Summary: What we believe and what we practice as those who are in Christ is strange to the world. Let's embrace it

Living as Exiles – Embracing our Weirdness

TCF Sermon

January 3, 2016

Does anybody really make New Year’s resolutions anymore? It can be a helpful exercise, but for many of us, they just end up being a to-do list for the next week or two, that quickly falls by the wayside in the face of everyday life.

Or some of us are like this cat, and we give ourselves options with our New Year’s resolutions:

Option A: Lose some weight

Option B: buy a bigger basket

Or we fail to make challenging resolutions and make our resolutions too easily achievable: Such as this one: eat more cake, watch more TV

Others of us are like this rooster, who’s illustrates how Joel Vesanen thinks:

“No matter how badly life treated you last year, just walk tall with your head held high…this is a brand new year baby.”

For a long time, I didn’t understand why people would stand with hundreds of thousands of other people in Times Square on New Year’s Eve just to see one year turn into the next.

But I think the desire, and for some the need, to celebrate a New Year is inherent in us as human beings. Whether we’re believers in Christ or not, I think we understand innately that life is often made up of fresh starts and new beginnings.

In Christ, of course, we understand this in a deeper way. His mercies are new every morning. We have the gift of repentance and renewal that we can access day by day in Christ. There is redemption from our past.

If we look back at 2015, and begin to think about these things on the first Sunday of 2016, I think most of us will agree that it was a particularly challenging year for us as believers in our culture. In many significant ways, 2016 dawned as a new world for us.

In 2015, we saw thousands of years of a mostly common understanding of what marriage is, and what it means, completely redefined. We’re now seeing that what it means to be a male and a female is also being completely redefined, based solely on what a person thinks and feels, exclusive of biological reality.

We saw exposed the evil practice, of unborn babies’ body parts being sold, and not only did our nation respond with mostly a collective yawn, but many responded by defending this barbarism. And the cultural change seemed to happen so fast.

What’s more, we’re seeing hints of things to come for the church. Tell me if you don’t see our Western culture in these words from Paul to the Romans:

Romans 1:20-32 (NIV) 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Think about that last verse, verse 32: …they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practice them.

We’re seeing this today – not just approval, but even celebration, of things that the vast majority of people just a decade ago could not approve of. The Greek word here for approval implies taking pleasure in. So it’s not simple tolerance – it’s affirmation.

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