A Simple Plan for 2018
I have often mentioned in sermons and lessons that the Christian life is simple. Simple, that is, in understanding what we are called to do but not simple in the doing of that calling. It is hard to be faithful while the world, the flesh, and the devil conspire against us. But in spite of the difficulties it is a great mercy that the path is clear and God is not playing hide and seek with us. He tells us plainly where we are to go and how we are to get there. This is a great mercy.
It is part of our culture to think toward the new year in terms of accomplishments and reformations that have alluded us in years past. Diets are started, gym memberships are purchased, schedules are scheduled, and plans are made to do better and best. Most of these resolutions die at a young age, some rest until the next years reincarnation, and a few live and that is good. Many of those that fail, fail because there was no plan nor willingness to pay the price. This should not be the case as we think about following Christ with faithfulness and zeal. So, as we look once again at a coming new year we recognize that there is no real difference between today and January 1. There is no magic in the numbers on our calendar. But it can be useful to think forward. So as 2018 is about to invade our lives let’s think about a couple of things.
First, we must explore what we want to do. I will not labor this point much since it is one I have often touched on and I believe it is largely self-evident. The point is that people do what they want to do. If we do not want to do the things God has directed us to do then we will not do them. Attempts to stir up a bit of guilt to manipulate generosity, worship attendance, prayer, Bible study, evangelism will not produce a helpful and lasting change. People do what they want to do. What do we want to do? We need to put aside the religious talk and ask ourselves a question or two about our own desires. To examine ourselves and to plead with God that He would work is us a growing desire for what He is pleased with.
Second, if your desire is to grow in grace do the ordinary as the ordinary way you live your life. Do you want to be that soul that finds no happier place on this earth than the public worship of the church? Do you long for a prayer life that shakes the earth? Do you contemplate the joy of giving and supporting the work of the kingdom as a cheerful giver? Do you want to understand God better and love Him more? Do you long to love other saints and the lost in ways that you have not yet been able to? If so, the secret is no secret. The means toward such an end is the ordinary means of grace that God has given the church. For example:
- What can you do when worship seems to be so very unhelpful and more of a task than a pleasure. The answer is to do that which God has called you to. We begin not by just pushing through the service, like muscling through a bad meat loaf that that you have to get down. We begin by realizing that worship should be a delight if it is full of those things that Bible calls us to in worship. If the church is sound and the worship is biblical you should trust that as you are faithfully making use of worship God will reshape you so that those few hours of worship are the best of the week and a taste of heaven. Getting over the worship humdrums is not by spicing up that which God has called us to but by growing up by His means so we can enjoy “grown up” worship.
- What about when theology seems to get in the way of practical Christianity? I know, when you actually say or read such a statement it does seem silly but there is a great movement within our churches driving the church to connect with culture through compromise. The socialization and taming of the gospel continues, and the chickens of the social gospel have come home to roost. We must take a different path. We, like the Apostles, must jump head first into doctrine for only in knowing who God is and what He requires of us are we any good to the world around us. Oh….and would now be a good time to promote our upcoming study of Berkhof’s Summary of Christian Doctrine? Yep, I think so! We begin Jan 7 during Sunday School and will explore this great little book in 20 lessons. This study will be a good way to get to know the content of the Bible better and labor toward the renewing of your mind. You can pick up a copy of the book outside of the fellowship hall.
- What about everything else? We could give more examples, but the answer will be the same. If your desire is to grow in Christ, seeking to glorify God and enjoy Him forever than the path is the same no matter what your particular struggles or weaknesses. God has given means or tools by which we are to grow in grace. The chief means are Word, sacraments, and prayer. The context of these means is the local church and her worship. The empowerment of these means is the working of the Holy Spirit. And the end of these means is the expansion of the Kingdom of God in the lives of God’s people individually and cooperatively.
In conclusion, I wish for you a very ordinary year in 2018. I wish and pray for you that you will be filled with a desire to grow in grace and to see our church grow in grace and that because of those desires that you will pursue the ordinary means of grace. May it please God to enlarge your love for and use of His ordinary means of grace which have always been the means He makes use of in doing extraordinary things in the life of His church.
See Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 88-91 & 98-107 for some more ordinary thoughts.