Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sermon-12/31/06--Out With the Old, In With the New

At the beginning of a New Year, there is often a lot of assessment going on and resolutions.

10 Most Uncommon & Unreasonable Resolutions

10. To not read a single book, newspaper or magazine all year

9. To fail at or leave incomplete every task I begin

8. To be miserable and try to make everyone around me as well

7. To be totally uninformed on all issues going on in the world

6. To lose 5 friendships this year

5. To gain 50 pounds of fat

4. To be as sick as possible for as long as possible

3. To get fired and remain unemployed all year

2. To sabotage my marriage

1. To live my life as if God doesn’t matter

The New Year is dawning—but there is a great temptation to bring as much of the past into the new year as possible. What this effectively does is maintain the status quo and keep things much the same. And if you’ve had a rough year, then bringing the past with you will likely keep this coming year rough too. And if you’ve had a great year, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to preserve that greatness by carrying over as much as possible.

In Mark 2, Jesus was asked a question about fasting. In part of His reply He says—“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins."

Contextually, Jesus has been questioned about fasting in regard to the rules and regulations that governed the lives of the faithful under the religious system in Judaism. The life that Jesus brings to live cannot be contained in that old system. Jesus brings them a new life and a new blessing from God—a new way of living that and relating to God.

And there is a great message for us as well as we enter the new year. Do we pour this new year into a new wineskin or will we try to put the new year into last year’s wineskin? But first we need to realize that it’s time for a replacement.

It’s Time to Replace the Old Wine

Not even wine could be kept permanently—I’m sure there was a way they could tell when to throw it out. For me, there’s nothing I hate worse than a flat soda. You buy your 2 Liter of Coke or Dr. Pepper in my case, you open it up, drink maybe half of it, and then come back in a day or so and you might as well throw it out because it’s not worth drinking anymore.

That is optional, but some things, like Milk, has an expiration date on it. It becomes Drink at Your Own Risk if you look at it and see that you’re on that day or even a couple of days after. If you were smart, you’d throw it out.

In many ways, that’s where we are now. There are some things in your life that are ready to be thrown out. This past year has reached it’s expiration date. It’s all fizzed out. If you want to hold on to it, at best, it will not be satisfying, at worst, it will stink up your whole life.

Last year and it’s way of living is used up, stretched out and isn’t worth holding on to. But we so often try. We try to carry it over—we bring it with us. Just like bringing a bad day at work home creates a bad night at home—so will bringing the bad things of the past year into the new.

God has a new life for you this year--You should not try to pour the New Wine of God’s blessing into last years problems, pursuits, or people. It makes just as little sense to do that as to take your new milk and pour it into your old milk jug—it would spoil a lot faster and make you sick.

It’s Time to Replace the Old Wineskins

There’s no way to go back in time—once we hit 12 AM, there’s no way to get any more out of 2006. And there are some things worth leaving behind.

But we are capable of carrying 2006 with us. But the New Year cannot be kept refreshing in this imagery—if you try to pour the new into the old, if you try to keep the same old same old—if you are not willing to lay some things aside, then the future year can easily be ruined. The old is not able to contain it—it has been stretched already—it’s already become brittle and weak.

For a modern parallel, if you’ve ever stayed at McDonald’s or Wendy’s or BK with the self serve refill counter for a while, then you’ll know that there are really only so many times you can refill your large Soda before the bottom piece of cardboard gets weak and tears away from the rest of the cup. At some point, it is wise to ask for a new one.

Here are a few Wineskins from Last Year that you shouldn’t try to pour the New Year Into

The Wineskin of Resentment—resentments are easy to carry around. A careless word, an insult, a perceived slight, lack of respect, or unreliability—resentment has a way of sticking to us rather quickly and tarnishing future conversations, even tarnishing worship services on Sunday Morning.

Resentment can even interfere with our worship of God—Jesus, the authority on worship told us in Mark 11:22—“ And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. "

Or as Matthew puts it, if you hold something against anyone, then you should leave the altar and go be reconciled. If we do not follow this direction, our very worship of God is affected.

Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, “His heart was as great as the world but there was no room in it for the memory of a wrong.”

If somebody did something to you last year, forget it. If somebody said something about you last year, forget it. I love the comment that says “Speak well of your enemies, after all you made them.”

As we step into 2007 let’s forget all of the petty hurts and injustices, and all of the big hurts and injustices from 2006 and 2005 and 2004 and 1994 etc. etc. etc. If you can forget only one thing in 2006, forget the grievances that you have against others whether they be friend or foe and get on with your life

The Wineskin of Moral Compromise

If you’re here this morning, then you probably have some moral awareness, some moral compass that guides you into what is right and wrong. But you and I both know that know there is a tremendous difference in knowing what is right and doing what is right. It is so easy to compromise.

