2014 is coming to a close, and 2015 is knocking at the door. As I look back at 2014, there are decisions I am pleased with, and others that I am not. Was I wise or foolish in this decision or that one? Should I have listened to my wife more on that decision, or sought the advice of a wise man, like my dad, for that other decision. In other words, there is a lot to look back on and learn from in 2014, that can be used to grow and mature in 2015.
So how do you prepare yourself for the coming new year?
1. Accept the past: 2014 is over and done with. Learn from the past and move forward. What is your intention for the new year? Are you still trying to strike it rich? Or are you ready to try life in a new direction?
2. All 365 Days: This may sound a bit morbid, but will you live to see December 31, 2015? We are not guaranteed to live until we are 100 years old, much less another second. It is vitally important that you think about life, and how you want to use the time God has given you.
3. Your Intentions: Are you intentions to be intentional? Meaning, are you thinking about 2015 changes just to have them so when someone asks you, you have an answer. Or, are you intending to actually be intentional with changes in your life for next year? It is very easy to say something out loud and not mean it. To actually change your life requires actual change.
4. The Why Question: The areas you are choosing to change, why do you want to make that change? Is your intention to become rich, so you are choosing to buy a new phone to get you there? Do you think about the cause and effect of the choices and changes? Or maybe, you know the direction of your life is not on the correct path, and you are seeking help to change things? In everything you are doing, you need to ask, “Why am I doing this? and How will this effect my life and others?”. I want to work out so he or she will love me more. News flash. If they don’t love you for who you are, a body change will only make them want what you are changing, but not you.
5. New Attitude: Don’t like what’s happening in your life? Having problems with money, your job, your marriage, your kids, etc? The first change in attitude comes with acknowledging that your way doesn’t work. Be open minded and ready to hear a new way.
6. Hear the Gospel: The Gospel is “God’s Good News”. Forget the negatives you have about Christians, or the negative opinions you have heard from others about God, and focus your lens in only on the Gospel. Are you not curious at all about why the Gospel translates into “God’s Good News”? There is a good chance that you have heard of John 3:16-18, but do you know what it says, and do you understand what it means in your life? Most people stop at verse 16, however, the good news keeps going for 2 more verses.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.- John 3:16-18
The Gospel is very simple. The Problem: Scripture tells us that God is perfect, He is perfect love, and that He is the Creator of all things, everything, including us. Scripture also tells us that in God there is no darkness, none at all. People, you and I, on the other hand are easily tempted by the devil, are not perfect, have thoughts of darkness, impure thoughts, selfish desires, thoughts of lust, and do impure things (thoughts into action). This is in our nature, and is called sin. This sin is the impassible barrier that separates God’s perfection from our imperfection. Because of this separation, we are destined to spend an eternity apart from God, and instead with the devil in hell, who enticed us with our dark thoughts, which we chose instead of God’s love. How is this solved? How can we return to God, and to His love? Can we earn our way? Scripture tells us no, this is impossible. The Gospel is the answer. Scripture tells us that God wants none to perish, but for all to come to repentance. This means that God does not want you to spend an eternity away from Him, but rather an eternity with Him. God not only created us, but also provided us with the way back to Him. The Answer: The answer is Jesus. God’s good news is the best news! Go reread John 3:16-18 real quick. Since we are imperfect, and God is perfect, we need a perfect person to redeem us. Scripture tells us that Jesus born of a virgin, and lived a perfect life. Scripture also tells us that Jesus lived a life without sin. Jesus, who knew no sin, took our sin upon Himself, was crucified on the cross, and died in our place. This is where the devil would think that he won. However, in God’s amazing plan, Jesus was risen from the dead after 3 days, defeating the devil, and making it possible for humanity to be redeemed back to God, through Jesus. What better news is there! Our Way Back to God: So if Jesus is the way, how do we take His path? Go back and reread John 3:16-18 again. If you hear the Gospel, and you believe by faith that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for your sins, and rose 3 days later. That acknowledge that you are a sinner, that you need a Savior from your sins, and you repent of your sins. The Bible tells us that you will be forgiven, and cleansed from your sins, from red and crimson, to white as snow. The scripture tells us that in Christ, you are forgiven, a new creation, a Child of God, and no longer under His wrath. From this point forward, your life will never be the same. The next step you take, will no longer have the purpose that it used to. You will now have a new purpose, one that will bring joy to each step taken from now on.
So why am I telling you to hear the Gospel as preparation for next year? So that you can start the new year in the best possible condition, with your salvation in Jesus secure. Nothing else will have you better prepared, even if you only live the first day of the year.
7. Read the Holy Bible: If you are on board with 1-6 to this point, this one should put a smile on your face. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This means that God’s Word is sufficient, good, and useful for everything. Reading the Bible daily, even a little bit, creates a life style of learning and living. Reading the Bible helps you to learn God’s character, His love, the person and word or Jesus, and your purpose for each day on this Earth. The Bible helps you with all aspects of life. The more you read, the more you will fall in love with God and others.
8. Attend a Bible Preaching Church: Yeah I know, you stay up late on Saturday and want to sleep in. Or football is on, and you can’t not watch and let your team down. A Bible preaching church is essential. Yes, not all churches are created equal, as not all preach the Bible. Many churches just want to pack people in and make them feel good so they will come back and buy their books. A church is to preach the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, so help you God. Motivational speaking about how you’re such a wonderful person and you can have your best life now is not going to help you, rather will actually hurt you. A Pastor who preaches/teaches from the Bible will help you to better understand what the Bible says. You will begin to better understand the areas of your life that are good for you, and the areas that are not. At church there are other Christians who can pray with and for you, to help support you in challenging times, and there is a good chance that at least one of them has gone through what you have. I have heard many say that they don’t need to attend church to be a Christian. My question to them would be. How can you claim to be Christian, and not want to hear God’s Word or be around other Christians? I’m pretty sure you hang out with your non-Christian friends pretty regularly.
9. 2015 Financial Budget: First off, God owns all of the money, it’s His. “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” – Psalm 24:1-2. Every penny you receive from God is to be managed well, as you are its steward. Why should you believe this? Money comes from the Earth, which God created. “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” – 1 Timothy 6:7- 8. If money comes from God, He will provide to you what you need. Don’t fall in love with it or crave it. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5. Create a budget where every dollar has a name. Purchase what you need for food, clothing, and shelter. In your abundance, give to those who are in need. I recommend looking at Financial Peace University by Dave Damsey. He is a Christian who puts in place what the Bible says about managing the money God provides you.
10. Sharing is Caring: Scripture tells us that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all of our heart, mind, and body, and to love others as we would ourselves. If you heard the Gospel, believes, repented, and received Jesus as Savior. Why would you not want to share this same gift with others? You share movies you see and like with others. Make it a point to share the Gospel with others. Your life was changed. Why would you not share the Gospel with your friends and family? If you share the Gospel with someone, and they don’t want to accept it, simply thank them for listening, pray for them, and go share with someone else.
If these 10 points of preparation are received well by you, I pray that 2015 will be one for the record books. I pray that you will see and live life in a new way, for the intention in which you were created. I pray that if heard the Gospel and are now saved in Christ, that you will make the effort to grow and mature, just as a little kid does showing up. I pray that you will take each of these points to help you grow and mature, and come to know the love of God, and be conformed more and more into the image of Jesus.
From my family to yours, a very Happy New Year in Jesus name!