Sunday, January 8, 2017

Priorities for the New Year - Matthew 6:25-34

Last week I shared with you some verses from Matthew 5 and started 2017 by discussing How to Have a Happy New Year. We saw that if you want to be really, truly happy then you have to be humble in your attitude toward yourself, sin and God. I'm going to follow that up today with Priorities for the New Year.

The beginning of the year is a great time to make some adjustments in your life. You might look at it like an annual checkup or tune up. And the reality is that some of us might need a complete overhaul. Now...the temptation we often have around New Years is to try to manufacture all these changes ourselves. We try to muster the inspiration and motivation to change areas of our life with which we are unhappy. And, as most of us know, sometimes it only takes a few days or weeks until we don't even remember what we were trying to accomplish in the first place. I don't think I'm the only one who struggles with the whole memory thing...

I read about a man who moved into a retirement community to spend the rest of his life there. It wasn't long until he had made a number of friends. There was one lady he was especially attracted to, and she was attracted to him as well. They spent a lot of time together and finally, one evening he proposed, asking her to marry him.

The next morning, he woke up and remembered his proposal, but he couldn't remember her answer. So he approached his lady friend and said, "I'm really embarrassed. I proposed to you last night but I can't remember if you said ‘Yes' or ‘No.'" "Oh, thank goodness!" she replied. "I remembered saying ‘Yes' but I couldn't remember who asked me."

You know...we too can forget some important spiritual things quite easily as we move through life. So today, I want to keep things really simple and give you a few things found in Matthew 6 that will help us make important changes in our lives...with God's help...in 2017.

TRUST IN GOD'S LEADERSHIP

Did you know when the Bible talks about the Kingdom of God it's talking about His leadership and authority? Listen folks...He is not simply our adviser...He is our King and we need to recognize His rule over all things and choose to follow His leading. When we refuse to do things God's way, we are moving in the opposite direction of the Kingdom of God.

When Jesus taught the disciples, He told them to pray, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Seeking the kingdom of God first means that we are seeking to do His will, yielding every area of our lives to what He wants, rather than what we want. So do some self-examination today. Is God ruling in your life? Is He the Boss? Who is in control?

Does God have the final say in your finances? Are you honoring Him as Your Provider? When He says, "Bring your tithes to My house, trusting Me to provide for every need," do you show trust or doubt? Are you being honest in all your financial dealings? Even in your taxes? Listen...this is God's will for His people. Are you always trying to get something for nothing, regardless of who comes out on the short end of the stick? Are you more motivated by financial gain than financial integrity? Is God leading in your finances?

Does God have the final say in your relationships? Do you love people unselfishly, looking out for their best interests...especially those interests that last beyond this lifetime? Listen folks...God wants us to value everyone, knowing they are created in His image. That leaves no room for using other people for what we can get out of them. God wants us to get to know people, recognizing the value He has placed in them, and helping bring them into a relationship with Him! Is God leading in your relationships?

Does God have the final say on how you spend your time? How much time do you spend with Him in prayer and Bible study? Do you spend enough quality time with your family? And listen...I understand that we all need time for ourselves, but that should NOT be our first priority. Is God leading in how you spend your time?

How about your talents and gifts? God has equipped you to do certain things for Him and to do those well. These things help the church function just as God intended through teaching, helping, giving, serving, comforting, encouraging, sharing your faith and all the other areas of ministry. Does God have the final say on how, when and where you use those gifts?

I know I've just thrown a lot at you and you might be thinking...now preacher you've gone from preaching to meddling. So I guess it's either amen or oh me! But folks...please don't get overwhelmed by all this. Spend some time thinking and praying and writing down some of your thoughts about areas of your life where God challenges you. Maybe start with one thing that God brings to your mind and work with Him on a game plan for change in your life.

Make it your habit to follow God's leading in every area of your life. As you pray each day, ask the Lord to show you His will in all these different areas. Listen to a couple of my favorite verses... Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Trust in God's Leadership...

TRUST IN GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS

I think all of us know what the Bible says about human righteousness. Paul said this in Romans 3:9-12, "Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

So how can we as sinful human beings be made righteous? Wow...that's a great question! Paul makes this very clear in both Romans and Galatians. He says that righteousness comes by faith in God. It comes by believing what He said, which is expressed in our lives by obeying what He said. Faith believing always produces a heart change, and the heart change always produces a change in our behavior.

What is it that we must believe? What has God said to us that will make us righteous? Let me give you just a few of the many, many verses that give us the answer...

John 1:12, "To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

Romans 4:20-25, "Yet he (talking about Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why it was credited to him as righteousness. The words 'it was credited to him' were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

Romans 10:9,10 and 13, "If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Wow!!! Is that awesome or what? So having genuine faith in God...believing in the redemptive work of Jesus at Calvary...and then following His will makes us righteous. Listen folks... genuine faith always expresses itself in an outward expression of love and good works. If someone says, "I believe," but doesn't obey God, they've missed something along the way. Paul said that we are a new creation in Christ and James wrote that faith without works is dead. Understand this...according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, God's righteousness makes us new people in Christ! The old way of living is gone! Everything becomes new. Trusting in God's righteousness means believing God and living like we believe Him! God Himself is the One who will help us do right things through His Word and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Trust in God's leadership...trust in God's righteousness...

TRUST IN GOD'S PROVISION

You wanna know what that means? It means don't worry! Listen folks...as our economy declines and gas prices rise to who knows where and groceries and utilities increase, we might feel the urge to worry about all that but here in our verses from Matthew 6, Jesus said NOT to worry 3 different times.

Those who trust God should devote themselves to seeking Him...seeking His leadership over every area of their lives, and seeking His righteousness. When we prioritize doing life God's way and honoring Him, then we can claim this promise, "All these things will be given to you as well."

I hope you will spend some time and take a good look at your life. Look back over the past year and evaluate the direction of your life. Do the priorities of your life line up with God's will? If the course of your life doesn't include Jesus, He can and will help you set a new course today...if you let Him.

Matthew 6:33 "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

So as we start 2017, let me encourage and challenge you to Trust in God's Leadership, Trust in God's Righteousness and Trust in God's Provision.