Sunday, January 1, 2023

Principles For Living A More Solid Christian Life In The Upcoming New Year


How you and I can get ready for the upcoming year.

    Maybe for some of us, facing a New Year is a welcome relief. For others, fear enters our minds when we look at the future. We need the eternal perspective that has Christ as the center. What do I mean when I say: "having an eternal perspective in Jesus Christ"? Think with me for a moment about four horizons that (should) comprise the daily life of any Christ-follower.

    There is that first horizon of personal life-experience. Then, there are the lives of the people he or she knows, the local church, and the community in which they live – the second horizon. Thirdly, there is that horizon of the Scriptures that ought to govern the first two horizons and point to a fourth horizon, eternity. It is this last horizon that presses us to have an eternal perspective. To summarize. The first horizon is my life. The second horizon deals with other people’s lives. The third involves what regulates my life – the Bible. The fourth is that eternal horizon, which deals with the life to come. We get so caught up in the first two that we neglect the third and rarely think of the fourth.

    We know what happens when we’re driving along toward, say, a mountain off in the distance. The mountain gives us a horizon line, a perspective. Then a fog rolls in. Suddenly, we feel disoriented, not fully aware of our surroundings. It takes the sun's light and warmth to pierce the fog. Once the fog has rolled away, only then can we see everything in its proper perspective. This is what the light of the glory of Jesus Christ does for us in reference to giving the proper perspective for what lies ahead.

    As we enter a New Year, how can we practically take what we know of Jesus Christ and have a solid Christian life? It is the principles of solid Christian living that interest me in today's post.

Christian people need of reminders.

    We turn in this post to Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae. Colossae was an ancient city, second only to Ephesus in ancient influence. It located in the fertile Lycas Valley of what is now Modern Day Turkey. If you were to take a world map and find Ukraine, this region of Turkey would be due south of it, connecting Southern Europe to Asia and the Middle East. When I read about this city of Colossae, its description reminded me somewhat of our current American. This city, at the time of Paul's letter, was on decline. It was once opulent, influential in the region. It was formerly at the crossroads where the powerful visited.

    At the time of Paul’s letter, Colossae may very well had experienced earthquake damage. It was a city in ruins. It seemed the once great Colossae had come to decline and decay. Various philosophies promoting mysticism, materialism, or legalism preyed on the minds of the people. If we had more time, we could see how this sort of heresy was trying to seep into the little church in that city which Paul had planted. The Colossians were tempted to become preoccupied with this world, and their world had collapsed. They could only look ahead. As a new church, and new believers (perhaps less than a few years into their faith), the Colossians needed reminders of where to look.

    So, what about the author Paul? Paul’s situation was also dire. He was in prison. He was chained between two Roman guards (Acts 28). Though he was in chains, yet his proclamation of the Gospel was unchained. Paul was practicing the principles of solid Godly living that he would write in Colossians 3:1-17. So why this letter? Scholar Michael Harbin notes of Paul’s letter to the Colossians:

“Rather than focusing on the things of this world, like jobs, wealth, and so forth, the believers should be maintaining an eternal perspective.”

Theme of Colossians and the point of our post.

    We are living in a day where our culture has collapsed. We have witnessed political, moral, and spiritual earthquakes. Life is shifting sand. Paul wrote Colossians to focus attention on the supremacy of Jesus Christ. The theme of this letter is about: “Finding fulfillment in Christ’s fulness”. The key verse is Colossians 1:16-17

“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” 

    As for this post, I'm drawn to Colossians 3, most noteably Colossians 3:1-2, since it speaks appropriately to the point of my post today: 

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." A quick outline of the Colossian's four chapters yields the following summary.

Chapter 1 = Salvation’s beginnings in Christ.
Chapter 2 = Seek to walk in Christ.
Chapters 3-4 = Solid living for Christ (principles & practice).

    Below is a brief exposition on six principles I find in Colossians 3:1-17 that lay out a plan for solid Christian living in the upcoming New Year. As I go through them, I will provide minimal commentary, mainly directing us to the text of Colossians 3 and appropriate cross-references.

Six principles for Solid Christian Living For The New Year

1. Look up in prayer. Colossians 3:1-4

    It was Evangelist Leonard Ravenhill that once noted: “before you get with it, get with Him”.

    We begin our study in Colossians 3:1-4,

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."

    At the near-end of the New Testament, Jude, Jesus'half-brother according to the flesh, writes in 1:20-21 of his letter:

"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life."

