Read Matthew 11:16-19
We have just about put 2019 in the books. Year’s end puts us in a unique frame of mind. We think about what has transpired, what is, and what may be. It’s fun to look back at what happened during the year. Recounting the news, events, sports, weddings, and deaths make for good year-end television.
And we give pause for a bit of the same.
We spent a year on the Gifts of the Spirit in First Light. That will carry over a little into next year.
Our kids went to camp in Oklahoma. It wasn’t a 5- or 6-hour bus ride this year.
Some lost jobs. Some found new jobs.
We gave out more food than the year before and that year more than the one before it and that year more than the one before it. Our compassion and generosity continued.
We worked hard at being less transactional and more transformational. It’s an uphill battle in this world that wants to mold us in its image—that has already molded us in its image in so many ways. We were being shaped in the image of the world before we knew that we were fighting against it, but we have not surrendered to the world. We are still in the fight.
We began weekly reminders to fulfill our commission.
We blessed over 100 children with school supplies.
We were active in going out into the community and hosting events to bring people to us with hopes of ambushing them with love and leading them to the Lord.
We fed a ton of kids on Wednesday night. We stopped counting and just went by weight and volume. We fed some adults as well, but the kids get your attention, and I think we snagged their attention.
We had some Wednesday night youth make it to Sunday mornings, pretty much on their own.
We fed the football players again, including an extra meal because they made the playoffs.
We sponsored Martha from Sierra Leone and blessed her and her family each month.
We had a bumper crop of stickers this year.
Flies and allergies had a good run this summer.
Even crickets launched a short-term invasion just a couple months ago.
Make no mistake, we overlooked some blessings right in front of us.
We still have a post office.
We have a traffic light with all three colors and two left-turn signals.
We have a restaurant and two convenience stores that will cook something for you.
We have Dollar General.
We had rain and weeks without rain.
We saw our lakes and ponds fill and start to go down some.
We had no murder in our town this year.
We had no bomb threats, school shootings, or terrorist activity.
God is still welcome in our schools.
The senior class conducted their own Baccalaureate in the school once again.
There is someone in the pulpit in all of our churches.
Tom made his olive oil peppers again and you survived to tell about it.
We made more invitations to know God through his Son Christ Jesus than in years before.
We put some words on the wall a few times in the main service.
We lost some loved ones, but celebrated their victory in Christ.
We celebrated new life.
We saw our country divided more and more with plenty of blame thrown around.
We sought to live in one accord in Christ Jesus in spite of everything going on around us.
We still face apathy and ambivalence when it comes to responding to the grace of God, even here in the Bible Belt.
We had a wonderful Christmas worship service instead of the traditional Christmas play. There was no hay to clean up and it was wonderful to hear everyone singing.
Aim and flush still remains a valid goal for both men’s and women’s restrooms. There will be no scholarships awarded based upon 2019 performance.
As we move into a new year, I am reminded of one of those quips that made the rounds more than even this year. We are drowning in information and starved for wisdom.
As we look to next year, my hope is that all will embrace our methodology in March as we study the Book of James all month long and that this study will be continuing conversation throughout the week.
As we look forward to our missions and ministries in the year to come, my hope is that the words of God and the traditional symbols of the church will be sufficient as we distinguish ourselves from the world around us.
As we go into a new year, I challenge you to talk more about God’s love than the basketball or football team.
In the year to come, I pray that we will by our study, prayer, and receptiveness to the Holy Sprit be equipped for every good work.
And being so equipped, that we put the words of our Master into practice.
And being so equipped, that we put away our penalty flags and pointing fingers and love as Christ commanded.
And being so equipped, that we spur one another on to love and good deeds.
And being so equipped, that our heart desires what God’s heart desires, that all should repent of allowing things of this world to be our master and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
And being so equipped, that we may proclaim Jesus is Lord every day.
And being so equipped, that we don’t have to wrestle with the words, Thy will be done.
