Summary: In Jesus we are made new, and we are made on purpose for a purpose - to be ones through whom God's message of love and reconciliation is delivered. People look through our lives to see if they can see Him.
How do you feel about the coming year? Maybe you’re looking ahead at 2012 with some stress as another year full of things that you have to do whether you want to or not.
The cartoon character Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes once said, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I’m so far behind I will never die.” Can you relate? I think there are better assurances of eternal life.
Today is also, potentially, a new start. I say potentially because it depends on a couple things. No change happens in our lives without careful thought, without some self-critical pondering, without some real sense of: “I’m here, but I want to get to there”.
So that’s important if we want to move in new directions. Looking at ourselves in that way can help to make the ground of our lives receptive to something new, new seed that God wishes to plant in us in order to bear new fruit.
But most importantly, there’s the question of the will.
A boy told his father, "Dad, if three frogs were sitting on a limb that hung over a pool, and one frog decided to jump off into the pool, how many frogs would be left on the limb?" The dad replied, "Two."
"No," the son replied. "There’s three frogs and one decides to jump, how many are left?" The dad said, "Oh, I get it, if one decides to jump, the others would too. So there are none left."
The boy said, "No dad, the answer is three. The frog only DECIDED to jump."
Does that sound familiar? Maybe something like last year’s resolution? You see, the will is what enables us or disables us from experiencing change. I say experiencing change rather than ‘making change’ for a reason.
I honestly believe that God is the change agent, God is the person who bridges the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
Experiencing genuine change still involves human will very much though…though you still might not like where I’m going with this. Genuine change for the best, real transformation to becoming the absolute best we can be depends on our willingness to surrender our lives – our hopes, our dreams, our futures and our wills to God.
Let’s look at the Scripture that was read earlier to us.
Live for God
14 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
You know there’s a reason that at this church you hear a lot about the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, about His death and resurrection. There’s a reason we don’t avoid it or soften it or try to twist it.
There’s a reason that other subjects just don’t come up as much or just don’t have the same weight or importance. That reason is a simple one. Everything… everything depends on the truth, the reality of the gospel.
And the most important part of the gospel is that Jesus laid down His life, traded His life for you and for me.
This stepping-into-my judgment, our-judgment; this willingness on Jesus’ part to suffer the worst possible humiliation and beating and murder at the hands of sinful men – all for the singular purpose of saving us, bringing us salvation, restoring our relationship with God – there just is not one single thing that comes close.
It was His love that made Him do it, to be sure. But it is also His love as we embrace the truth of the gospel that compels us, that moves us forward, that turns us from self-centred people into people whose first priority is the glory of Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ…His Kingdom of love being established in this realm. “You Kingdom come, Your will be done”, goes the prayer that Jesus taught us.
So this passage speaks to us about the impact that the gospel ‘should’ have on our lives. Not that we’re forced to allow the gospel this influence, not that.
Rather, the same way water rushing down a stream should make glad the animals and people that need it, the same way a banquet table should make happy the hungry who sit at it, the same way a generous gift should cause the recipient to feel gratitude…
The same way one who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and begun to live joyfully in the Spirit – this should cause us to want to live no longer for ourselves first and foremost, but rather for the One who died for us and was raised again.