January 1, 2012

Old Necessities for a New Year

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: New Year Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:16–19


Old Necessities For A New Year

Deuteronomy 6:16-19
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Pastor Randy Smith

Moses was a hundred and twenty years old. Though not permitted to go in himself, he stood with the nation Israel on the threshold prepared to enter the Promised Land. The exodus from Egypt had concluded as did the forty years of wandering in the desert. It was a new day for a new generation. They had been given God's expectations. They had learned from the negative example of their parents. And Moses is about to send them off with one final exhortation of how to have success in the place that they are going. His words are recorded in the biblical book called Deuteronomy. The theme of his speech is "Beware lest you forget."

I am personally not a big fan of the traditional New Year's resolutions because every day with Jesus Christ can be a fresh start; every day is and should be an opportunity to align our lives with His expectations. However, today, I am making an exception. Today is January first, and as God permits the whole of 2012 is before us. I feel like Moses, gazing into the Promised Land wanting to share with you what I believe we need to heed if we wish to have success as a church as we stand on the threshold and prepare to enter the New Year.

Due to my available time, this sermon will be brief and contrary to my normal pattern of biblical exposition. This sermon will simply be some fundamental pastoral reflections based upon biblical principles.

In verse 16 of Deuteronomy 6 Moses said, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test." This was a reference to the time in Massah in Exodus 17 when the Israelites grumbled against the Lord and questioned His love to provide for their needs and His wisdom in leading them out of Egypt. They were even prepared to stone Moses (Ex. 17:4)!

We too can easily have this belief that God is obligated to give us everything we want. We too can have a false conception in our minds as to how we expect our lives to go and then doubt God's love and wisdom when He supposedly fails to meet us on our terms. This is testing God. We forget that God is the Creator and we are His creatures. We forget that He is the potter and we are the clay. We forget that His ways are perfect and ours are flawed. We forget that despite our feelings all things are working together for our good if we are in Christ Jesus. We forget that His commands are given to us from a loving Father for the blessings of His children. And to ignore these commands only brings sorrow and heartache.

This is why Moses said to the Israelites in verses 17 and 18, "You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with you and that you may go in and possess the good land which the Lord swore to give your fathers."

Success as God defines it (and I hope we do as well) for the Grace Tabernacle in 2012 is contingent upon faithfulness to God's blueprint. God has given us His commandments for His church. If we desire the fullness of His blessings, we cannot and must not chart our own course.

So I praise God for His work in our lives in 2011, and here are five commandments to reconsider as we enter 2012 relying upon God's grace.


Number one, all of us must all have a "Personal Devotion" to our Lord Jesus Christ. It's wonderful to have received Jesus Christ as Savior at a point and time in your life. It's great to be a part of a church that offers a variety of challenging and dynamic ministries. But as I read the Bible, it is clear that none of these matter if we are not personally and individually walking with Jesus Christ right now.

As I walk you through these points this morning, I hope you come to realize that the corporate spiritual strength of our church is always dependent on the individual spiritual strength of its people. Just as Sunday morning corporate worship should be the culmination of individual worship throughout the week, a healthy church when we assemble only reveals healthy Christians that are daily devoted to Jesus Christ.

I think of the church in Ephesus described in Revelation 2. Jesus Christ was about to remove His spirit of blessing from upon them. They were called to repent. Repent from what? Repent from no longer considering Jesus Christ as their first love. "But this I have against you, that you have left your first love" (Rev. 2:4).

Heartless cold churches do not live in isolation. They are the product of families in those churches that have put things above their love for Jesus. And families that put others things above their love for Jesus are a result of people in those families who have forsaken their first love. If the Grace Tabernacle Bible Church is going to burn brightly for Jesus Christ this year, we need all of you to burn brightly for Jesus Christ individually!

My friends, we live in a world that makes it very hard to stay focused on the Lord. Superficial activity on Facebook dominates over disciplined time in prayer. Kids' athletic commitments take priority over the local church. Watching TV entertains us longer than reading our Bibles. And I could give many more examples (many true in my own life). The point is this: The very things we need to stay devoted to the Lord are being compromised or ignored altogether. It becomes a vicious cycle. The more we ignore these spiritual disciplines, the further we drift from Christ. And the further we drift from Christ, the more we will ignore these spiritual disciplines. The slippery slope is gradual and oftentimes we don't realize how far we have gone until spiritual disaster strikes our lives.

As Jesus said to that church of Ephesus in Revelation, "Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place - unless you repent" (Rev. 2:5). Perhaps you need to renew your commitment to Jesus Christ in 2012. He wants to be the first love of your life. Do you want Him there? If so, develop and maintain that devotion to Him through a disciplined desire to remain in the spiritual disciples He has provided, especially regular Bible reading and prayer.


Number two, I would like to encourage all of you to "Prioritize (church) Attendance." We read in Hebrews, "Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some" (Heb. 10:25). It was a "habit of some" back then. Unfortunately the times have not changed. It is the "habit of some" today. We prioritize so much on our home calendars, why isn't church one of them? Why can't we take a line and draw it through every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night and say these dates and times are not negotiable?

