Here we are on the precipice of a new year, a new decade. I used to think the year 2000 seemed so far away, and now here we are on New Year’s Eve anticipating 2020.
One week a Sunday school teacher had just finished telling her class the Christmas story. After telling the story the teacher asked, “Who do you think the most important woman in the Bible is?”
A little boy raised his hand and said, “Eve.” The teacher asked him why he thought Eve was the most important woman in the Bible. The little boy replied, “Well, they name two days of the year after Eve. You know, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.”
How many of you have made a few New Year’s Resolutions? Anyone want to come up to the platform to share theirs? Speaking them out loud sort of makes them real, right? Gives them weight and credibility, not to mention, accountability. Not sure we want to go there just yet.
Here are a few New Year’s quotes by unknown folks:
“Dear God, my prayer for this New Year is a fat bank account and a thin body. Please don’t mix these up like you did this year.” Author Unknown
Another quote about New Year’s Resolutions says, “I can’t believe it’s been a year since I didn’t become a better person.” Author Unknown
“A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” Author unknown
For those of you who have weight loss on your 2020 “to-do” list listen to this quote by Jay Leno as it will bring you a lot of comfort: “Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average. Which means you’ve met your New Year’s resolution.”
How should we be thinking about 2020? What should make our list of resolutions as Christ-followers? Watch this video:
Allow me to share three thoughts about what we might resolve to do in 2020.
Let’s resolve to fix our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:2a “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2a).
The word “fix” comes from a Greek word that has the idea of concentrating your gaze. It means to look away from other things so that you can focus all your attention on one object. Does that make sense? If you are going to focus on one thing, you are going to have to tune out some other things.
That special relationship you are dreaming about will be a gift from Jesus at the right time. Keep your eyes on Him so you don’t miss that special someone. That career path you are hoping will bring fulfillment and financial blessing, it will come from Jesus. Follow Him closely so you don’t step into the wrong path just because someone dangles some promises and a paycheck in front of you. That ministry that God has gifted you for, you’ll never fulfill it if your eyes aren’t fixed on the One who can lead and empower you to do greater things than Jesus.
Some of us may need to intentionally turn from some things in order to focus on Jesus. If we aren’t careful, we might possibly miss what Jesus is trying to give us, to persuade us to do, or how He wants to lead in our lives because our focus isn’t where it should be.
You know the phrase, “Squirrel?” It is that word that has come to mean we can be and are often easily distracted. What is it that distracts you when it comes to spiritual growth? Is it the constant ding of your phone? Is it your favorite TV show? Is it the opinion of others? Is it work that has taken top priority over your relationship with God? Maybe it is exercise or time with friends. Not bad things, but when they cloud your spiritual sight or keep you from hearing the Lord’s voice, an adjustment needs to be made. When we live a distracted life rather than a fixed life, it’s easy to miss what God wants to do in our lives, even when it should be obvious.
While crossing the US-Mexican border on his bicycle, Pedro Gonzalez was stopped by a border guard who pointed to two sacks Pedro had on his shoulders. “What’s in the bags?”, asked the guard. “Sand,” said Pedro.”Get them off – we’ll take a look,” said the guard. Pedro did as he was told. He put down the two sacks and poured out the contents. Sure enough, they contained nothing more than sand.
The border guard stood there scratching his head for a while then he told Pedro to empty his pockets. Pedro complied by pulling his pockets inside out revealing that there was nothing in them. The Border guard was sure that this guy was a smuggler. Even so, he told Pedro that he was free to go. So Pedro carefully scooped up the sand in his hands and reloaded the two sacks. Putting them back on his shoulders, Pedro continued across the border.
A week later, the same thing happened. Again the border guard stopped Pedro and demanded to see what was in the two sacks. Once again, they contained nothing but sand. As Pedro was leaving, the border guard thought to himself, “Maybe he’s just testing me! Maybe he’s going to keep doing this hoping that I’ll quit searching his sacks! Well, I know he’s got to be a smuggler so I’ll keep stopping him and searching his bags. He won’t fool me!” This went on every week for six months. Each time, the border guard found nothing but sand in Pedro’s sacks.
One day, the border guard was waiting for Pedro to appear with the sand bags. He was convinced that Pedro was guilty of smuggling something into the U.S. This time he was going to find out what it was! However, Pedro failed to appear.
A few days later, the guard happened to meet Pedro in El Paso. “Say friend, you sure drove me crazy”, said the guard. “I knew you were smuggling something across the border. I won’t say a word – but what were you smuggling across the border? I know you had to be smuggling something!” A big grin spread across Pedro’s face and he replied, “Bicycles.” The border guard had his eyes on the wrong things. His eyes were focused on the sacks Pedro was carrying! If he had focused on what Pedro was riding, he could have seen that it was a different bike each time! His eyes were on the wrong thing!
May God help us resolve to fix our eyes on Jesus so that we don’t miss seeing what we need to see in order to glorify Him fully.
