January is known world wide as a month of new beginnings. Each year, people from all over the globe make new commitments, vows, and resolutions to achieve, attain, or aspire towards a certain goal. Unfortunately, if we as humans are defined by anything, it must be our predictability. As the routine goes, these new promises are made on January 1st, and a great majority of them fizzle out months or sometimes weeks later. If and when this happens, we then set our sights on January 1st of the next year and vow to whole heartedly commit again. And so the cycle continues. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
It is a fine thing to have aspirations. We aspire to get in better health. Or to finally get our finances under control. Or to make amends with estranged family or friends. All of these things under the sun are well and good. However, there can be no greater aspiration than to know the living God of the universe. Each new year these resolutions are made. And more times than not, our resolutions revolve around benefiting us in some form or manner. Attaining a better body, more money, better relationships, etc. But how many are concerned with re-centering their lives around God rather than themselves?
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17.
Honestly, the new year should be less about self improvement and more about self examination spiritually speaking. To read a verse like the one above should send shockwaves through our souls. It should cause us to question every intention of our hearts. Do we as Christians do everything in the name of the Lord? Are we so consumed with the glory of God, that we try to live our lives in light of the reality of Calvary? Have we grown so dull in our knowledge of the Lord that we have begun to buy into the idea that we are Christian because we profess it with our lips? Yet our lives at times expose our words to be empty.
The verse is staggering the more we begin to take it to heart. Not only are we to do everything in the name of the Lord, but we are to give Him thanks for everything! When Lacy and I were first married, I was smitten as any man could be by her. We were both young, and every aspect of life together was new. I remember one of the first meals she cooked for us was breakfast. Eggs and toast. The outcome was disastrous. The toast was extra crispy and the eggs were almost inedible. But I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that she cooked me breakfast. She didn’t have to do that. And I certainly didn’t deserve it. Just the knowledge that she cared enough about me to do this for me was enough to send floods of thankfulness through my heart. I didn’t tell her how bad the meal was. It told her how thankful I was for her.
As the years of marriage have gone on, Lacy has become a wonderful cook. Yet I find myself not always thanking her for the wonderful meals she prepares for our family like I did when we were first married. Why is that? Because her grace has become common place to me. Its not that I don’t appreciate it, but Ive grown used to it. More shameful than that, I find in myself that Ive grown to expect her gracious meals daily.
The grace of God is the greatest gift we could ever ask for. God the Father crushing Christ the Son on the cross in our place and for our sins should never cease to captivate us. When the Christian first has his eyes opened to this reality of the grace of God, he is driven to his knees in gratitude for the great sacrifice of our Lord. And rightly so. But as times goes on, if we are not constantly renewed through prayer and scripture reading, the grace of God becomes common place.
We can easily cease to be in awe of the common graces God bestows upon our lives such as family, food, and merely the air we breath. Rather, we begin to expect them from God. We incessantly demand that God bless us with His grace. And we grow angry at God when he seems to with hold blessings instead of remembering that God owed us nothing but His wrath due to our sins. And that everything this side of Hell itself is a gracious, undeserved gift from the Lord.
One of the greatest sins that man can infringe upon is to allow the grace of God to just become common in his life. And this happens when we begin to think that we are self reliant. Jesus gave the parable of the vine and the branches in John 15. The powerful truth is laid out plainly in just a few words by Jesus;
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5.
As R.C. Sproul rightly once said, “That nothing that Jesus spoke of is not a little something.” By nothing, Jesus literally meant nothing. The breath we breath is a gift from God. The food we eat is made available by the grace of God. Even the next beat of our own hearts is dependent and obedient to the will of the Lord. Even in our desire to preach the Gospel for the Glory of God, the results are not dependent on our own efforts, but upon the power of Christ alone.
One of my favorite passages of scripture and one that I refer to quite often is Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones. In the passage, the Lord gives Ezekiel a vision of a valley full of human bones. Not only were the bones dead and lifeless, but they were dry. The Lord asks Ezekiel how could the bones live once again. Ezekiel had no solution except to say, “Lord only you know.”
Ezekiel’s audience was a valley of innumerable skeletons. Even with the most eloquent of words and flawless of sermons, upon his closing prayer, those bones would not have responded to the message Ezekiel preached. They couldn’t. The Lord asked Ezekiel to preach to the bones the words of the Lord, and life was given to them supernaturally by the Lord.
Ezekiel had no part in their resurrection other than speaking the words that God had given him. God is the one who brought them to life. Today we have many Christians who falsely believe themselves a great tool in the hand of the Lord. I once heard a pastor say that there is no such think as great men of God. Only weak and broken men of a great God.
If you were to continue to study the life of Ezekiel, you would see that he was not only a man who prophesied, but he was also a man of prayer. Let this be a lesson to us preachers of His word. It wasn’t the preaching of Ezekiel that raised the dead to life. It was his dependence upon the Lord and his communion with Him through prayer prompted God to work through his preaching.
Many a church today can have religion. They can have the most scholarly of men stand in their pulpits and preach impeccably from the scriptures and preach the most captivating sermons. But if the preacher is not a man of prayer, then his words will be that of a man preaching to a congregation of dry bones. It takes the power of God to bring the spiritually dead to life. And it takes a man who acknowledges his total inability and full dependence on the Lord in order for God to work through him. The church doesn’t need more charismatic preachers. And it doesn’t need more doctrine espoused from the pulpit. What the church needs is more modern day prophets on their knees.
Perhaps this new year should less centered on self and more centered on God. The only way to see the power of God is to cease to rely on the arm of the flesh. Giving thanks to Him who gave to the undeserved unconditional grace. This year, no matter if we eat or drink, or whatever we do, let us do everything for the glory of God in all things pertaining to life and ministry.