NEW COMMITMENTS FOR THE NEW YEAR Philippians 3:13-3:14, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Introduction Well, it’s that time of year again when in a fit of optimism many of us make great promises about what we are going to do and how we are going to conduct ourselves in the year ahead.  If you’re anything like me, we usually break down and abandon each promise sometime around the second week in January. Honestly, how many of us actually kept the diet? Well this year I am determined its going to be different.

This month I want to offer you a way to start the New Year by resolving to significantly change your life. Simply, I want to suggest that, if you can hold to four simple resolutions that God, in His Word encourages you to make, I guarantee that 2013 will become one of the most significant years in your life.

1)        COMMIT TO FORGET YOUR FAILURES Some 2000 yrs. ago the Apostle Paul gave the church at Phillipi the advice noted I our Scripture for the day.  I don’t know of any more practical advice for anyone which could be more relevant for 2017 than this piece of advice.  Jesus came that we would not have to live life imprisoned by our past.  All of us have failed in some way over the last year, and for many of us, our failures are painful memories. Maybe it’s a memory of how we failed in a relationship, or a bad business move, or some other poorly made decision. It happens to all of us.  We are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world.  What Paul told the Philippians is that we must not allow ourselves to be bogged down by our past failures. We need not dwell on our past to the point that it prevents us from moving forward into the future that God has planned for us. It’s time for us to leave our past behind and with God’s help, forget our past; to stop torturing ourselves about what we did or didn’t do. The New Year is a good time to take stock of our lives and truly begin moving forward,…, in Christ Jesus.  When we received Christ’s offer of forgiveness it meant we it was okay allowed to forgive ourselves, forget our failures and live free from our past. 2)         COMMIT TO GIVE UP YOUR GRUDGES The second challenge I believe God wants you to make in 2017 comes from the Apostle Paul writing to the church at Colossi. “Bear with each other and forgive each other whatever grievances we may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” Colossians 3:13. Did you catch that challenge?  God, in those words, is challenging us directly and personally to give up our grudges. That’s what He means when He asks us to forgive one another regardless of what grievances we may have against one another,…, forgive. Unforgiveness is dangerous because it’s hurtful, harmful and destructive.  It destroys marriages, breaks up families, ruins friendships, and splits churches.  But, grudges are not just destructive they are also self-destructive. Unforgiving servants always end up in an emotional and spiritual prison. Prisons made of anger, guilt or even depression.

God says to us in His word, “Don’t sentence yourself to prison.”,…, “forgive each other whatever grievances you may have against one another.”   Sounds simple doesn’t it. 3)         COMMIT TO RESTORE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS Every time I turn on my computer a little windows pops up that asks if I want to run a check to see if my programs are all working properly.  God through His Word issues a very similar invitation, checking to see whether our personal relationships are working properly. The Lord issues that challenge in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, stating, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” Romans 12:18.  The important phrase is, “as far as it depends on you”.  Some relationships might have gone wrong in your life because of what other people have done and they might well not want that relationship restored. Our Father understands. That’s why Paul starts by saying “If it’s possible”.  Let’s be honest, some of our relationships have gone wrong because of what we have done. But, God’s word tells us that as far as it depends on us, we are to live at peace with everyone.  If we have caused a rift in a relationship then we have a responsibility to do everything we can to restore it, and that includes the one thing we all find most difficult; forgiving and asking forgiveness.  I wonder how many marriages are not all they should be or could be simply because someone won’t say “I was wrong”, or” I am sorry”, or “Will you forgive me”.  I am certain that most who are married have asked forgiveness for “ harsh words and cutting remarks” that have really wounded our partners, at one time or another in their relationship.  In this Scripture, I believe God is saying that, in this New Year, the time is right to restore those relationships by sincerely saying we are sorry for our angry words or for our selfish and unthoughtful claims or actions. 4)         COMMIT TO TURN YOUR BACK ON YOUR TRANSGRESSIONS. The New Testament was written as a testimony to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.  It provides life to those who accept Jesus as their Savior and provides us with a model of how we are to conduct our lives as Christians. Let’s look at these words from Romans 6,  “Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to its lustful desires … we are no longer slaves to sin” Romans 6:2.  That is the last challenge that I believe you will need to meet to make this New Year truly significant. When God says “Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to its lustful desires, He is issuing us a challenge to turn our back on our sins. I have a friend, a pastor who tells a story of how, in his younger years he was addicted to pornography and how, now, even though he has overcome the addiction, he remains overcome with guilt for his transgressions. That sums up the attitude of too many Christians regarding “sin”. They don’t do anything about them, they simply learn to live with them.  God, in His Word challenges us to turn our backs on whatever sin we may be or have been involved in and stop allowing sin to control the way we live; stop giving in to sin,; stop obeying our old master and start living as a freed person for our new Master, Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ death broke the power of sin, and the Holy Spirit gives us strength and power to resist sin.  That means you don’t have to go into this New Year defeated by the same old enemy. We are no longer a slave to sin so we don’t live like or act like one. Jesus died for all sin, even ours, so why not allow the Holy Spirit to minister to us and allow this to be truly, a “new” year in our lives?  I pray so.

CONCLUSION It all boils down to this: Will this New Year be just a calendar changing event for us or are we willing to rise to the challenges God’s Word places before us? Are we willing to meet these for challenges fro 2017, forgetting our failures, giving up our grudges, restoring our relationships, and turning our backs on our past?

Jesus Christ and the New Year can be a turning point in our lives, a real reason for celebration, if you’ll make forgiveness the very heart of the celebration. Why give it a try.

See everyone Sunday!!!

Pastor Dave