A New Year: A New Beginning

I am preparing to teach a lesson this Friday night at the youth group. The theme is: A New Year: A New Beginning. I chose this theme since we have just begun 2012 and we are making plans to accomplish throughout this year. I want to challenge the young people to plan big and be victorious in what they do (as God desires for all of His children). I want to take a walk through the Scriptures and see what the Bible teaches on being victorious in new endeavors.

All young people face the same obstacles to overcome in life. We all make plans, have hopes and dreams, and try to work toward accomplishing those dreams. Unfortunately, many people end up falling short in failure, or they settle for mediocrity. God wants His children to have abundant life here on this earth. He wants us to be more than conquerors in all that we do. He gives us the key to success in any situation.

As I said earlier, we all face decision every single day. When we make those decisions, we make them with the hope of being successful. Here is a list of major decisions that we have to make in life, all of which involve something “new” and unknown.

  • School
  • Job
  • Marriage
  • Children
  • Friends

These are all decisions that we face. Until we graduate from high school/college we face a new school year every single year. We decide at the beginning of the year if we want to be successful or not. We work toward being successful yet the majority of students end up being either mediocre or failing. If you are a child of God, He wants you to be successful in school every single year. You can be if you will follow His plan of action. Once school is over, we face the choice of which job to choose. No matter what the job, we can either be successful, mediocre, or a failure. God wants us to be successful, victorious. The same is true with marriage. All who get married want their marriages to last a lifetime. Half of them end in divorce. Among the other half of marriages that survive until the end, many of them are just mediocre. God wants us to be victorious/successful in our marriages, not just going through the motions but having a “marriage without regrets“. It is possible if we will completely trust Him and His plan. Everyone wants to raise good kids and have them be successful as well. Many parents start off with this intention but something goes wrong along the way. God wants us to be successful in raising children, not just mediocre, and He gives us the plan of success in His Word. I hope that you see the pattern here; faith and trust in the Lord and His Word (together with obedience) brings about victory and success, lack of faith and trust in the Word of God (not obeying Him fully) leads to failure or worse mediocrity. Here is God’s plan for His children in every one of life’s situations:

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer [are victorious or successful] through Him who loved us. (Romans 8)

What is the state of your life? Are you being victorious in all of your decisions? Are you the best student that you can be? Are you successful in your job? How is your marriage; failure, mediocre, or successful? What kind of children are you raising? Are they becoming obedient followers of Christ? I know it is hard to do self-evaluation and it may hurt a little but it is amazing for your walk with the Lord. It is like cleaning a wound before applying medicine and a bandage or stitches. It hurts but that is the only way that positive change (healing) will come about.

If you want to be successful and victorious then you need to follow the practical advice of the Word of God.

1. You need to repent

If you have never repented of your sins and been born again then you are not a child of God and the promise of being a conqueror (victorious) in every situation is not for you. You need to repent. This is the message preached by 1) Jesus Christ 2) Saint Peter 3) Saint Paul 4) the Old Testament prophets 5) the entire Bible. Repentance means a change of mind/attitude which leads to a lifestyle change (change of actions). Repentance does not mean that you just feel sorry for what you have done (or sorry that you got caught). Repentance means that you feel sorry for doing it and you turn away from it, never to do it again. It is a 180 degree turn around. That is a tough decision to make because that includes setting your pride aside and admitting that you are wrong and God is correct. It is also a tough decision because you have to give up control over your life and allow God to take the wheel and lead. If you want failure and mediocrity in this life then continue on being the one in control. If you want victory in every situation, repent and turn everything over to God. When this happens, you are born again and receive a “new” outlook and perspective on life. God is all about “new”. He even named the process of repenting and being born again as entering into the “New” Covenant. So as you begin this new year, why not begin it with a new perspective on things, God’s perspective. This can be yours through repentance and faith, in other words, obedience to God. This process is explained by Saint Paul when he writes to his disciple, Titus.

3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (Titus 3)

Once repentance takes place, you will have a new outlook on all of the major decisions in your life. You will want to be the best student. You will allow God to help you build a great marriage and family. You will use your job to serve the Lord and the people around you. You will choose good friends based on Biblical standards. Every new thing in life will be a new opportunity to be victorious by making the right decisions based on God’s wisdom.

