Happy New Year! Are you ready to learn from the lessons of 2017 as you enter 2018? As the calendar turns, everyone is invited to put away past negativity while embracing new promises and possibilities. Let’s prepare ourselves for a spectacular new year of blessings. Think ahead to this time next year and decide now if you’d like to be a different type of person or in a better situation. Now’s the time to plan for where you’re going and how’d you like to get there.
The exercise we’ve prepared as part of this morning’s service is intended to help everyone start the New Year with a clean slate. In today’s Sunday bulletin is a one-page exercise. On one side of that paper is powerful wording, “God is the love that will enhance your life.” This is followed by our renewal equation, “God+You=Renew.” The gist is that any of us can become the person that God wants us to be, first and foremost new spiritual creatures who are redeemed, renewed, and forgiven. We accept God’s gift of transformation or else we’ll never live life to its fullest.
On the other side of the paper is a left column with the heading “What to Leave in 2017” followed by three, numbered lines. Notice the right-side column with the corresponding heading “What I Claim in 2018,” again followed by three consecutive lines. Your task is to first prayerfully consider what it is that you need to let go of and put behind you so that you don’t carry filth into 2018. Choose at least three attitudes, behavior, habits, or situations that were harmful, unhelpful, or in some way not life-enhancing. For the right-hand column, jot at least three new attitudes, behaviors, or situations desired for 2018. These represent your goals needed to attain the great life you need and deserve.
Let’s back-up a bit to our unofficial church motto, the “God+You=Renew” formula. Don’t be put-off by its rhyming aspect. There’s nothing wrong using a mnemonic device to help keep something salient for your memory. In fact, failure to gain attention through positive creativity may result in people not noticing their God-given potential. The implicit goal of God+You=Renew is heavy-duty and legitimate, namely to help each person attain and live the best possible life. The two key players are you and God, which in the proper relationship produces renewal. Who doesn’t want this for the New Year? As a church, part of our mission is outreach, which is more than simple charity. We the people of God have a clear and inescapable mandate, which is to share the Gospel, the tremendous good news that God loves us and that we can be renewed. With so many aspects of modern life vying for our attention, the church needs to grow-up and get real, becoming more relevant to the people we’re responsible to assist. The God+You=Renew formula is a simple, effective summary of these core truths. As we internalize the renewal process we’ll reap wondrous blessings which we can then share with the world through diverse forms of outreach.
In renewal, the spectrum of God’s blessings can be yours if only you manage your life better by recognizing your spiritual nature and then to live and think through love’s power. Why settle for a monochromatic life when you can enjoy multi-colored blessings? When you place yourself next to God (as the God+You=Renew formula illustrates) then you’re in royal company. This means that you’re in a right relationship with God, that you are sensitive to the presence of the Almighty and willing to place love above all else.
An authentic spiritual life arises from properly managed attitudes and actions. The old saying about talk being cheap applies here. Changing who and what you are requires courage and isn’t for the faint of heart. Life is tough. Habit, apathy and just plain laziness can pressure people to just “sign on the dotted line” and surrender individual initiative to outside agents. Not so in God’s kingdom, where we live the most authentic spiritual life as we embrace God directly. We must resist the seduction to subcontract our renewal to religious bureaucracies or any other third party. As we embrace love and truth, we accept primary responsibility for receiving and sharing the greatest power in the universe: God’s essence of love.
Up to now I’ve avoided the word “resolution,” as in “New Year’s resolution.” You need consistent determination to be the person God wants you to be. Be resolved to do the right thing. Be resolved to overcome all challenges. Be resolved that no one, no illness, no challenge will hold you back. Uncertainties? Sure. There are many hanging over individual people and our wounded nation. People of integrity face internal and external threats against truth, love and even civil decency. But don’t let all the bad news rob you of your peace. The school of life teaches that in addition to the known threats facing everyone, all of us will encounter unexpected blessings and opportunities. Through both good and bad, God will help all children of the light grow stronger and overcome obstacles.
Declare your intention to seek God’s ever-present indwelling Spirit, which is love. If you’re only willing to make one resolution then for goodness sake be resolved to grow closer with God and then to share that love. If you strive for God and God’s love then you’ll be rewarded with a renewal not otherwise possible. Claim the power of Jesus as you partner with God to create a superb 2018. Hunger and thirst for God and you will have that full-filled life of wellbeing. And don’t play the blame game because the only person who can hold you back is yourself; don’t get in your own way. Set aside fear, ignorance and anger. Don’t bring the garbage of 2017 into 2018. You are a new, beautiful creation as a child of God. You’re ready for a fresh start and now it’s up to you to act and think like it. God bless you!