As we enter a new year, many of us make resolutions
which we hope will make us happier and more prosperous. We will keep some
of these resolutions for a while, but many of them seem to fall quickly by
the wayside. One reason this is so is that it takes hard work and
sacrifice to make real changes in our lives, and often it doesn't seem as
though the goal is worth the price we have to pay to reach it. However,
there are some goals which are worth any sacrifice and all the hard work
that we have to do to keep them.
SET HEAVEN AS
Let me encourage you to set heaven as your goal this new
year. Heaven is a goal that's
worth any sacrifice we may have to make to reach it. It should be our goal in
the new year and the rest of our lives to do everything we can to reach heaven.
The apostle Peter taught that our salvation in Christ leads us to
"an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that
does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,"
(1 Peter 1:4). This inheritance that awaits all those who make heaven
their goal is something worth any sacrifice we must make, because it is something
that will last forever. It is something that once reached will never be taken
from us. It is reserved for us.
The apostle Paul wrote of
"the hope which is laid up
for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the
(Colossians 1:5). This hope is
laid up in heaven for all those who are willing to set heaven as their goal, and
who are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to obtain it. Those sacrifices
involve self-denial and faithfulness. Jesus said,
desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and
16:24). We must be willing to deny ourselves. We must be willing to put Jesus
first in our lives and be willing to do His will above ours. We must be willing
to take up our cross of responsibility and follow Jesus. Jesus said to the
church at Smyrna,
faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10).
We must live a life of faithfulness if we desire to realize the hope that is
laid up for us in heaven. We must be so faithful that we are willing to give
our very lives for the cause of Christ.
There is a sense of course in which we cannot save ourselves. The apostle Paul
was inspired to write,
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and
that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should
(Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul said
that we are not saved by works. It is impossible
for us to earn our salvation in the sense of deserving it or of God owing it to
us. Yet, there is another sense in which it is impossible for one to be saved
without doing works. The great apostle Paul who emphasized grace so much in his
epistles also said,
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have
always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work
out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). Notice that Paul connects working
out your own salvation with obedience. James wrote in James 2:24,
"You see then that a man is justified by works, and
not by faith only." The works that
are emphasized in James 2:24 are not the same as the works that Paul talked
about in Ephesians 2:8-9. There, he was talking about meritorious works and/or
works of the law of Moses. But the works that James speaks of are not
meritorious works or works devised by man to earn salvation. Rather they are works of obedience --
things commanded by God for us to do in order to please Him and show our love
for Him. So, while we cannot work so as to obligate God to save us, God
will not save us unless we please Him by obeying His will.
ENJOY YOUR LIFE
AS A CHRISTIAN
While heaven is a worthy goal, deserving of any effort or
sacrifice we may put forth, we need to realize that the Christian life is
something we can enjoy while we live on this earth.
Sometimes people will not even try to be a Christian because they conceive the
rewards to be too far removed. They don't believe that there is any advantage to
being a Christian in this life. They look upon heaven as "pie in the sky, in the
sweet by and by." Such a limited outlook only proves that the one taking
this view has never really tried to live a dedicated Christian life.
When the inspired apostle Paul wrote about things that have real value in this present life
"For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness
is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that
which is to come."
(1 Timothy 4:8). Notice the phrase
"having the promise of the life
that now is."
Not only is godliness (living a faithful Christian life)
profitable for the life that is to come (in heaven), but it is profitable for the
life that we live now.
Think about the athlete who hopes to win the gold medal in the Olympics. He
trains many hours a day. He involves himself in tortuous physical exercise. He
denies himself many things, and he does this because the goal is so important to
him. But, there are many additional benefits that result from his training
besides preparing him for the gold medal. He becomes stronger physically. He
will probably live longer. He becomes an example for others to follow who desire
good physical health. He denies himself the bad habits that destroy the health
of so many. So all the while that he is training to reach that important goal of
receiving the gold medal he is receiving the benefits of health and fitness
from his training.
Now consider the person who becomes a Christian and
dedicates his entire life to reach the goal of heaven. That person may spend
hours each day in study, prayer and service to God and man. Is there benefit in
doing this before we reach the goal? Can one justify denying oneself all the
world has to offer that seems so pleasurable just to live the Christian life?
Indeed! Paul said that there is
continuing profit in this life for all who would live a faithful Christian life.
profit do we gain from living a faithful Christian life?
First, one has the constant knowledge of knowing that he is bound for heaven
where the inheritance and promise of eternal life will become a reality. Such
brings peace of mind. But those who are not Christians or those who are unfaithful Christians cannot have this peace. Such peace of mind can only belong
to the faithful Christian. Paul wrote,
the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and
minds through Christ Jesus"
4:7). In order to have this peace of God we must live
a faithful Christian life.
Second, Jesus promised that we would be blessed in our lives as we develop the
beatitudes of His Sermon on the Mount.
