New Year's Message
New Year Challenge
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
There are two worlds—two realities—and we cannot find our identity in both. As we move into this new year, maybe it’s a good time to be reminded of who we are and how we can live. I know it’s not a happy thought, but everything is going to decay and die. Nothing and no one is exempt. You can use the most expensive cosmetics, eat the best health food, have access to the top doctors, and exercise every day…but you are still going to die. This world is all going to pass away.
There is a second world. And it’s more real than this one. It will never pass away. Occasionally it breaks through in the laughter of a child, in the final moments before falling asleep, and in the silence. In one world, there is death; in the other world, there is life. In one world, there is decay; in the other world, there is growth. In one world, there is manipulation; in the other world, there is freedom. In one world, there is force; in the other world, there is power. In one world, there is self-interest; in the other world, there is love. In one world, there is termination; in the other world, there is eternity.
So how can you, as a Christian, live supernaturally in that second world?
If you’re a Christian, your identity is not in this world. It is found in Christ. You belong to him. There are only three areas where you can find your identity. You can find your identity within yourself, but how long can you continue to tell yourself, “I’m great, wonderful, important and valuable”? Someday that will fall apart. You can play that game but not for a lifetime.
You can find your identity in other people. I heard of a local Pastor who was delivering what he thought was a fantastic message. Half of the congregation started laughing and couldn’t compose themselves. He thought they were making fun of him—What did I do wrong? What did I say? He finally looked down to notice a lizard climbing up to the top of the pulpit…to stare him in the face. He thought, Oh, my terrible pride. When we base our identity on other people, we can get devastated.
Finally, you can find your identity in Jesus Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Your identity is in Christ. You are valuable because he died for you. Your identity is in another world, an eternal world. Therefore…Where you invest your effort counts. We are called to “seek those things which are above, where Christ is.” Importance is never measured by worth, but by action. If my identity is with Christ, then I’ll invest my effort in that. What is important to you? Don’t think about it. Do it.
We live, as it were, here in a small, cheap, one-room apartment…that is temporary. But our destination is a magnificent dream home. It will last forever. That is the direction of our effort. In light of these realities…perhaps as we start a New Year…Wouldn’t it be great if we spent some time alone with God? We would then be able to turn our thoughts to the ultimate issues of the other, eternal world. Take time to be quiet. Take time to be still before the throne. Take time to listen. Take time to put things into perspective in the light of God’s presence.
And further as we prepare ourselves for a New Year, let us also be flexible in our dealings with what comes our way. Moments of adversity will accompany our experiences of happiness and good fortune. Let us not lose sight of the fact that this world is not all there is… People will keep on dying until the clouds open up, the sky is torn asunder, the trumpets sound and the King of kings returns. He who has been our secret power source will then become the revealed power source of the entire universe.
Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). This means we shouldn’t be surprised by cancer, divorce, struggles with our kids, financial problems and the like. Jesus’ statement doesn’t stop there though: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
So laugh. Live in God’s love, grace and freedom. You have something to look forward to. The other world will invade this world. Jesus Christ will return.
What do we do in the meantime? “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Again what do we do in the meantime? We wait upon the Lord—and I personally cling all the more to my favorite verses in all of Scripture—which are true—physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles; They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:30-31