Lots of us make resolutions at the start of a New Year – we resolve to exercise more, eat less, work more efficiently, spend more time with our family, be a better person, [insert your life goal here]…
I could go on, but I think you get the point. This is a time of year for new beginnings; it’s a time for a fresh start. And, rightly I think, we want to make the best of it. The trouble is, at least for me anyway, my resolutions fail after a few weeks or months. It is a sad reality of the human condition that, in and of my own strength, I am really very weak.
But the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers a better way. At Christmas, we celebrate that God comes into the world in the person of Jesus to save us from sin and free us for everlasting life. The King of kings and Lord of lords breaks in to this messy and disordered world to clean it up and set it back to rights.
So, what does this have to do with my inability to not eat pie after dinner (it’s so delicious!!)?
As followers of Christ, we don’t need to spend our lives trying harder and hoping to be better; we have grace, which offers us a new and abundant life. Nothing we do can earn it; grace is the gift of God. Part of this Good News is that God gives us sure and certain means, or ways, of experiencing and knowing that grace – all of which is given that we may live a truly better life.
So, what are these ways of experiencing God’s grace and how can I utilize them to be a better dad, mom, son, daughter, husband, wife, or friend? Glad you asked – check out the list below:
1) Scripture – You can’t know God more deeply unless you spend time with him. Scripture is the inspired word of God revealing his heart to us. So, spend time with it and you’ll get to know God better. Wondering how to do this? There are lots of great resources available. The app YouVersion (Download Here: https://www.youversion.com/apps) has different reading plans and let’s you take scripture anywhere. I’m a big fan of the Daily Text over at Seedbed, a great resource to give you a few minutes of reflective time with God’s Word (www.seedbed.com/dailytext). Or, if you’re old school, spend about 20-30 minutes reading through the narrative every day. Start with the New Testament, then go back and read the Old Testament. You’ll be done in about 9 months, and much better for it. Whatever you do, don’t do it out of a sense of obligation – do it because you want to spend time with God.
2) Prayer – Everybody does it, believers and unbelievers alike, but we struggle with knowing how to do it well. Consistency, we seem to know intuitively, is key. But how do I pray well? Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in Matthew 6. We call this the Lord’s Prayer. That’s a great place to start (or finish), but at a basic level, prayer is just talking with God. It’s really as simple as that. Just talk with God. We have some great resources at the church to help you in this journey – so come on by and let us know if you’re interested.
3) Fellowship – We weren’t made to go through life alone. John Wesley, founder of Methodism in the 18th century once said,
“Directly opposite to this is the gospel of Christ. Solitary religion is not to be found there. ‘Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness.”
We need each other to go on this journey of following Jesus. I’ll talk about this more in the future, and stayed tuned for our upcoming series, “The Journey”. I’ll leave it at this for now – the quality of our Christian relationships will say a lot about the quality of our Christian life.
4) Fasting – Seriously?! Who does that unless you have to? But this practice of fasting – whether from meals, certain foods, certain activities or behaviors – has strong scriptural and historic roots for a reason. In denying myself something (anything might do), I am taking the focus off myself and placing it on the reason for the denial. If you’re fasting because you have a colonoscopy tomorrow (I’m sorry, but good luck with that!), odds are you’re focused on that procedure. If you’re fasting because you want to know God more intimately, odds are you’ll be focused on Him and it might be a great time to talk with him (or listen – also known as prayer).
5) Worship – It is essential for us, as the Church, to come together and worship God as a community. It is a reminder that every week (every moment really) his grace is new and fresh. We are equipped for the journey of life together, as a community, so that we can join in his mission together, as a community.
I’m looking forward to walking through this New Year with you. One of the things our church leadership desires is to equip you to live the Christian life. Let us know if you have any comments or questions – we’re happy to help any way we can!