New years eve is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. What’s your resolution for 2017? Take a minute to share with someone what its going to be. . . . I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but how many of you actually think you’ll still be that excited about your resolution in February?
I could give several examples of resolutions to pray more, exercise more, eat less, smoke less, etc. that didn’t make it into February. And I know I’m not alone. But why are we so bad at resolutions?
To make a resolution is to determine to do something different. But we are creatures of habit who like to do things the same as we always have. Even when our spirit of resolve is strong, to put flesh on the bones into action is hard. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. As much as we want to just grit our teeth, pull up our boot straps, and try harder, many of us have discovered that our self-will is not enough. Especially those who’ve wrestled with addictions have found this to be so. How many times has the alcoholic tried to stop drinking, and while it might last for a minute, that thought creeps in that all we need to make life better is just one drink… and there starts the vicious cycle again. Insanity is often defined as trying the same things and expecting different results. So if every New Year’s you make a resolution and don’t keep it, and every New Year’s you do it again expecting to keep it this time, what does that make you? So when I ask you how its going in a couple of months, are you going to be able to say, “I’ve been exercising and eating healthy since New Year’s and now I’m 10 lbs lighter! Or, for those insane people trying the same old things might say something like, “Same old, same old.” But there is somebody here tonight who doesn’t want to settle for same old. Does anybody want to change things up tonight, do something different and experience different results? Who wants to turn in same old for all things new? Whose ready for the inbreaking of God’s Spirit to bring some freshness to the situation?
So tonight I want us to move from old resolutions to new beginnings. God has done a work in you in 2016 to prepare you for 2017. He has brought some of you through the wilderness last year to bring you into the promised land in 2017! God wants to use adversity to make you stronger, bring you through the fire to refine you like precious gold. The God of new beginnings wants to take your old thinking, old behavior, old ways and trade them in for the mind of Christ. He wants to fill your life with new opportunities, new experiences, new ways of dealing with life on life’s terms! But its not going to come from self-will, by trying harder and implementing some new strategy. This will come because God makes all things new.
If you don’t have a problem with keeping New Year’s resolutions, then this blog post may not be for you. You probably have everything you need to live life well and make the changes needed. But if you’re ready to admit that you’re powerless and that your life is basically unmanageable, then you are ready for a powerful message from one of the most beautiful chapters in the scriptures. It’s one of the last chapters in the bible, Revelation 21.
Revelation 21:1-6 NLT
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.
The word “behold” doesn’t make it in many English translations. But it’s still there. John the Baptist stepped out of the wilderness and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” At the end of Charlie Brown Christmas, Linus reads, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.” Only the New American Standard & King James uses the word consistently. The New Living says, “Look.” This is more than look! God is doing a new thing, do you behold it? Behold means pay attention, wake up, see what you are hearing.
I think that might be our main problem, is that we’re not paying attention and we’re sleeping through what God wants to do in our life. Behold!!! But what does it mean? I think to behold is to finally see what it is that you’ve been hearing.
I am making all things new
God is making all things new. The tense of the verb, “make,” is the present. And while the heart of Revelation 21 is about the future that God is bringing, it is also about the present. It is already and not yet! In the end God will wipe away every tear, destroy poverty, cancer, death, disease, and it will be finished. But that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t already started. How many in here tonight know that God has already started that renewing work in your life? How many believe that He has a new beginning in store for you in 2017?
Like so much in Revelation, this comes straight out of Isaiah the prophet, this time 43:19. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. And before this prophecy is fulfilled in Revelation, it is fulfilled in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. In the death and resurrection of Christ, God is making you and I into a new creation. In the end that new creation is finalized. So if you’re ready for a new beginning, if you want to put your past in the past and start God’s glorious future for your life, then get in Christ, because if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Get in Christ! Get into the tomb with him and bury the sins of your past to prepare for the resurrection of your future! Get in Christ and strap in because he will take you on the ride of your life! And on the road he will make all things new.
When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all the slaves in the Confederate States, it was to become law on January 1, 1863. On December 31, 1862, the night before it was to become law, African Americans gathered together in their churches and homes all over the USA, waiting for their freedom to arrive at midnight.