Parents, what is the greatest desire for your children? Is it them getting into college or scoring a well-paying job or providing you with grandchildren or becoming a professional athlete? Julie and I have no greater desire for our children than that they walk with the Lord. And to this end we have devoted the primary efforts of our parenting. All three of our daughters have been baptized and all three of them are bearing spiritual fruit in their lives. I praise God for His grace and what we have been able to do in the home. But I have to mention that this local church has had a primary influence on their lives. It hasn't always been easy, but years of faithful dedication of church attendance have resulted in much spiritual fruit and as parents we thank all of you who have had a role either formally or informally of pouring the love of Christ into their hearts. Looking back over almost 15 years of parenting, many "sacrifices" have been made to keep church a priority. Looking back I wouldn't change a thing.

You see, we can't say we love God if we fail to love His people (1 Jn. 4:20). And we can't say we love His people if we fail to love His church which He purchased with His precious blood (Ac. 20:28). Moreover, as I have said before, church is the closest thing to heaven on this earth. If we have hearts that desire heaven, we will have hearts that desire the local church. The local church is God's idea and we dismiss it from our lives at great personal expense.

The way I see it, there are four categories of people in this regard. First are those who never go to church. Second are those who make it a part of their lives. They attend only when it is convenient. Third are those who make it a priority for themselves and their family. Believe it or not there is a fourth category. Those who make it a priority and desire to see others make it a priority as well. As followers of Jesus Christ, do you love the church as much as He does? Do things need to be cut from your schedule to make church more of a priority? How would this church look if others shared your commitment? What kind of example are you leaving for your children? You know in their lives your actions will always speak louder than your words!


Third, we need a church committed to "Persistent Service." In 1 Corinthians 12:7 we read, "To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." The reference is to spiritual gifts. What that means is that God has endowed you with specific abilities and has sovereignly placed you in this local body to exercise your package of spiritual gifts. Nobody is more important than another. Nobody has your unique blend of spiritual giftedness. And God is glorified when a church with a diverse blend of gifts all works together in harmony for the exaltation of Jesus Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 12, in the context of spiritual gifts, Paul compares the church to a body. As each part of the human body is necessary for healthy living, each part of the spiritual body is necessary for a healthy church. What that means is that all of you are body parts and all of you must serve in some capacity for this spiritual body to function. And if you fail to do so, not only are you in sin against the Lord, but the rest of your church family also suffers in the process.

Let's not always assume someone else will do the work. It's like the classic line we received on Resurrection Sunday this past year. "There are a bunch of beautiful tulips on the stage. You guys should plant them in the ground!" Who are the "you guys?" God has made you a special person. Always consider that the needs you see are perhaps desires the Lord is laying on your heart to personally achieve.

Think of it as a privilege to be used by the Lord to build His eternal kingdom and receive the promised eternal rewards.

I'm grateful for the commitment of this church toward service. And if you are not yet involved find a ministry where you can get involved. Often the best way to determine your spiritual giftedness is to serve in an area where you believe you will find the greatest joy. And giving as compared to always taking will give you the greatest joy! As our Lord said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac. 20:35). Do you really believe His words?


Number four, in 2012 let's make it a goal to be committed to "Purposeful Encouragement."

If we are living our Christian lives as we should, we will be beaten down by the world. That is why this place is to be a sanctuary, a refuge to be nursed and built up again in Christ. It is one thing to put off gossip and backbiting against each other, but it is quite another to intentionally and creatively seek to bring spiritual encouragement to each other. We need it and the Bible affirms it. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing."


My time is fleeting so I move to the final point. May we be known in 2012 as a church committed to "Passionate Prayer." I hope we are aware of and care about our spiritual needs: Salvation of souls, success in ministries, holiness in the church, spiritually mature individuals, strong families, missionaries, financial concerns, health concerns, church unity, worship services, revival and the list continues. The answer to receiving these things is through prayer. James 4:2, "You do not have because you do not ask." James 5:16, "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." Again, do we believe the words from Scripture?

My friends I know prayer is hard work. I know there are many excuses we come up with to keep us from prayer. But if prayer really accomplishes all that God says it does, don't we think that Satan will do everything he can to keep us off our knees? Don't be deceived!

Pray on your own. Pray with your family. And pray with the church on Wednesday nights. I sometimes wonder if God says, "You folks have so much time to do so many things together, why is so little time devoted to praying together?" And with all that is going on in our world and with all the needs of our church, I don't think this is the time to be backing off! Ask yourself, if the success of this church were dependent on my prayers how would things be going?

Somewhat similar to the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land, the spiritual success of this church is contingent upon our collective obedience to the Lord. I know that God gives us a lot more than we deserve through His grace, but that does not mean we can expect to be used by Him if we are out of step with His Spirit. As we prepare for the Lord's Table, let's remember our Lord's commitment to us as we remember the commitment we made to Him to love Him and obey Him all the days of our lives. As He has called us, may we be a church committed to personal devotion and prioritized attendance and persistent service and purposeful encouragement and passionate prayer.

And contrary to the church I told you about from Ephesus, may we be like the church of Philadelphia that is commended by our Lord in Revelation 3: "I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name."

other sermons in this series

Dec 30


Five Directives For A Successful New Year

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:10–24 Series: New Year

Jan 1


To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain

Preacher: Craig Baxter Scripture: Philippians 1:19–26 Series: New Year