After a short break from blogging so that I could better enjoy the holidays, I thought I would share my sermon for New Year’s 2011 with you. I hope you will read and leave comments.
This is a new year. This is a new day. We look at the new year as a time of freshness, of renewal, and of “try agains.” That relationship we may have damaged last year, we can resolve to repair it. That weight we have been wanting to lose, we can resolve to lose it. That extra time we’ve meant to spend with that loved one or friend, we can resolve to spend it. That better dedication to Bible study and prayer, we can resolve to apply it.
The opportunities are boundless we feel when we are younger. Then , as we become older and more jaded or wise to the world and ourselves, we realize, as some have pointed out before, that we don’t ever keep our resolutions so, we just don’t bother making them. I would be willing to say that possibly someone reading these words today have already broken a resolution you made for new years. How long ago was new years? 48 hours ago? 72 hours ago?
Why is it so hard? Why can’t we just make up our mind to be better, to do better, to try harder? The scripture tells us the answer and the answer is because most resolutions we make, they are meant to please or to rely on the flesh.
This leads to a study of the writing of Paul. Read 2 Corinthians chapter 1 verses 12-22:
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicityand godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and acknowledge and I hope you will fully acknowledge— 14just as you did partially acknowledge us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you. 15Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
Here, in Paul’s second letter to the Christians in Corinth, Paul is reporting to them a change in his plans. Paul is telling them that he intended fully to stop and visit them on his way to Macedonia as promised in his first letter to them in 1 Corinthians chapter 4. He also intended to stop on his way back from Macedonia and share the gospel with them more, but as we know from studying Paul’s travels, getting sidetracked was second nature for him.
What Paul is offering to them here is not really an apology, but just simply an explanation. Paul is telling them that he really wanted to stop, but that his work for the Lord prevented it. Read verses 15 and 16 again:
15Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea.
Paul wanted to come and see them because, if nowhere else, Paul knew that he and the gospel of Jesus Christ were welcome there. He knew, as he states in verse 14, “that on the day of the Lord Jesus, you will boast of us as we will boast of you.
Paul really, really wanted to go there. Not once, but twice. Paul had made a resolution to be there but was unable to do so and you can tell that his failure to do so affected him. Paul wanted them to know though, that he did not make his resolution to come visit them in a fickle or light minded way. Look closely at verse 17. My ESV reads “was I vacillating when I made this decision?” and the KJV says “when I was of this mind, was I using lightness?”
Paul knew there were probably some who would view his failure to fulfill his plans to visit them as taking their loyalty and fellowship in the gospel lightly. He was making sure they knew, this is not the case when he answers in the 2nd half of verse 17: “Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time?”
DO I MAKE MY PLANS ACCORDING TO THE FLESH? KJV reads, do I purpose what I purpose according to the flesh? This idea of making plans or purposing is in line with our English word resolove. In other words, Paul is asking, do I resolve what I resolve according to the flesh?
Ask yourself, of your new year resolutions, “did I resolove the things that I have resolved according to the flesh?” If yes, then I have bad news, they will more than likely fail because we know that the scripture says in Philippians 3:3 that as Christians, we put NO confidence in the flesh.
Our resolutions fail because we put our confidence in the flesh. We are dependent on ourselves to make our resolutions come true and work. As Christians, this is wrong and we are to stop this practice.
Again, in verse 17, Paul explains to the Corinthians that he asks if he is ready to say yes, yes to something while at the same time saying no, no. Apparently Paul believed what Christ said in Matthew 5:37 and later repeated by James in James 5:12 about letting your yes be yes and your no be no. Paul wanted to let them know, he was not violating this principle of Christian life.
No, Paul was not speaking out of both sides of his mouth to these people. He genuinely intended to come see them. He tells them in verse 18, “as surely as God is faithful, our word to you on every matter has been yes and no. There was no hedging and no going back on his word.
Now, was this because Paul was such a good person? Was it because he was such a man of principle that he always made his yes, yes and no, no? No. Paul explains why his resolution was not broken and why he is not guilty of hedging on his word.
Read verses 18 and 19:
As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes.
Paul proclaimed Christ among these people in Corinth. He preached the son of God to them along with Silvanus and Timothy. Paul says there is no, zero, yes and no in this Christ, in this Son of Man that he was committed to preaching. No, Paul says, in Christ, the answer is always, not sometimes, not maybe, not possibly, but always YES This is confirmed by the Hebrew preacher in Heb. 13:8 when he writes “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Jesus Christ is the most certain and unbreakable resolution ever. Not of the new year, but forever and ever and ever. In Christ, it is always YES.
Paul continues in verse 20:
20For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
All of God’s promises, the ones handed to the patriarchs (Romans 15:8), the ones prophesied by the prophets, the ones written by Paul, Peter, James, Luke, and John the Revalator are fulfilled through my savior Christ. All of the promises of hope, glory, goodness, mercy, grace, forgiveness, everlasting life, the list goes on and on, they all find their YES in Him.
Jesus Christ is the resolution we all are seeking. He is the only way we can overcome the flesh and live the life of a Christian. And as Paul writes in verse 20, “that is why it is in Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory.” In other words, this is why we pray, and ask, and worship, and fellowship in the name of Jesus Because in Him all of the promises of God have been fulfilled. Say Amen!
No, Paul was not able to fulfill his plan to visit them but he knows that through Christ, God has established them in spite of his absence. Paul reassures them in verse 22 that God, through Christ, has sealed them and given them the Holy Spirit in their hearts as a guarantee or down payment that their salvation, OUR salvation, through Jesus is resolved.
Friends, Jesus Christ is the ultimate resolution. While we may fail at losing those extra pounds, at stopping some bad habit, at changing some pattern of destruction in our life, JESUS CHRIST WILL NEVER FAIL.
When God resolved to put His Son on the cross for the remission of your sins, there was no, as Paul said, vacillating. For your salvation and your ability to be saved from your fleshly lusts, God said yes. Yes to having His Son scorned. Yes to having His Son live a life that no man would want. Yes to having Him falsely accused. Yes to having Him spat upon, whipped, mocked. Yes to nails through His hands and feet. Yes to a torturous death. Yes to being buried in a grave meant for another man. Yes to raising Him again. YES to coming back again to claim His own.l
This is the resolution of the Lord. Will you purpose to make Him your savior? Or if you are a Christian, let the word of God through Paul remind us that the only assured thing we can utter in this life is Jesus Christ and the gospel. All else will fail but He never shall so let us go forth in His name and begin responding to the Holy Spirit in our hearts and teach the word, the sure word of Christ crucified to the world around us.