Summary: To provide listeners with hope that their 2009 could be better than 2008.

I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of glad that 2008 is over. 2008 had its up and downs didn’t it? And for many it ended like the DOW, down from where it was the year before. The year didn’t go as planned. The dreams we made didn’t materialize, 401’s fizzled, houses didn’t sell, loved one’s were laid off, personal finances were squeezed like never before for this generation, and stress is at all time highs. As 2008 ends on such a sour note there may not be much hope that 2009 will be any different.

But it can be different. It can be better. I can almost guarantee it. And so for the next four weeks Regina and I, will be preaching a series titled “Four Secrets for a Better Year.” Each Sunday, beginning today we will reveal a different secret that has the potential for making your new year better than the last. If that interests you, then you’re in the right place.

Pray. “Lord God, the God of hope and new life. The God who is always doing something new. Speak to us through your holy word today. That we might have hope for a better new year. Amen.”

Hear the word of the Lord read from the book Colossians 3.12-14.

[S] “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” [S] (NIV)

The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

In the movie “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” three escaped convicts were on the run. Hiding in the woods they hear some singing. They carefully move through the woods until they see a line of people following a man with a bible down to the river’s edge. Once there, the people stop singing, the preacher opens up the bible, and reads a scripture about forgiveness and new life through Christ and then begins baptizing new Christ followers. When he is done he asks if there is anyone else who would like to be forgiven for their sins and baptized.

A couple of the escapees look at each other. After a moment or two of discussion they bolt from the woods to be baptized. The preacher does the honors.

With their sins forgiven the two think they are now innocent and that law can’t touch them. That’s when the third convict speaks up and says, “The Lord may have washed your sin away and forgiven you, but the State of Mississippi isn’t so forgiving.”

Do you know who else can be so unforgiving? The answer might surprise you. Listen to what Paul had to say in Ephesians 4.30-32.

[SLIDE] “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every from of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” [SLIDE]

Any idea who the unforgiving people were that Paul was writing to in this passage? It wasn’t the State of Mississippi, it wasn’t the state of Ephesus, it a bunch of unsaved New Years Eve revelers; of all people it was Christ followers who were so unforgiving.

The Christians were acting like the woman who was bitten by a dog with rabies and was told to put her affairs in order because it didn’t look good for her. The woman asked the doctor for if she could borrow his pen and his prescription pad and began writing furiously. After a few minutes the doctor said, “That’s a long will you’re making.” “Will nothing” she retorted. I’m making a list of all the people I’m going to bite!”

That’s the image we have of the Christians in this passage. There was animosity and resentment. People were saying things about each other that were not totally true and they knew that. But they told it anyway with the hope of causing ill will or commiserating to keep trouble stirred up. People held grudges and wore chips on their shoulders. There were hostile attitudes and fighting.

Catching wind of this Paul said, “Enough already!” “It’s time to forgive.”

It’s time to forgive. Good words for anyone who wants this year to be better than the previous. [S] Secret number one for making this year better than last year is to forgive someone you’re withholding forgiveness from. Granted it might not be easy, but believe when I say it’s in your best interest and the interest of those you love.

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