Everybody’s doing it. Who are you to judge? No one will know. It’s nobody’s business. I just want to be happy. These are all ways we try to excuse ourselves all while our conscience, which is a gift from God, is trying to turn you away from that compromise.

If you find yourself in compromising situations or decisions this past year—do not carry them over into the new year. Put off those things—flee from them, turn from them. And realize that God desires to forgive, to restore you and bless you.

1 John 1:9-- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

The Wineskin of Worry

I would not be surprised if it is discovered that 2/3 of those who suffer mental illness are worrying about something over which they have no control.

Worry pulls tomorrow's cloud over today's sunshine.

C. Swindoll, Questions Christians Ask, p. 18.

Worry is wasting today's time to clutter up tomorrow's opportunities with yesterday's troubles.

Source Unknown.

Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.

Has that every happened to you? You start worrying about something and pretty soon you discover that it has consumed all your other thoughts. Worrying about last year can tarnish and taint this year.

The word worry is used 13 times. compare that with trust that is used 126 times, faith used 270 times, believe used 226 times and love used 551 times. If you want to narrow it down even more, of the 13 times that worry is used, 11 times we are told not to worry and of the other two one asks the question “Why do you worry” and the other one says “Tomorrow will worry about itself.”

If you carry worry into next year, whether or not any of it actually happens, worry can sap your joy, your strength. Even your work, your friendships, your families can suffer with your worry. Throw it out.

The Wineskin of Failures

Too many people today are paralysed by the fear of failure. It would be easy to look back on all the things that didn’t go right in the past year. It would be easy to deduce our own incompetence, the incompetence of others, or how something is a waste of time in the future because we remember it didn’t work the first time.

We can’t be afraid of failing because fear of failure becomes the fear of trying. With every attempt comes the possibility of failure. Where would that put you or this church if we tried to pour Next years’ opportunity and blessing into suchm a mindset?

The Wineskin of Victories—yes, even a look back at victories can prove problematic for the new year because they can easily give you a smug attitude about the future, a prideful self-satisfaction of our own accomplishments. A wineskin of Victory can easily make you and me lazy, assuming that what worked before can just be copied again, or that we can do it on our own power and we don’t really need God’s provision.

That attitude within Victory is what cost the Israelites just after their victory at Jericho. The formidable foe was overcome by the power of God, but defeat immediately followed to a much lesser foe because of smugness and laziness among other things.

There are many things you had victory in last year. There are many victories that UBC could look to and claim—UBC faithfully conducted 2 searches for ministers. I know it worked well once—Patrick and his family are a great addition to our ministry.

But that does not mean we should think we are done, that we should kick back and rest, or that what worked last year will automatically work this year.

Personally, I can look back at many great and wonderful things. The blessing of a wonderful church family and new home. But I don’t want to be so content with that truth that I take it or any of you for granted this coming year.

Personally, I know there are things that didn’t go well last year, some goals I didn’t reach, but those things cannot prevent me from doing anything to improve this year.

We have a new year before us—new blessing and opportunity from God. God desires to pour into us His blessing. All of these old wineskins can ruin the new wine of the coming year that God desires to bless us with.

It’s Time To Pour our Life into New Wineskins and not carry over last year’s baggage that has been stretched.

It’s Time To Enjoy the New Wine and Blessing of God.

In Philippians 3:13-14 Paul draws a comparison between our life and a race. He says, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

What is behind from this past year is fine, but it is behind and we still have a race to run and finish ahead of us. I am excited about the future at UBC. To think that God wants to use us, to use me, to use you to advance His Kingdom is awesome.

New Blessings and Opportunities for the New Year

Since I’ve been here, I’ve been observing and I see a church that loves each other. A fellowship that truly desires to please God and know Him more.

I look forward to Engaging & Increasing participation on Sunday & Wednesday Nights

I look forward to Expanding Disciple Kid’s Club to the Community

I look forward to opportunities for Doing Ministry & Living as Missionaries in Macomb as much as Talking about and giving to missions.

Will everything work great and be successful? No, but that doesn’t mean we should quit.

Will we experience Victories in 2007? I believe we can and we will by the Grace of God and we should continually give God the glory and thank Him for using us.

Let’s pray for 2007 and take the new wine of God’s opportunity and blessing and pour it into our lives as new creations in Christ.

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