It’s a New Year
I’m sure you may be tired of hearing it, but another year is in the books and now is the time of year we all do our annual New Year’s resolutions, which I’m sure more than a handful have already been broken – it is the 4th day of the year already!
Granted, perhaps many of you have given up on New Year’s resolutions – I understand how enough years of broken and meaningless resolutions would make you give up on the whole tradition. But you have to at least understand why millions of us at least TRY each year.
When we take a moment to think about what’s important to us, where we want to focus our time, our energy, our priorities, we often realize that what we want to be doing with our lives is slightly different than what we ARE doing. Over the past year, since we made our last resolutions, we drifted away from the activities, practices, and priorities we know are best for us to instead do other activities.
Maybe in 2014 you wanted to be a more patient mom, increase sales for your company, read the Bible daily, or lose those extra pounds. But instead you never found the time of the energy to do those things.
- Instead, you attended all your kids activities, but that just created a hectic schedule which wore out your patience and you were still the quick-tempered mom at the years end.
- Or perhaps instead of reading the Bible or exercising daily, you slept in so that you weren’t so darn tired. But you are also another 2 pounds heavier and no closer in your relationship to Jesus than when 2014 began.
And nobody faults you for not sticking with your resolutions, because if we judged you for it, we too would be judged! And its not like we didn’t accomplish these things because we wasted all our time – but we did sacrifice what’s best for something less. And in drifting away from what was best for us, we likely find ourselves not exactly where we want to be. We still wish we were better parents, better spouses, more successful employees, a couple pounds lighter, and closer to Jesus.
And for that reason, our series for the next 3 weeks is titled RENEW. To Renew something means to resume an activity or state after an interruption. We’ve each had some success doing the things we want to get better at. But we need to renew our commitment to those things and continue to grow in those areas. So when we focus on renewal these next 3 weeks, we are going to be talking about intentionally putting our focus and priorities back where they belong, where they once were, but for perhaps a couple months or a couple years have drifted to something else – something less than what’s best for our lives.
Today we are going to talk about Renewing the Person. That’s a fancy way of saying we want to focus on helping you live the life Jesus wants you to live in a way that starts with the letter P. And hopefully that is something we all think about this time of year. Does your life match up with how Jesus lived? Or are you constantly challenged by temptations and struggles which make life more difficult than you ever imagined.
- Your home is more chaos and war than kindness and peace
- You constantly struggle with temptations of lust, or greed, or gluttony
- You feel inadequate in every aspect of life and worthless to your family and God
Many of us have struggles in our lives we want to fix once and for all. But we have tried to make changes for the better over and over and nothing seems to work. And I know a least some of you are hoping that today I can offer the magic bullet to get you over the hump in your own life. I mean, don’t we all want to know, how do you change an established pattern in your life like fighting at home, constant cravings, or feelings of worthlessness.
This is a question almost everyone thinks about. And the good news is, I think I found an answer. And it jives with research, my experiences, and best of all, God’s Word.
Renewal of Your Spirit
Today we are going to look at one of the high points of the Old Testament. I know what you might be thinking, “of course, an Old Testament story when Ryan preaches.” I do have to say, I love preaching obscure Old Testament stories. In fact, Ive been asked several times how we decide who preaches what messages and basically Brent takes all the New Testament, I take all the obscure Old Testament, and Amy fights us both for anything about Love or the Kingdom of God.
Back to the Old Testament. Turn in your Bibles to 2 Kings 22.
Now if you recall, the story of the Old Testament is how God is setting apart his people to live differently than all the other nations of the world. He sets the Israelites free from the Egyptians, he does the fighting for them as they march into the Promised Land and defeat all the nations living there. Then God allows them to have a king and King David leads them to continued military victories and prosperity. But then the books of 1 and 2 Kings record all the Kings of Israel from David until they are defeated and no longer have any more kings. And notice, we are picking up the story towards the end of 2 Kings, so a lot of time as passed. In fact, we are going to read about Josiah, the 18th King of Judah, who reigned over 300 years after King David. And over those 300 years, the kings of Judah progressively became more and more wicked, leading the people to worship other gods.
And that’s where we pick up this story from 2 Kings 22. Read verses 1-2
So the story starts with Josiah, an 8 year old boy made king. But we know something good is going to happen in this story, because it tells us he “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord”
I’ll paraphrase verses 3-7 for you. It says that when Josiah was 26 years old, he decided they needed to do some repair work on the temple. The carpets were stained, the the paint had grown dingy, and the lighting dated the place back a couple decades! So he told the high priest to count the offerings collected from the people and to give it to the carpenters so they can get busy on the repairs.