Hebrews 12:1 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
This year let’s resolve to run the race marked out for us. My race isn’t your race. We aren’t competing against each other, but each of us is to diligently run our own race. Now, I don’t know if you can tell by looking at me, but I’m not a runner. I don’t ever pretend to be a runner. I don’t ever try to run. If you see me running it is because something ferocious is chasing me.
Each one of us, however, is running a spiritual race. We can’t run well with weights on our ankles, with backpacks on our back and with chains around our neck. That is a picture of what it looks like to try to run with the shackles of sin and shame and busyness that weigh us down and trip us up. Some of us need to resolve tonight to lighten our load by walking away from sinful behaviors and to lighten our load and by allowing Jesus to take the shame off of our backs and also by allowing Jesus to be in charge of our schedule.
If I had the opportunity to ask you tonight, “What is your weight? What is weighing you down in your spiritual race?” what would you say? What is it that after you have taken three steps forward with Jesus takes you two steps back? What is the name of your weight?
Is your weight lying? Did it start out innocently? Maybe you didn’t want to disappoint someone so you had to lie to cover your tracks because the truth would have resulted in their disappointment. So, you lied. And maybe you got away with it and it has just become a pattern. Maybe you have lied so much that you are confused yourself as to what the truth is? Maybe trying to cover your tracks is messing with you emotionally, keeping you stirred up and is robbing you of sleep. Isn’t it time to get rid of that weight?
Maybe it is a potty mouth. Maybe trash talk has become trashy talk, and your foul mouth is not longer something you can control. Maybe cursing has hurt your witness. Maybe it has given you a reputation that you didn’t go looking for and has cost you friendships. Maybe loose language has cost you job interviews or promotions. Isn’t it time to get rid of that weight?
Maybe it’s lust that hasn’t been submitted to the Spirit’s control. Your mind is now obsessed with lewder and more profane stuff because you have opened one door and it has led you down a hallway, through another door, and out a back alley. Maybe now you can’t think straight because all you can think about is that which is perverse. Isn’t it time to get rid of that weight?
Maybe your weight is anger. Maybe you can’t take time to process things and instead you punch things or go off on people that you love. Maybe it is anger over your past and the things that others have said and done to you. I’m not asking you not to feel the hurt, but I’m suggesting that rather than give in to anger, you find healing through Jesus. Isn’t it time to get rid of the weight of anger?
How about the weight of fear? Fear can keep you from running at all. Fear will freeze your faith. Fear will demolish your dreams and destroy your potential.
Maybe it is just busyness. Maybe our schedule is our weight. Life is out of control, the pace is too fast, the schedule is too crammed and we need to get control of how we are spending our time.
Whether we need to lose physical weight in 2020, I venture to say all of us could lose some of the weight that is keeping us from running with perseverance, the race marked out for us. Let’s resolve to lose any weight that keeps us from running our best spiritual race.
Finally, let us resolve to deny ourselves, take up our cross and to follow Jesus daily.
Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Well, how can I run with a cross on my back? That might sorta slow a person down, right? Obviously, the idea of carrying a cross is figurative and not literal. What did Jesus mean when He said if we were going to truly follow Him that we would have a cross to carry? What is this about self-denial? How is that accomplished?
The cross was an instrument of death. Jesus is helping us understand that following Him means we die to ourselves, to our wisdom and we let God take full control of our lives. The whole sin problem started when Adam and Eve didn’t want God to have full control. They thought their way was better. Their way led to brokenness. God’s way leads to freedom. So this cross-carrying thing starts with letting God be God in our lives. What is the next step?
The cross was Jesus’ mission, right? It was what God the Father asked Him to do. It was the reason He was sent to earth. What is your reason? Why are you here? What has God prepared for you to do? Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Cross-carrying, staying on mission, being focused on the assignments God has for us, keeps us from living for ourselves. Scripture calls Christ-followers “Living Sacrifices.” Living sacrifices never live for themselves. If we are living for ourselves, we aren’t following Jesus.
Cross-carrying Christians live as Christ did, to sacrifice for others, to demonstrate the love of God to others. For Jesus, that meant carrying a literal cross. That was how God asked Him to sacrifice. What could it mean for you and me?
Who in 2020 can you invest in? Who needs a mentor? Who needs a ride to church? Who needs a friend? Who needs help around their home? Who could use the clothes that we have to pass down? Who needs a meal dropped on their doorstep once in a while? Who needs invited to fellowship with you? How can you volunteer? Maybe some of you need to step up to teach a class or to lead in ministry in some way. Who can you give to and spend time with in order to help them establish a better pattern for life? Who needs someone to listen to them and to care about their loneliness? How can you resolve to allow God to use you as a living sacrifice for His glory?
I’m not suggesting we all shouldn’t get in better shape, or reign in our finances, or take on a new hobby. But what I am suggesting is that as you make your list of resolutions for 2020 that above all you resolve to fix your eyes on Jesus, to run the race God has for you, and to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow after Jesus.