and start fresh with 365 days of possibilities ahead of you.
A Fresh Start
Every year we celebrate New Year’s Eve with a countdown and firework commemorating all our accomplishments and joys of yet another year that has passed. Unfortunately, there are other not so happy memories that we want to brush under the carpet and put behind us. They may include the loss of a loved one, a financial set back, a broken relationship, or mistakes made.
The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus, who was pictured as a man with two faces, one looking backward and the other forward. New Years Day provides a valuable time to ponder the past while anticipating the future.
What makes New Year’s Day so special is that it’s like starting all over. You can thank God for a great year, ask forgiveness for all of your mishaps, and start fresh with 365 days of possibilities ahead of you.
The Apostle Paul was a man who understood first hand what it was like to have a fresh start. In the first part of his life, Paul was called Saul. He comes on the scene in Acts 8 "giving approval to his death" as Stephen was stoned to death for his faith in Christ. Then in chapter 9 it says that "Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples." He was a public figure, a man of power, and a man to be feared.
Thankfully, God knocked him off his high horse - literally! Saul had a dramatic encounter with a gracious God, and although he deserved death, he was given a fresh start - a second chance. He embraced that opportunity and we know him today as the Apostle Paul, a missionary, evangelist, a church planter, a pastor, the author of most of the New Testament, and a martyr.
I’m sure that his fresh start was on his mind when he penned the words of Philippians 3:13-14.
"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
So this morning I want to talk to you about having a FRESH START. I want us to view 2007 as a year of possibilities and potential blessings. I want to encourage you to forget what’s behind in 2006 and strain toward is ahead.
1. Focus: Keeping things in perspective
Of course we all realize that our focus should be on God and not ourselves, but I think we would all admit that’s easier said than done. Let’s be honest, even when we are attempting to do the right things, and when we are striving to be used in ministry, we have a tendency to rely on our own strengths, abilities, and experiences. We are flesh and blood and have a tendency to lean on our flesh.
As many of us do this time of year, we self-evaluate our present condition compared to last year and determine some resolutions for the new year. Those resolutions, however, usually focus on things that can be considered "of the flesh". We want to loose 20 pounds, we aim at that promotion at work, we want to put more money away for retirement, we want to get married or have another child, buy a new house or car, advance in our education, start a new business…the list goes on. Hey those things are great and I encourage you, shoot for the stars! Dream big and ask for God’s blessings in 2007.
However, I think that Paul is showing us two important life principles that we need to consider in our FOCUS for 2007.
A. Avoid being CONFIDENT in your flesh.
"If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless" (Phil. 3:4b-6).
Paul had a lot of things that he could be confident in, or even proud.
What is Paul’s response to these confidences?
"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (v7-9).
Paul understood better than anyone that all the prestige, power and prominence in the world couldn’t bring him closer to God. Those things can’t bring salvation, righteousness, or sanctification. He shared this same message with the church in Ephesus when he said; "For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).