And now join me at verse 8: Read 2 Kings 22:8-11
Isn’t this amazing! The Law of Moses had been lost in the temple and the king who has reigned for 18 years had never even heard about it. And when it was finally read to him, he tore his clothes in utter despair for what he heard.
But what’s more amazing is that he doesn’t just feel incredible guilt for how he knows he and his nation have been breaking God’s commands, but he RESPONDS to that feeling of conviction in an incredible way. Chapter 23 tells of how Josiah gathered everybody living in Judah and read the book of the Law to them. And he made a covenant with God in front of everybody to follow all the commands in the book.
And then the story becomes like a Hollywood action movie where a scorned man gets revenge on everybody who has wronged him. Except Josiah gets crazy against everyone and everything who has wronged God. He’s knocking down statues of Baal, Molech, and Chemosh made by the kings before him, he’s grinding their altars to dust and sprinking them over human graves. He’s burning the chariots of the sun god, he’s smashing the altars to other Gods that had actually been erected in the courtyard of the temple! And then after he breaks everything, he makes sure to defile them all by covering them with human bones.
This story is so fascinating to me for a number of reasons:
- What 26 year old listens when somebody tells them they are doing something wrong and actually changes their behavior. That’s our first clue that Josiah is unusual.
- The level of repentance that Josiah shows is extraordinary. He doesn’t just say, “Sorry God. We’ll try to do better.” No – he smashes every idol he can find and destroys them so much that they cannot easily return to those idols again.
- And more fascinating to me is why he makes all these drastic changes – simply because of the reading of the Law of Moses in his presence. Josiah was confronted with what God demanded of his covenant people and he responded!
My Own Renewal
While I say this is fascinating how Josiah responded to the simple knowledge of God’s word, I shouldn’t be surprised.
Several months ago, Michelle and I made changes to our family’s diet. Real changes that actually have lasted and are showing results for all of us (except Wilson, if he lost weight he would disappear). Now this isn’t the first diet we have ever tried, but it’s the first diet we have stuck with for over 3 months. But what made this diet work better for us isn’t what it includes or doesn’t include – it’s the reason behind why we started it. Normally, we start dieting each January because our pants are too tight. So we decide to try harder. And shortly after we begin, we give up. But this time we began our diet as the result of watching numerous documentaries about the effects of food in our lives. Thanks Netflx! I’ll never eat a Big Mac again. This experience changed how we think about food and therefore it has changed what we eat.
This is where this ties in with our story about Josiah – when he encountered God’s law – when he saw what God expected of him as King and of his people as God’s chosen people, he knew they had to change.
Here’s the point: Changes in our behavior begin with changes in our thinking.
- Josiah ended all idol worship because he thought differently about God’s demands.
- I eat healthier because I think differently about food.
- And you will change habits in your life when you see things how God sees things.
What Do You Need to Renew this Year
That’s right, I think most of the resolutions we set for ourselves have a better chance of being accomplished if we have a better idea of how God sees the situation and spend time with Jesus letting him change our thoughts and therefore our behaviors.
- If you want 2015 to be the year you give up pornography once and for all – you need to see women with new eyes – the way God sees them as daughters who simply want love. When you start to see naked women on a glowing screen like that, then all the allure will be lost.
- If you want 2015 to be the year your marriage finally turns a corner – you need to examine yourself against how Jesus lived. You need to evaluate if you love your spouse the way the Bible describes love in 1 Corinthians 13.
- If you want financial freedom and tighter control on your spending – you need to learn to think differently about money. To see money the way the Bible teaches you to see it.
Just like Josiah, if we want to live the life God designed us for, we need to know what he wants for us. Many, not all, but many of our resolutions are probably good things God wants for us, but we have to stop trying to do them on our own.
We have to let God renew us. He will teach us how to achieve what’s best for us. He will renew our thoughts. He will give us eyes to see how he sees. so that in the end, our behavior is more like Jesus, and isn’t that the New Years resolution each one of us should be setting?
But the problem is, a lot of you are like Josiah in that you simply don’t know what God wants for you. You come to church… maybe less than you used to. You read the Bible… once in a great while. You attend your small group… on again, off again. The bottom line is that you no longer spend enough time with Jesus in Bible reading and meditation to truly know where your life doesn’t match up with what God wants for you. So you do your own thing in ignorance – just like Josiah before he received the law AGAIN. And just like hearing the law read renewed Israel’s faithfulness to God, I believe that more time spent reading and chewing on God’s Word to us will renew our lives in ways we don’t even understand.
