Ten Questions For The New Year

It’s quite possible that one can become wary of all the ‘new year’s resolutions’ with the start of a new year. I don’t believe they are evil. I just know there is a lot of hype that can usually go down the drain after a few weeks or even days.

With this, you can expect a plethora of pastors and other various church leaders to try and spur their people on to greater things in 2010. Of course I am up for seeing God’s people become active in serving, in ministry, but ultimately as God stirs. Yes, of course God can use us to stir God’s people. But we also must be led by Him, not because we see a bunch of holes to be filled during the week.

But, interestingly enough, just before the new year, I visited Justin Taylor’s blog over at the Gospel Coalition and saw ten questions to ask with the turn of a new year at hand. And though I am one to carefully guard against the new year hype, I thought these questions were actually quite pointed in helping us think about change that God might want to stir in our lives.

I post the questions below, but adapt them just a little bit for the sake of my blog:

  1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to strengthen the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline (prayer, fasting, meditation, study of Scripture, etc) do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your local church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to strengthen your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

I don’t suppose each one of us will have time to consider all ten questions. But maybe consider two or three that really stick out to you. Reflect on the questions, journal some answers, and spend time hearing from Him.

Be blessed this year.

Books To Read For 2010

A few days ago, I listed ten top books that I read in 2009. But in this post, I wanted to list some top books that I would like to read in the year 2010. They are in no particular order.

1. Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright (This is volume 2 of Wright’s series Christian Origins and the Question of God. Of course, I would like to read the two other volumes – The New Testament and the People of God and The Resurrection of the Son of God, but I am not sure if they will make 2010, since they are each massive works. I’d like to get into them all, but I’m just not sure. I believe there will be a total of six volumes in this series when it is completed.)

2. The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright by John Piper (I’ve read N.T. Wright’s book, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision. Now I want to go back and read Piper’s book, which was written prior to Wright’s book, though Wright has been speaking and writing on this for decades. I’ve blogged about the debate on the ‘new perspective’ here.)

3. Desiring God by John Piper (I’ve dipped into the first couple of chapters before, but I’d like to read it fully very soon.)

4. The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez (I originally read this two-volume work about seven years ago when I took two semesters of church history. But I am interested in reading and studying more on church history, so I want to go back and start with this work.)

5. The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View by Richard Tarnas (I originally read this in university in a philosophy class, but I want to go back and re-read it to refresh my memory in regards to the development of western thought, at least from a non-Christian’s perspective. I don’t think I paid too much attention to the book when I had to read it some ten years ago.)

6. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama (In 2009, I read Dreams From My Father, and blogged about it here. Now I want to follow up that book with his more recent title.)

7. Perelandra and That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (I started The Space Triology a couple of weeks back and posted some thoughts here. I plan to spend the early days of 2010 finishing out the series.)

8. The Fourth Book of The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (I read the third book, Brisingr, in 2009. I am now awaiting the fourth and final book to hopefully be released in 2010. I truly enjoy fantasy fiction!)

I’m sure there are others that will come up over the year, but that is a start for now. Should be some good and interesting reading.

A People of Change

The new year is upon us. And with such, there will no doubt be many new year’s resolutions set in place. I, personally, have never been one to really set such resolutions once the calendar rolls from December to January. I suppose there is nothing inherently wrong with declaring such intent for change, but I never really jumped on the band wagon. I have probably done so because of a few reasons:

  1. It’s such an American craze and I don’t want to get caught up in all the hype.
  2. It’s a way for commercialized American consumerism to take advantage of the post-holiday syndrome.
  3. Most aren’t good at keeping their resolutions, and thus, I probably wouldn’t be either.

Yet, pondering the move into a new year has recently provoked some particular thoughts deep within me. As I’ve considered God’s call for His people, His Bride, one thing I can conclude is that we are called to be a people of change.

A People of Change – it sounds like the slogan of a politician or words of a charisma-filled prosperity gospel preacher, right? But I don’t intend it to be. I am just realizing more and more that this is the call of God for His people. We are designed for change.

We would all agree that, when we came to Christ, we were changed into new people. This is powerfully communicated through these two passages below, two of my favorites in all of Scripture:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

Yet, though we sometimes wish it had ended there, our change does not conclude at our initial new birth into the kingdom. We are reminded of such truth when we consider the oft-quoted words of Paul:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

What happened within as we became new creations allows for us to, then, see God transform us continually through the renewing of our minds. This is what most people refer to as the process of sanctification. To be sanctified means we are set apart. So, in one sense, this has actually already taken place as those who are set apart in Christ. But in another sense, we know there is a constant work of sanctification being played out in our lives by a persistent God that wants us to live and walk like His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

As people of change, we should be ready to embrace words like renew, restore, return, and repent. To be honest, I believe that most people don’t have a good understanding of the word repent. Ask most Christians and they might describe repentance as someone down on their knees crying out to God for forgiveness. While this might be appropriate at times, the actual word repent (metanoia in Greek) literally means to change one’s mind or think differently. This is where we derive our English word metamorphosis from.

Thus, as people of change, we are to live in a perpetual state of repentance. Again, this does not mean self-loathing or always having to drop to one’s knees when confessing our sins. But it does mean that, as God reveals Himself and His ways to us, we ask Him to help us change where our thinking and life does not line up with Him. This is part of being ‘transformed by the renewing of our minds’. As one man put it:

‘Repentance is the informing and changing of the mind; the stirring and the directing of the emotions to urge the required change; and the action of the yielded will in turning the whole man away from sin and to God.’ (W.J.E Baxter, The Beginnings of Christian Life)

What an exciting journey we are on, and one can only declare it as exciting if they are already a new creation in Christ.

Yet, we also know our lives have one final change that will one day take place:

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

Then, and then only, will we be able to shout with the Scriptures: Death is swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54)!

So, my encouragement to us all is that, as the new year of 2009 approaches, we don’t have to get caught up in the craze of new year’s resolutions. But, let us remember that, though we serve One who never changes (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17), we have been called to be a people of change. That is our joyous lot in life. And the sooner we begin to embrace it, the sooner we will move forward into the future God has for us.

Below is a sermon I preached a few weeks back with a similar focus. You can also download the message from Cornerstone’s podcast site.