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and
when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and
taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who
hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the
merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they
shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of
God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you,
and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be
exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted
the prophets who were before you"
One definition of "blessed"
is happy. True
happiness in this life belongs only to faithful Christians. It cannot be
obtained unless we obey the Lord. Peter taught that
the addition of the Christian graces found in 2 Peter 1:5-11 provide similar
blessings in that we are,
"...neither barren nor unfruitful
in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Such fruit glorifies God and is a great
blessing in the life of the Christian.
Third, the Bible becomes a guide to show us the very best way to live.
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my
path" (Psalm 119:105).
"The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives
understanding to the simple." (Psalm 119:130). Christ promised that by abiding in His word we can
know the truth and experience freedom that can come in no other way.
"If you abide in My word, you are My disciples
indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
(John 8:31-32). This freedom can only be ours by being a faithful Christian.
Fourth, we have the promise that God is always with us.
"Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you
have. For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we
may boldly say: 'The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to
(Hebrews 13:5-6). God
will never forsake us. We can be assured that the Lord is our helper. Because God is with us we
have the promise, "No temptation has overtaken you
except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to
be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the
way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
(1 Corinthians 10:13). As Christians, Satan has no power
over us as long as we are submitting ourselves to God.
submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and
He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your
hearts, you double-minded."
are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is
greater than he who is in the world."
(1 John 4:4). No one but the Christian has these great blessings.
Fifth, Christians have the promise that we are never alone. This is one of the major reasons the church is a part of
God's plan of redemption. We have fellowship with each other. We Christians are
to, "...bear one another's
burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
Even if our being a Christian costs us everything, Jesus promised
"Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or
sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the
gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time; houses and
brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions; and
in the age to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:28-30).
Sixth, there is the joy of working in this life for the next. Everything that we
possess of a material nature that we have worked for during this life will be
destroyed when Jesus comes again.
"For we brought
nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." (1
Timothy 6:7). When Jesus comes again, we are not going to take any of the
material things we have accumulated with us. Jesus taught in Matthew 6:19-20,
not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and
where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and
Our purpose in life is not to lay up material treasures, but to lay up treasures
in heaven. Knowing that these spiritual treasures await us brings happiness
in this life and encourages us to labor for the Lord,
my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of
the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
Corinthians 15:58). Our labor is not in vain because we are laying up treasures
in heaven which we will one day receive.
Seventh, when our time for death comes, we can say with confidence along with
the apostle Paul,
"I have fought the good
fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid
up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will
give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His
Eighth, those who live the Christian life avoid all of the sorrow and heartache
which often comes with a life of sin. One does not fear trouble from the law by
living as a Christian. The sober person does not fear becoming addicted to
alcohol or other drugs or doing stupid things that ruin one's life and harms
others. The sexually
pure do not fear contracting aids or becoming a parent out of wedlock, or
ruining a marriage because of unfaithfulness. We could go on. Who says there's
no profit in this present life in living as a Christian? If you would say that,
you simply do not know what it is to live as a Christian!
Ninth, we will live in harmony
with our purpose for existence. And that leads us to our next point.
LIVE IN HARMONY WITH YOUR
PURPOSE FOR EXISTENCE
This point really is the foundation for the others we
have studied. If we live in harmony with our purpose on this earth we will
make heaven our goal and we will enjoy our life on this earth by living a
faithful Christian life.
Jesus taught us what our purpose on earth is in His
discussion with the lawyer in Matthew 22. He said in verses 37 through 39,
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first
and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your
neighbor as yourself.'" There can be no doubt that your
purpose and my purpose for existence on this earth is to love God and all
people. When Jesus said in verse 40, "On
these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets",
He was simply teaching that the Law of Moses and the prophets were written
with the design of teaching people what their purpose in life is. To love
God and all people comprehends the whole of His religion, and this has
been the design of both the Old Covenant given through Moses and the New
Covenant of Jesus Christ.
A lot of people are living miserable lives because they
have not learned what their purpose for existence is. They are living
selfish, self-centered lives, rather than loving God and all people. The
only way to truly live a happy and successful life is to live a life of
love for God and all people. In fact, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit
to say, "Pursue love" ((1
Corinthians 14:1). We are to make love our goal, our aim in life, our
pursuit. Everything else must come second because everything else hangs on
these two commandments.
Of course one cannot rightly claim to love God
unless he obeys God's will (John 14:15). And the thing that
motivates us to obey God is His love for us. We love Him and thus
show our love for Him by our obedience. We do that because He first
loved us and demonstrated His love by sending Jesus to die for our
sins (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:19).
Let me exhort you to live throughout this new year in
harmony with your purpose for existence: Love God and all people.
The best resolution which you can make for this new year is
to become a faithful Christian. You can do that by obedience to the gospel of
Christ. If you want to have a really happy new year, let God make you
happy by obeying Him today!
What must one do to obey God and become
1. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 16:15-16; John
2. Repent of sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38)
3. Confess Christ (Matthew 10:32-33; Acts 8:37)
4. Be baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; 1
5. Live a faithful Christian life (Revelation 2:10).
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