A NEW YEAR’S TALK WITH MYSELF

The first Sunday of 1998 my message title was “A New Year’s Talk with Myself.” I learned from a staff member that her husband asked if they had to come. When she asked why he responded, “Because he’s just talking to himself.” This year – 20 years later – I am going to have a similar talk with myself; and I invite you to listen in.

I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions as such; I’ve done that in the past, and it never seems to work out the way I intended. My intention is to do better and to keep growing. I want to become more and more the person the Lord has called me to be.

Twenty years ago I used Titus 2:11-14 for my text. I’m revisiting that passage at the beginning of this year:

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

In 1998, at the age of 46, I said very little about the Bible passage, but quite a bit about what I wanted to do in the coming year. In 2018, at the age of 66, I want to better understand, as well as be challenged and encouraged by, these four verses.

The premise of the passage in verses 11 and 14 is the grace of God shown in the giving of Jesus to be our Savior. I don’t know of anything more important than the grace of God when it comes to doing better and continuing to grow. God’s grace has been foundational for me the past 20 years and will continue to be in 2018.

Note also these verses include both some negative as well as positive instruction.

Verse 12 calls us to “say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passion.” I don’t know precisely what that would mean to you, but I have some ideas of what it means to me to do better and continue to grow. Isn’t it interesting that as we make progress and move forward by minimizing things we shouldn’t do that we better realize what we should be doing?

That’s where the positive instruction of verse 12 is helpful: “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.” Doing better and continuing to grow is not just about what we don’t do, it is also about cultivating the doing of what is right. Talking to myself now, I am aware of some ways I need more self-control that would contribute to my being more upright and godly.

In my 1998 sermon I was specific about attitude, spoken words, and actions. I won’t let you listen in to this part of my talk with myself, but 20 years later I still can do better with some of my attitudes, some of the things I say, and some things I do.

I am excited about the New Year and hope listening in on my talk with myself stimulates your thinking. I have so specific resolutions as such – but I do want to do better and keep on growing. How about you?

Happy New Year!

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IT’S A NEW YEAR – SO WHAT?

With the ending of the year this week a lot of us are thinking about changes we would like to make in the coming year. Some will make resolutions, of course, while others will be less specific in considering how they would like to do better. It is true, in a sense, that when we move from December 31 to January 1 this week it will be just another Saturday to Sunday, but it also will mark the beginning of a New Year. I am among those who like to give consideration to at least a few positive changes I would like to make as we turn the calendar from one year to another.

During October, November, and December Jan and I have already made one gigantic change in selling our house, moving to Texas, and making arrangements to buy a new one. I am also using the occasion, as I generally have in the past, to specify a few challenges for myself. A couple have to do with my health, of which I will not bore you, and one is a general spiritual challenge.

I’ve been thinking a lot the last couple of weeks about the Apostle Paul’s challenge in Ephesians 4:1, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” I don’t think he is talking about a specific “calling” to be a pastor or missionary or whatever, but the general calling to be a Christian—a disciple of Jesus. In other words, the urging to live a life worthy of the calling you have received is for all of us who have said yes to the Lord. But what does it mean “to live a life worthy of the calling” we have received? It certainly can’t mean that having been accepted, forgiven, and saved by grace we are now supposed to measure up by becoming worthy in ourselves.

I looked at a variety of other translations and got some help from Eugene Peterson’s The Message. He paraphrases, “I want you to get out there and walk on the road God called you to travel.” The way I am taking Paul’s challenge for myself is to continually give myself to living as a Christian and making progress in it. And the key for me is the phrase “making progress.” None of us would have to look too far in the New Testament, or think very much about living the Christian life,  to come up with a couple of specifics we could focus on with the beginning of another year.

What I’ve become more convicted of the past few weeks is the Bible’s general call for and Jesus’ specific teaching about humility. Two teachings from Jesus that have my attention are Luke 14:11, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” and Luke 18:9, “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable.” Clear instruction from Paul that challenges me is in the middle of Romans 12:3, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” I had already been thinking about this matter, and then read in a book last night that living the Christian life is not compatible with self-aggrandizement. I looked the word up and self-aggrandizement is “the practice of enhancing or exaggerating one’s own importance, power, reputation, status, etc.” To me this sounds like what both the Bible in general and Jesus in specific tells us not to do.

I have no idea what specific area or areas you may want to make progress in this coming year, but for me it is chipping away at pride and cultivating humility. I’m using this post as a first step. If you would like to join me I encourage you to read the passages I have cited in their context, especially the two parables of Jesus in Luke 14 and 18. It’s a New Year – so what? It’s an opportunity for us to give ourselves to making some progress in living the Christian life. It’s up to you whether or not you do.

Feel free to leave a reply below or email me at bobmmink@gmail.com; also consider sharing this post on Facebook.

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