    Such words remind us that prayer ought to be the thermostat, not just a barometer in our planning. So we begin by "looking up in prayer". Notice the second principle for solid Christian living....

2. Look in your heart. Colossians 3:5-7

    When I say "look at your heart", I refer to how the priority of the mind in prayer, witnessed in our previous principle, is a prerequisite to searching our hearts. Paul writes in Colossians 3:5-7,

"Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them."

As Proverbs 4:23 reminds us: "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life."  So in "looking up in prayer" and "looking at our hearts", we come to the third principle for solid Christian living....

3. Look at your speech. Colossians 3:8-11

    Jesus noted in Matthew 15:34 “….For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” As we turn back to Paul's argument thus far in Colossians 3:1-7, we see a progression in Paul’s argument: Prayer-->The mind-->The heart-->Our speech. Paul then writes in Colossians 3:8-11,

“But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all."

Jesus'other half-brother according to the flesh, James, remarks about the importance of "looking at our speech" in James 3:8-10,

"But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way."

4. Look around to others. Colossians 3:12-14

    So far, we've seen the need to "look up in prayer", "look at your heart", and the need to "look at one's speech" to cultivate a more solid life for Jesus Christ in the upcoming New Year. Paul's words in Colossians 3:1-11 have emphasized the need for self-examination. The point of examining ourselves before God is to be more useful for Him in encouraging others in God. It is here where we see Paul transition from evaluating oneself to evaluating how we are used of God in other's lives. We read in
Colossians 3:12-14,

"So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity."

    Am I taking the time to consider other people around me? Do I pray for others? Encourage others? Are my conversations prayerfully conducted in such a way as to lead in a positive, spiritual direction that points to Jesus? Do I look for ways to serve others? Are there those whom I need to forgive? This is the tenure of what is meant by this fourth principle of "looking around to others".

5. Look into your Bible, everyday. Colossians 3:15-16

    A favorite preacher of mine, the leate Adrian Rogers, once noted: “These two things go together, let no man part, dust on the Bible, drought in the heart”. I have always found when I commit Scripture verses to memory, my thinking is most clear. God's words, the Bible, give power to the Christian to live the Christian life (Hebrews 4:12). The Holy Spirit is the Agent behind their composition and the Applier of their meaning to anyone willing to receive them by faith (see 1 Corinthians 2:11-13). Note what Paul writes in Colossians 3:15-16,

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

    One of my favorite Bible passages that urge memorizations and mediation on the Bible everyday is found in Joshua 1:8 "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success."

6. Look to give thanks. Colossians 3:17.

    In today's post we have considered thus far five principles for solid, Christian living in the upcoming New Year:

1. Look up in prayer. Colossians 3:1-4
2. Look in your heart. Colossians 3:5-7
3. Look at your speech. Colossians 3:8-11
4. Look around to others. Colossians 3:12-14
5. Look into your Bible, everyday. Colossians 3:15-16

    As we draw today's post to a close, let me remind us of the need to look for ways to give thanks to God. If Christian people in particular (I having the foremost need) were more thankful to the Lord, we would have less complaining, backsliding, and general discontent. I find that when I have not practiced thankfulness to God, that is where I mutter and sputter in my daily Christian walk. Consider the following words written by Paul in Colossians 3:17,

"Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."

Whenever you look at the life of Jesus, you find out how thankful He was. Even on the eve of His crucifixion, He instituted a meal for his church that is called by the Greek word "Eucharist", meaning "to give thanks". Note for instance what we read in Luke 22:17-19,

"And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.’ 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”’

We all learned in school that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. When it comes to understanding "what God's will is for my life", the quickest route to discovering that, next to consulting the Bible, is that of giving thanks. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

    For anyone who reads this who is not a follower of Jesus Christ, the Bible makes it plain as to how you experience the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. It is this simple: confess of your sins by placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection that He accomplished on your behalf (Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-6). That is the best way to begin any new year. As you follow the Lord Jesus Christ, take the principles we looked at today and apply them daily to your own life. As we take these six principles to heart, my hope would be that for followers of Jesus Christ, they would find a more consistent way of solid Christian living in the upcoming New Year.

1. Look up in prayer. Colossians 3:1-4
2. Look in your heart. Colossians 3:5-7
3. Look at your speech. Colossians 3:8-11
4. Look around to others. Colossians 3:12-14
5. Look into your Bible, everyday. Colossians 3:15-16
6. Look to give thanks. Colossians 3:17.

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