Summary: True transformation in 2013, or any year, will come from us studying and being obedient to God’s word-learning and being obedient to Jesus
According to Chinese tradition 2012 was the year of the water dragon and 2013 the water snake
Malaysian Taxi Driver
I was invited to speak at a Church Convention in Malaysia, and a friend from college heard I was only a few hours from Kuala Lumpur and asked me to come do some training for his worship leaders/choirs and singers there. He arranged for a taxi to drive me from Malacca to Kuala Lumpur. I was surprised to see what looked to me like some Buddhist symbols as well as what appeared to me to be Christian symbols in his car. So I asked “are you a Christian?” “No!” He said “I'm Chinese”. That was the beginning of a an interesting conversation and an enjoyable few hours. That man seemed a bit confused about what it meant to be Christian (or what it meant to be Chinese). I think there are some Christians with a similar confusion. Tonight, as we welcome the new year, I’d like to invite everyone here to a year of authentic Christianity-a Christianity that knows no national, linguistic, genetic, or socio-economic boundaries. A Christianity that is biblical, obedient, and joyful.
The Year of the Bible
The problem with preaching from James: too many options! “Count it all joy” . . . “if any of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God” . . . the rich man will “pass like a flower” . . . “blessed is the man who perseveres under trial (endures temptation) for when he’s tried he shall receive a crown of life” . . . “God will tempt no man” . . . “every good and perfect gift comes from above” . . . “everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” . . . All of this from the first chapter!
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:21-25
Get rid of filth . . . humbly accept the word . . . the two sides of the transformation coin
Sometimes we decide to be very disciplined. We set a New Year’s resolution, like “I’m going to quit smoking” or “I’m going to lose weight”. Roughly 90% of these resolutions fail. Why? One reason is we think we can make ourselves do (or not do) something by force of will. We think we can resist temptation if we really want to. This isn’t true.
If we want to lose weight, or start exercising, or quit smoking, or, as James exhorts us here, get rid of moral filth, it will not be by an act of will alone. We must replace old habits with new habits. We must replace the thoughts of sin with thoughts of right, replace texting of the latest dirty joke with songs of worship, replace surfing the net with reading the Bible, replace a crass coffee shop conversation with prayer. So the first step toward a more godly life in 2013 is to walk away from those habits that fill your mind and heart with filth. The next step is to replace those habits with the word which can save us.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105
Jesus taught many principles and guidelines in the Sermon on the Mount. Many people look at those chapters in Matthew 5-7 as the heart of the Gospel. He concludes His sermon with this illustration:
Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
The key to victory Jesus is NOT learning His word.