2. You need to be renewed constantly

God does not stand in place. His people do not stand in place. He is an active God and we are an active people. After being born again, He wants us to grow spiritually, to mature in our faith. He does not want churches filled with one year old Christians (maturity wise) with 50 years experience in the faith (been in church 50 years but are still at the maturity level of new believers). Unfortunately, as people, we are not very big on change. We like things to stay the same as they “have always been”. God is not like that. He wants us to change and makes it possible through Jesus Christ. He changes us once for all when we enter into the New Covenant but He also changes us day by day as we walk with Him in obedience.

18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (II Cor. 3)

When God “saves” us, He gives us His Holy Spirit. That Spirit, together with the Word of God, will transform us day by day if we will dedicate ourselves to Bible study, prayer, and personal application. If you are a person who hates change then Christianity is not for you (it is for you and you need it but you get my point). That is a tough decision for many people because they do not like change. They like their own ways of doing things. Each and every day as you are being transformed you conquer the power of sin in your life. You learn to say NO to sin and temptation when it appears. You stop living like the rest of the world and begin to live more and more like Jesus Christ. Paul speaks of this to the church in Rome.

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12)

You are no longer conformed to the ways of this world (slavery to sin) but instead you are being transformed by having your mind renewed on a daily basis and you become more and more like Jesus Christ (which is God’s plan for the life of every person).

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8)

3. You need to seek new opportunities

As God is transforming your mind and life, He will also challenge you to carry out the Great Commission which is to make disciples.

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always , even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28)

God will open up door after door and give you opportunity after opportunity but you have to trust Him and step out on faith. You have to think outside the box and step out of your comfort zone. The Apostle Paul as well as the Apostle Peter are great examples in this area. The first is Peter. For a time, he along with the rest of the new believers just thought that the Gospel was for the Jewish people so they did not reach out to the Gentiles (non Jews). God revealed to Peter that there are new opportunities. In Acts chapters 10 and 11, Peter retells what happened to him and how God taught him that the Gospel should be preached to all people, including the Gentiles. It is a new opportunity opened up by the Lord and took faith to step out and obey. Paul’s example is a little different.

44 The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. 46 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first ; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. (Acts 13)

He and Barnabas tried to preach the Gospel and make disciples out of a certain group of people and they were unwilling to believe. Finally, Paul and Barnabas realized that this was a dead end, a closed door but at the same time an open door to minister to others. That is why they turn to the Gentiles. Paul saw the potential in sharing the Gospel with them and making disciples out of them. Paul may not have realized it at the time but that was God’s plan with him all along, to preach to the Gentiles.

“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel ; (Acts 9)

In Moldova, we have experienced this time and time again with different ministries; working with public school teachers, teaching in the public schools, summer camps, etc. There are some new opportunities that God is opening up for us and we must be bold and step out in faith. For example, there are over 800 Muslim students studying at the medical university in Moldova. They live and study in the area of where our church is. We could see them as a threat because they are of another religion or, we can see them as an unreached people group who have come to us instead of us having to go to them. We have begun working with them by using the holidays as an opportunity to share the meaning of Christmas with them as well as inviting them to celebrate with us. Next we want to distribute New Testaments in Arabic among them because the Koran teaches that they are to read the New Testament because It is One of the Holy Books. Another one is the open doors in so many different villages. Our church is only 3 years old and we are not yet passed the 100 member mark yet God is calling us to plant more and more churches in more and more villages. We have open doors through the public schools and through day camps. We are a church made up of young families and students so finances are something that we do not have a surplus of yet God is calling us to minister in all of these places at the same time. Financially speaking, it is impossible for us to make ends meet yet we keep sending out more and more missionaries to start new works in these villages. We stand at a crossroad. Will we trust God and step out in faith as Paul and Peter did or will we settle for mediocrity? The choice is ours (yours). You can settle of mediocrity and possible failure or you can be victorious as God intends. Which will you choose?

One comment on “A New Year: A New Beginning

  1. Pingback: A Baptism Of Repentance 012012 « Mennonite Preacher

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