This is a wonderful world that we have been given. This world is an absolute mess. God made all things good—very good which considered in totality. It seems that there is nothing which human depravity has not touched.
What can we say about this generation? That was the question posed by Jesus as well.
“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
The world is not concerned with facts. The world despises wisdom. The world insists that you align yourself with its dogma. It doesn’t matter what you do, the world will find fault with you and try to play on your guilt.
The leaders of the day found fault in John because he wouldn’t take a drink of fermented beverage and in Jesus because he did. Paul would later say that the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but the world doesn’t subscribe to what God has to say.
What else did the leaders say? Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Jesus told them that it is not the healthy people who need a doctor.
How can you combat the model of this world? Let’s consider three basic ways—with truth, wisdom, and love.
We spend several weeks on the truth this year. We want to worship in Spirit and in Truth. We want the truth to set us free. We want to demonstrate our Christian growth and maturity and speak the truth in love.
Make no mistake, while the world may recognize that you are right and in right standing with God, it doesn’t care and will oppose you anyway.
We can subscribe to Lady Wisdom. Wisdom is personified as a lady in the proverbs. Keeping company with this lady is life sustaining. God’s wisdom always prevails. Fools despise wisdom and the discipline that it evokes.
And there is, of course, love. We are called to love as Christ loved us. That’s a tall order. It came from the Anointed One who fulfilled all the law and the prophets required of him, and it’s his command to us.
Love one another as much as I loved you.
You want to understand love? Consider Christ who stepped out of heaven, humbled himself to live as a human, and suffered and died to take away our sin.
Christ didn’t just come and take the earthly tour. He came to all of us, even those in defiance of God at most every turn.
The religious hierarchy tried to belittle him because he ate with and was a friend to sinners. He not only came from heaven to earth, but to those who knew God’s law and his way and yet lived opposed to it.
The words friend of sinners was to put down the one who was confounding the religious practices of the day. Today we know these words as a life line. For all who are lost in the world and its ways, Jesus came for you. Jesus came for us.
Jesus called you friend.
Most will say thank you and amen and Jesus is Lord because we know this friendship. We rejoice in being a new creation because we were a sinner and were saved by grace.
We know how far we had fallen and are eternally thankful that God’s grace reached beyond our transgression.
When we think of the term, Jesus friend of sinners, we cry out hallelujah because that is our story.
The world has its ups and downs and things that just don’t make any sense. Don’t expect that to change. We have eyes to see how much God loves us.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
We are heading into a new year. This one is almost in the books. What will we do with the one to come?
We could just go with new year, same me.
We could set ambitious goals and resolutions.
We could check out of this Christianity business altogether. Sometimes it’s just a hassle.
We could keep our Christian label but sit on the sidelines and criticize. You can get yellow penalty flags with Amazon One Click.
Or we could go into the world being full of God’s love that we know in Christ Jesus not concerned about what the world says about us—not concerned about what the world has to say about us.
We could love like he loved and let the insults, cheap shots, and ridicule roll off as insignificant.
We can be a friend to sinners not by adopting their ways but by meeting them where they are and leading them to the love and salvation of God that we know in Christ Jesus.
This is a moment of so much potential. We seem predisposed to contemplate new things, resolutions, reinventing ourselves, and so much more as the new year approaches.
But what will we do? As this year draws to an end, let us all pray and meditate upon God’s word, and listen for his Spirit to speak to us.
Let’s take the rest of this year and prepare ourselves to respond to the love of God that we know in Christ Jesus in the year to come.
It’s a new year. It’s another chance to put our Master’s words into practice. It is an opportunity to love as Christ loved us. It’s a new year. Let’s make the most of it.
Let’s be known by our love.
Let’s take the love of God that we know in Christ Jesus to all, not just those that we think would be a good fit for us.
Let’s invite those who have rejected God or are apathetic to him to come and known him, his lordship, and his salvation.
Let’s invite the tax collectors and sinners to follow Jesus with us as we learn to be his disciples.
The new year is upon us. Let’s make a difference.