New Year Sermon 2019: “A Resolution Worth Keeping,” Colossians 3:12-17, December 30 1018

“A Resolution Worth Keeping,” Colossians 3:12-17

What do the King of Pop and likely the most profound theologian every produced in America have in common? What does the late Michael Jackson and Congregational Pastor, Jonathan Edwards have in common? On the surface one may struggle even to find any, even one, similarity. They were born more than three centuries apart. I have no idea what Michael Jackson’s faith life was like but I know Edwards was a profound theologian and a passionate lover of God. They came from vastly different worlds and no doubt had vastly different perceptions of what mattered most in the world and in themselves. However, I know this one thing that they held in common in their lifetimes. They both knew that change in the world, while they certainly would have defined that change differently, as beginning with each person individually – change starts with me. They knew that.

Michael Jackson sang, “I'm starting with the man in the mirror.” Every time I hear that song my mind and heart are back the late 1980’s when I was an uncompromising idealistic kid. Everything was possible. Every time I hear that song I recall joining with other students as we used hammers and crowbars to destroy a mockup of the Berlin Wall at the center of the school campus. That song came out at a time when the world was changing and I was young and idealistic.

Music impacted me as a boy. It has been theologians and pastors from the Reformation, like Jonathan Edwards as an adult. As a young man he set out to define his way. He penned resolutions by which he and many others since sought to live their lives. In resolution twenty four (of 70) Edwards writes “Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.”

In other words, Jonathan Edwards, perhaps the most profound and important Christian philosopher and theologian ever produced in America, resolved to start with the man in the mirror. Edwards recognized that there would be no change in the world unless it started in his world. That is a resolution worth keeping.

CIT / CIS: Starting with me: I resolve to be more resolved. Like Edwards, whether we are 2 or 102, let’s resolve to start in the mirror this year. God change me! …

The central idea of the Scripture text is simple: put on the virtues of the new life that you have in Christ. This is a message to believers to abandon preconceptions about yourself, other people, what matters in the world, what the outcome of the future will or should be, and cloth yourselves with Christ.

The central idea of this sermon is likewise straightforward and simple. God is calling each of His children not to control other people, not first to change the world, but to start with me. The only world I control lives inside of me.

The same is true for every “me” among us. I can’t change you. I can’t control the people in my life. I can barely control anything in this world completely or even partially. You and I have to start right here. God says “Be Transformed.”

We’re going to focus on resolution 24 from Jonathan Edwards and this passage of Scripture which contains the means and the specific ways to apply it.

“Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.”

When I observe sin in myself, either of direct action or omission of that to which God has called me to personally or commanded in Scripture, I will trace back that evil to its original cause in me and carefully seek not to continue in sin and to pray for God to remove the particular cause of the sin. (Pride, pain, lack of faith, etc.)

He wasn’t talking about removing temptations, but strengthening the temped. “There is an absolute and universal dependence of the redeemed on God. The nature and contrivance of our redemption is such, that the redeemed are in every thing directly, immediately, and entirely dependent on God: they are dependent on him for all, and are dependent on him every way.”

There is a level of intentional introspection required to make such a resolution that is in short supply in our day in the church and that is in wont of rediscovery.
The late evangelist Leonard Ravenhill said “Nobody else can give you a clean heart but God.” The key to getting a clean heart from God in more than a figurative way is recognition that (a) it is supernatural and (b) we need it! In the text for today the Scripture says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…” (v.12)

I’m convinced that many of us, at the heart, the core of our understanding of ourselves, do not see ourselves as the chosen ones of God. Here’s what I mean.

We may have wrestled with what it means to chosen by God in terms of the method of salvation. We may have discussed how God saves. What does it mean to be the elect? What part does our will play in salvation? What part does God’s?

I’m not talking about theological dialogue that is often a distraction from theological implications. You can know everything the Bible and classical theologians say about how God saves who He saves; but what about God’s purpose today in your life and mine since He has saved us? Paul is here speaking to those who are saved. If we are saved then what is our consequent purpose?

What do the young people see as the consequence of our faith? Are we moral people? Or are we set aflame with the Holy Spirit – unafraid to follow Jesus out loud in the world with Christ at the center? What does the world see of the consequence our having the life of Christ in us? Discuss and debate how God saves if you like… I’d far rather being living boldly because I’m saved!

Show me a church where each man and woman has resolved to resolved to hunt for sin in themselves first and I’ll show you a people of God known by love and good works; with a reputation for compassion, humility, meekness, and love!

“Why, in America the Church is more concerned about separation of Church and State than we are separation of Church from sin.” What part of your life is presently off limits to the light of Christ? Where in your house is He not allowed? The kitchen? Are you more concerned with earthly delights than delight in Him? The living room? Is entertainment crowding out room for worship and the Bible?

What part of our lives is He not allowed? Where in our lives is the light of Christ not allowed?! Be resolved this year to start at our own heart to see God’s power…

“A man starting a fish business put out his sign that read, "Fresh Fish For Sale Today" and invited all to visit his place of business on opening day. Many came and congratulated him on his new business, but one suggested that he change his sign. “Why the ‘Today’? It is today.” So he removed the “Today”. Someone else said, “Why, ‘For Sale’? Everybody knows you have fish for sale – or else why the store?" The words “For Sale” came off the sign. Another said, “Why the word ‘Fresh’? You are a man of integrity and that guarantees your fish to be fresh.” “Fresh” came off the sign. Only one word was left, “Fish” and one complained about it. “I smelled your fish two blocks away.”

Try to satisfy everybody and you and I will end up pleasing nobody. The man should have put up his sign and then stood by it. This is what we are to do in life. Accept God’s will for our lives, to be transformed, and stand on His promises.

Be resolved to be resolved to start with me. Make a resolution worth keeping. Resolve not to please others or to please ourselves. Rather, to find the fullness of our pleasure and satisfaction in pleasing Him. And in that pleasure we will find it true that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Amen.


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