GOALS FOR THE NEW YEAR
Written by Ron Hutchison

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 YOUR GOAL

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 gospel," (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, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Matthew 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 Smyr
na, "Be 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 boast." (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 he said,
"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 which results 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.

What 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,
"...and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 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"  (Matthew 5:1-12).

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 me?'" (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. "Therefore 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." (James 4:7-8). "You 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." (Galatians 6:2). 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, "Do 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 steal." 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, "Therefore, 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." (1 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 appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

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 a Christian?

1.    Believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 16:15-16; John 8:24)

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 Peter 3:21)

5.    Live a faithful Christian life (Revelation 2:10).


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