In this sermon, Pastor Neil talks about New Year resolutions and how they should be undertaken as an expression of gratitude to God in an activist Christian life. Here are some excerpts:
… You could say that by nature, the Christian life is an activist life. It calls for action. It involves both believing and doing. We must believe the gospel, receive and embrace the message of the gospel by faith, and come to Jesus and receive from Him the gift of salvation– the gift of forgiveness, the gift of peace with God, the gift of a new identity and a new relationship with God. All of which is a gift of His grace and not dependent on anything we have ever done or will ever do.
Our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. You cannot be saved by anything you do. The message of Christianity is not: “Do this or that in order to earn God’s blessing or favor.” The message of Christianity is: “Jesus has done it all. He has done everything necessary for your salvation. Simply receive Him and the gift of salvation He offers by faith in Him.”
The activist nature of the Christian life is not about making yourself acceptable to God. The activist nature of the Christian is about how we respond to the fact that Jesus has made us acceptable to God through His death on the cross for us. Do you see that? The doing to which the Bible calls us as followers of Jesus is to be our response to what Jesus has done for us. So, even the resolutions we make, if we choose to make New Year’s resolutions, are not undertaken to make ourselves acceptable in God’s sight. Instead, they are ways that we can express our gratitude to God, our love for God, and our devotion to God in view of what He has done for us. Your dignity and value as a person do not depend on how well you keep New Year’s resolutions, or any set of rules.
In the verses we read from Hebrews 12, the writer of Hebrews – one biblical scholar (Douglas Webster) likes to call him “the pastor,” because the Epistle to the Hebrews can be viewed as a lengthy sermon or pastoral letter – focuses on how we are to live our lives in light of what Jesus has done for us and the fact that we are “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” (12:1), meaning men and women who have gone before us in the faith, who have faithfully run the race marked out for them, and finished the race. Hebrews 11 gives an accounting of some of those saints who have gone before us, who served God’s purposes in their own generation (Acts 13:36).
Think about this great cloud, this vast crowd of witnesses whose lives and legacies and testimonies to God’s faithfulness can encourage us. It includes the patriarchs and matriarchs of God’s people, prophets and priests, apostles, missionaries, martyrs, preachers, evangelists, teachers, “salt of the earth” Christians, departed family members, and pillars of our church, whom some of you knew and loved… who have gone on before us to their home in heaven. Do you see what a rich heritage we have in this great cloud of witnesses? And how important it is for each of us to run with faithfulness the race God has marked out for us, just as they ran their race and witnessed to God’s faithfulness?