Thursday, January 4, 2018

Getting Off to a Fresh Start

How are your New Year’s resolutions working? Researchers tell us about 1/3 of Americans make them each year. It’s human nature to want to do better. But, it’s also human nature to fail. Research tells us most resolutions last about three days to three weeks and by February we are back in the old patterns we had promised ourselves we’d leave behind. Only 10% of us succeed in our resolutions. We often fail because we underestimate how difficult it is to change.

Did you know the month January was named after the Roman god Janus? Janus is depicted as having two faces- one looking back at the old year with regret and the other face looking forward to the New Year with hope. The Romans understood that at the start of a New Year, we can’t help but be hopeful of improvement.

Are you looking back on 2017 with sadness or see failure in the old year? As you start 2018, do you have a desire to do things differently? May I suggest three things you should do when you get a fresh start this New Year? This comes from the Apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians in chapter 3, verses 8-14.

First, if you want a new start, you must forget the things which are behind (read Philippians 3:13). Forget about your failures. Don’t obsess over them, confess them (1 John 1:9), and learn from them. Don’t let past failures define you, let God’s grace define you.

But past failures are not all we need to forget. We need to forget past successes, too. Sometimes success leads to being content, lazy, and becoming useless rather than useful. Give God your very best in 2018. Learn from your past; don’t yearn for the past.

Second, if you want a new start, you’ve got to focus on the things before you (read Philippians 3:13b-14). You run the race at hand. Not last year’s race. That one is over. The race demands your whole self. The race demands your very best. Never be satisfied with less than your best.

You run the race with the goal in mind. What is the goal? To receive the crown. In this case, it’s living my life becoming more Christ-like so when the race is over, I will hear the words, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’

To be like Jesus. That’s the goal. That’s the prize. For me, that means I’m going to pray and study the word of God more. I’m going to be more intentional about reaching my neighbors with the gospel. I’m going to confront debilitating patterns of sin. I’m going to work hard to build community at First Free. I’m going to make sure my grandkids are in church on a regular basis. I’m going to quit comparing myself to others. My list could go on and on.

Third, if you want a new start for a New Year, you need to fulfill those things that are beyond us (Philippians 3:12). No one would have found fault with Paul had he reached this place in his life and said, ‘You know, I think I’m gonna retire… I’ve worked hard. I’ve served the Lord faithfully all these years. I’ve put myself out there. It’s time to do a little something for me.’

But he didn’t say that- instead, he said, ‘I haven’t attained what I want to attain. I have not reached the place I want to be. I’m not finished yet. Paul would not be satisfied until he took his last breath giving his all to Jesus. He did a work beyond him, paying a price few would be willing to pay- to serve the Lord.

Are you sold out, utterly committed to Jesus? It’s a great time to start. It’s a New Year, choose to make it a great one.

Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Have you ever been left out of a secret? Have you ever been the focus of a secret? How did it make you feel? This Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30, we will discover God’s most important secret which He has revealed.

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