The other problem many of you face is that you read God’s Word over and over, but unlike Josiah, you fail to act on it. You know what it says, but it doesn’t bring repentance to your life like it did for Josiah. You don’t mourn over your sin and tear down the idols in your life. Instead you are like the more wicked kings of Israel who knew what God’s Word said but failed to act on it.
And if you find yourself in either of these situations – not spending enough time with Jesus or spending the time but not allowing it to change how you think and how you live, then you need to repent. And Josiah is a great model for us to follow. He mourned his sin and then he made major changes so the people couldn’t fall back into their same habits of sinning. We need to do the same thing. Mourn our sin, our ignorance or indifference, and then put changes in place.
- Go to bed earlier and set the alarm earlier to read your Bible each morning.
- Join a small group so you will have accountability for your life in Christ.
- Setup a Bible reading plan on your phone to help you remember to spend time with God.
Now we don’t often push Bible reading on you here at Ashworth, for a number of reasons.
- Nobody is going to join Jesus in heaven because they read through the Bible in a year. Nor is anybody going to miss heaven because they didn’t
- Many of you have already heard numerous sermons about why you should read your Bible and so you beat yourself up about not reading the Bible enough already. You don’t need us to remind you of your failures.
- I have historically been terrible at making daily time to read the Bible, so I would feel like a total hypocrite if I pushed you to do something I didn’t even do – as your PASTOR!
But today, I’m going to make a big push for encouraging each of you to get into your Bibles more this year. And I am doing this for 1 BIG reason, a reason that trumps all the reasons we have avoided doing this in the past – Spending time with Jesus is how you become more like Jesus. And studies have shown that regular time spent reading and chewing on the Bible is the mostcommon trait shared by people who are growing in their faith.
So what does that mean for us today? We want to everyone who calls Ashworth Road home to make a resolution to renew their mind through regular Bible reading and prayer – through an increased time spent with Jesus. Just like Josiah called all the Isrealites together to renew their covenant with God – we want all of us to recommit ourselves to spending daily time with Jesus.
And we really want to support you in doing this, all year long. Fortunately, this is an area where new-fangled technology can actually come to our rescue. Did you know your smart phone is actually good for things other than watching silly videos of cats on youtube?
Bible App – raise your hand if you already have a Bible app on your smart phone. Now bonus points if you have the app on your home screen. Congratulations!
- Now, if you have a smart phone – an iPhone or Android, any phone with a full-sized touch screen, there is a free app simply called the Bible App created by LifeChurch which is the most popular Bible app in the world. You can get it by going to bible.com on your phone and choosing download. As of right now, it has over 165 million downloads!
- AND, it has Bible reading plans that tell you what to read each day, remind you to read each day, and keep track of your progress and highlights.
- I want to encourage everyone with a smart phone to download the Bible app if they don’t already have it and sign up for the Love Renovation 21 Day Bible Reading Plan. This plan has you read just one chapter a day, but they are key chapters for Jesus to speak to you about how to live and be more like him.
- And to encourage us all to do this together, as a staff we will be including this in our weekly email, our church blog, and facebook. We really want all of us to do this together!
We recognize all the technology in the world won’t help you stay on track with reading the Bible unless you also have people encouraging you to stay on the path. And that’s why this entire year you are going to hear more from us as a staff talking about reading the Bible and spending time with Jesus than we have before. It is the most important thing we can do as a community of believers because, as we spend time with Jesus, we act like Jesus. And over time, we will be a more loving, more giving, more encouraging, and more caring community. And West Des Moines will be affected by the change in our actions being reflected by the renewal of our minds.
We all want 2015 to be a great year. We hope to be happy, healthy, and successful. My challenge to you, is to recognize that the condition of our soul, and therefore your mind, is the most important area of life for you to focus on transforming. If you want to be more like Jesus, you have to think more like he thinks. And to think like Jesus means spending time with Jesus – which means making time to be with him in Bible reading and prayer. And not only will that bring a transformation to your life, it will transform your marriage, your parenting, how you manage employees, and how you show concern for your neighbors and even strangers.
So the one resolution I really, really want you to keep this year, is to spend more time with Jesus in the Bible and prayer. If you change that, everything else will follow.