An updated New Year’s sermon from about 10 years ago
There were two brothers who notorious in a town. They both drank too much, the cheated on their wives and abused people that worked for them.
One of them had a heart attack died and his brother went to see the local minister about the funeral. He said to the minister “I want you to call my brother a saint” The minister says I can’t do that, everyone knows that he wasn’t. But the remaining twin was insistent he said “I’ll give you a £1000 for your Church if you call my brother a saint during the funeral service”
On the day of the funeral the minister got up and said “ We all know that the dearly departed was a drunken womanising, cheat who abuse and exploited those he employed, but compared to his brother he was a saint”
Have you ever wondered what they will say at your funeral?
How people will sum up your life and character.
New Year has traditionally been a time to think about questions like that. A time to reexamine your life.
I want to read to you some words from the NT which I think will really help us think about lives “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” EPH 5:15
Paul makes a very important point in those two verses. He points out that every single one of us who are Christians are living our lives in one of two ways.
You are either living wisely
Or Paul says
you are living unwisely and foolishly.
Just think about the implications of that for a moment. …… God’s Word is saying that it is possibly for you to have been saved, to have accepted Christ as your Saviour and Lord and yet still live your life in way that your God calls foolish.
I have got say as a pastor that one of my greatest heartaches is the number of God’s people who choose to live foolishly. Who are unwise in the choices they make in life and the way they live their lives.
I also have to confess as a Christian one of my biggest regrets is those times when I know I have lived foolishly.
But what does Paul mean when he says we can live foolishly as believers. Well I would say that you are living foolishly as a Christian if you have higher priorities in your life than Christ and his priorities.
Actually I don’t really want to talk a lot about living foolishly as a Christian. Except to say, and maybe even to beg you if you know you have been living that way, to choose to instead in this New Year to live wisely.
That is really what this short passage is all about, is about how to live wisely as a Christian. Basically what Paul says about how we can live wisely as Christians can be summed up in three verbs, three things that you have to do, to develop spiritual wisdom.
They are Decide, Examine, Plan
DECIDE: Who You Are Going To Please
In the year that lies ahead your answer to just one question will have more affect on your life than any other decision you will make.
Who are you going to live to please in 2012?
Will it be God or will it be yourself, or someone else?
In the Year that lies ahead in your life is it going to be your will, what pleases you, or God’s will what pleases him, that will have the final say in what decisions you make in every area of your life?
God’s Word says that to live wisely, we have to choose God’s Will. We are “Understand what the Lord’s Will is” or as one translation puts it. “Find out what God wants you to do and do it”
I think maybe before we talk about how to find God’s Will for our lives there is something we need to understand about God’s Will. I have talked to some Christians and they
seem to believe that living in God’s Will some how reduce their pleasure in life or will rob them of many of life’s pleasures. That is a lie and its life straight from hell.
Lets remember that God’s will is described in Romans 12:2 as his “good, pleasing and perfect will” And what that means is the best way of life, the most fulfilling way of life. Jesus said that he came to give us life and life to the full. The way we experience that life to the full is living in God’s Will.
Jim Elliot a missionary wrote these words and something in me says amen every time I read them “I have found that the most extravagant dreams of boyhood have not surpassed the great experience of being in God’s will, and I believe that nothing could be better”
If you want to live life to full in 2001 the way to do that is to live God’s Way. To live out his will in your life.
Will you decide to do that this morning. Right now will you say
In my working life in 2012 its your will not mine
In my relationships in 2012 it will be your will not mine
In my sex life in 2001 it will be your will not mine
In my financial life in 2012 it will be your will not mine
In how I use my time in 2012 it will be your will not mine.
EXAMINE: HOW YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE
If your car is over three years old it has to go through the trauma of an MOT and have a thorough examination of their mechanical condition.
God’s Word here says that if we want to live wisely as Christians then we need to make sure that we are regularly giving ourselves a sort of spiritual MOT.
God tell us here that we have to “be careful how we live”
The Amplified Bible really catches what Paul meant when it translates those words “Look carefully at how you are living”
We have to put our lives under the magnifying glass and look closely at what we see. What we have here is call to examine our spiritual condition and be honest about what we find.
I can remember reading about someone who invented what they called a life clock.
It was a sort of digital clock and what you did was you punched in your sex and age and whether you smoked or had a heart condition and based on average life expectancy the clock gave you a read out of how many more years, months, week and days you could expect to live. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t a best seller.
Most of us don’t like to be reminded that life is short and ticking away but whether we like it or not it is. The truth is that if we don’t take time to examine our lives, to look at the way we are living then we are going to waste the time we have left.
The NT is quite clear that to be all we can be as Christians to live our spiritual lives wisely, we need to periodically take a long hard look at what we are doing in our lives and why we are doing it.
That’s why every time we come to communion we are told to “Examine your motives and test your heart”
I have got tell you that this type of spiritual self-examination and self-analysis isn’t easy
but God’s word is quite clear its essential. Do you have the courage to ask the Holy Spirit to help you take an honest look at how you have been living your life?
PLAN: HOW YOU WILL USE YOUR TIME
There will be 8760 hours in 2012. That is the same for all of us, there is no difference. What will make a difference is how we will use those hours.
Paul says we have to make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Or as another translations puts it “Make the best use of your time, despite the difficulties of these days” JBP
So one the difference between living foolishly and living wisely is what we do with the time we have. I think that clocks and watches lull us into a false sense of security. They have a circular face and they give the impression that time keeps on going round. Well it doesn’t. Once a minute is gone its gone and gone for good.
A leadership consultant called Peter Brierly says “We will not have the same chances next year to make up for those we failed to take this year.”
Have you ever thought about the characteristics of time?
Characteristics of time, its ….
1. Irreversible: Our videos have pause and replay buttons but our lives don’t. Time can’t go backwards we don’t get the chance to go back and use the time and opportunities we missed again. Allan on my knee.
2. IRREPLACEABLE: Benjamin Franklin once commented “Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of” We can’t replace the hours and weeks we waste.
3. Precious: It is said that just before she died Elizabeth 1 cried out “My kingdom for a moment in time” It wasn’t enough, nothing can buy back time. Time is precious and that means just like money it can be invested wisely or foolishly.
They way to make sure you invest your time wisely and don’t waste it foolishly is to plan what you are going to do with your time
I read this once and printed out and put in my bible as a reminder about time and how to use it
“Lord I have time
I have plenty of time
All the time that you give me
The years of my life
The days of my years
The hours of my days
They are all mine
Mine to fill, quietly, calmly,
But to fill completely, up to the brim,
To offer them to you, that of their insipid water
You may make a rich wine such as your made at Cana in Galilee”
If you want to wise up for the New Year.
Here is how to do it
Decide: who you are going to please
Examine: how you live your life
Plan: how you will live your life