What a night that must have been! They and their ancestors had been captured in Africa, kidnapped, tied, bound, and locked in chains. Whole families, even villages, disappeared. Families were separated, never to see each other or their homes again. They were taken to different parts of the world, but most to the Americas, shackled and packed into the holds of slave ships. Upon arrival they were sold into slavery that meant a lifetime of hardship, suffering, forced labor, and deprivation of all human rights. Enduring such conditions, what must that New Year’s Eve Watch Night of 1862 been like? What did they do? Did some of them gather in small groups and whisper their prayers and songs in hushed voices, fearing their masters might descend at any moment? After all, President Lincoln’s declaring their freedom didn’t make it so in the eyes of their owners. And the Civil War would drag on for another three years. What songs did they sing? How did they pray? Did they dance, sing, shout, and clap, or was it a time of quiet, uncertain wondering what their future held?
That Watch Night of 1862 came to be known as “Freedom’s Eve.” When midnight and the New Year arrived, they celebrated with prayers, shouts, singing, and great thanksgiving to God.
New beginnings begin with faith. Not hard evidence that everything is going to go has planned, not a desire to control the outcome, not some human power that will give us the strength to make our resolution stick. New beginnings come when we come to believe in a Power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity, who can pull us out of the rut of trying the same things and getting different results and put us on a new path.
Old is gone. New has come
What makes the New City so new? Because the former things are gone. Only when the old is gone can the new come. Somebody say, “Goodbye former things!” The new beginning is here. But not because you said it, but because God said it.
God says, It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. And this isn’t the first time that God said, “It is finished.” When Jesus was on the cross and he was tired and bleeding and dying, he did not say, “I am finished,” Jesus said “it is finished.” The good news of the gospel is that because of what Jesus did on the cross there is a bridge from where you are to where God wants you to be. There is a bridge called hope. There is a bridge called salvation. There is a bridge called redemption. There is a bridge that no one else could build but Jesus that goes from the end of you to the beginning of eternity. It goes from Babylon to New Jerusalem, from weeping to rejoicing, from suffering to being pain-free, from self-destructing to helping others. And no matter what kind of storm enters in and what comes to tear you down, that bridge is still standing. Say, “It is finished.”
But if we’re honest, there are some things in our life that are not finished. There are some New Years resolutions from 2015 and 2016 that are unresolved. Ask yourself–why is this thing left incomplete? Why do I keep falling for the same lies? Why do I keep falling into the same ruts? Why am I not moving from this point to that point? Why can I not complete what I said I would finish? The good news for us is that Jesus has completed the work on the cross and is coming back to complete the new city. It is finished. You are not finished, but it is finished. I don’t know what “it” is that is holding you down, that is keeping you from moving forward, but you better tell it, that because of what Jesus has done, it is finished.
It is because those former things are gone that we have a new beginning tonight. And with newness comes fresh opportunities. Things that used to be completely out of the question are now possible. A whole new city is here to be explored, filled to the brim with life in the fullest sense, with the water of life flowing from God’s throne and nourishing the tree of life. Are you thirsty? Do you want some living water. At Jacob’s Well we have plenty. We get our name from the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. He asks her if she would like to try some water that would quench her deepest thirst, something called “living water.” See the woman had been trying to quench her thirst through relationships. She had been married 5 times and was living with a man that was not her husband. But rather than condemnation, Jesus had compassion and saw the struggle within, so he offered her a new beginning. What have you been trying to quench your thirst with? What have you been going to for satisfaction and yet been left dry? The Lord says, I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
Give 2017 to God
So as we close I want to invite you to give 2017 to God. This is not the God always out to get you, trying to send you to hell unfairly. He wouldn’t be good if there weren’t consequences for evildoers, but the God in this city is looking to forgive and offer another chance to all. God’s acts of judgment are always done through other agents in the book of Revelation, it says here that God himself will wipe away every tear from their eyes. The love of God could hardly be more vividly shown. He longs to wipe the tears away from his suffering children.