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A New Life Resolution for a New Year

Todd WagnerDec 31, 1995
Ephesians 5:1-2

Messages In This Series (9)
Our Adversary, Our Armor, Our Obligations
Todd WagnerApr 28, 1996
New Relationships with Each Other Because of Our Relationship with Him
Todd WagnerApr 14, 1996
God's Will and Way for His Glory and Your Good in Marriage
Todd WagnerMar 30, 1996
The Ruling Principle for All Relationships
Todd WagnerMar 16, 1996
Be Filled - Not Fooled, part 2
Todd WagnerMar 3, 1996
Be Filled - Not Fooled, part 1
Todd WagnerFeb 11, 1996
How Do You Define Love? The Divine Way or the Deceiver's Way?
Todd WagnerFeb 4, 1996
Walking in the Light: What it Looks Like and Why We Do It
Todd WagnerJan 14, 1996
A New Life Resolution for a New Year
Todd WagnerDec 31, 1995

What I really want to do tonight is spend some time reflecting back together on what we just came from. It might not surprise you that tonight we're going to advantage of the day and use it as an opportunity to evaluate and to think about what '95 has been and what '96 might be. We ought to do it. I get excited about every new day, I really do, because no matter what you do during one day, you get another crack at it when you wake up.

It's a lot like golf. I don't care how many over you were on number eight, number nine is coming, and you can try and double bogey that one if you'd like. You get a new start every time. Every year, certainly, is a time when everybody gets together and rethinks what they're about and what they've been doing. It's been said that New Year's resolutions are a lot like crying babies in church. They should be carried out as quickly as possible. Depending on what you make…

I don't care if you have a baby here tonight and they cry their lungs out, and I really don't care if you're here tonight and you made a bunch of New Year's resolutions. What I would say to you…especially those of us who understand the God behind the songs that we just sang, especially those of who understand what real worship is…is that New Year's resolutions are really not that significant and important.

If indeed you have trusted Christ, you've already made a new life resolution. That should cover everything you do from that moment onward. One guy said this is true of Christianity. "It's a lot like joining a country club. It doesn't cost you a thing to become a member, but then, after that, the annual dues are everything that you have."

You see, if you make a New Year's resolution this year or if you make a new life resolution, it should really be more of a correction than something that is new. There's nothing new you need to do that has not already been recorded, that we have not already been over. So, New Year's resolutions are good if, in fact, what you're doing is getting yourself back on path to his Word.

But if we're adding things and tucking things here and doing stuff there, I would probably say something like this. "No, I want to make sure when I become a Christian [when I trust Christ], I don't care where I'm at through the year. I want to get myself back on path."

We were talking about our University of Texas fans and our University of Texas friends. I don't know if you've heard much about what's been going on with their football team this year or this week, specifically, but there was an individual on their team, apparently, who stole the ID and the transcripts of a 24-year-old kid who was a junior college football player. He went down and enrolled at the University of Texas. The guy who stole this identity was a 30-year-old.

He had six years already of college football. This would be seven. That is well beyond his eligibility. That makes a lot of the games, and every game he participated in makes him an ineligible athlete. There was a lot of hubbub about whether or not Texas would have to give away every game that this individual played in. Come to find out, this guy is 30-years-old and enrolled under an assumed identity because he's a journalist and wanted to write a book about scandals and corruption in college sports. Why he picked UT? I'll let you work that out.

Don't you think that Mackovic (the coach at the University of Texas), upon hearing this report (apparently they just found out last night), went back and went, "Let's just think through some of those private meetings I had with my players. Did I say anything I don't want to see published by Random House in a couple of months? Did I know of any improprieties with some of our alumni that I turned my head to, but I knew about it and could've stopped? Because I thought we were family and it was in-house, I really kind of let it go"?

Don't you think he laid in bed and stared at the ceiling last night and thought, "What would I have done differently had I know there was a spy and had I known there was one among us who would expose everything about the way we live?" What I want to challenge you to do tonight is ask yourself this question. "What would you have done differently in 1995 if there was a spy who hung out with you and everything about your life was about to be published, and everything about your life was about to be exposed?"

Let me take that a step further because we know that, as believers, we have a God we cannot hide from. Not even as just believers but as all men under the sovereign reign of God that all of us says that we cannot escape from him. When we lie down, he knows we're there. If I go to sheol, the resting place of the dead, he is there with me. He knows my standing and my sitting down. He knows the words even before I speak them. That is scary.

As you reflect back on one who knows you that well, what are some things you wish you could weed out? I have a little deal here. It's called, "If Jesus Came to Your House." University of Texas, if there was a man on your football team who shouldn't be there, how would you live? Listen to this.

"If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two, if he came unexpectedly, I wonder what you'd do. I know you'd give your nicest room, to such an honored Guest, and all the food you'd serve Him, would be the very best. And you would keep assuring Him, you're glad to have Him there. That serving Him in your home is joy beyond compare.

But when you saw Him coming, would you meet Him at the door with arms outstretched in welcome to your heavenly Visitor? Or would you have to change your clothes before you let Him in, or hide some magazines and put the Bibles where they'd been? Would you turn off the television and hope he hadn't heard and wish you hadn't uttered that last, loud, hasty word?

Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn books out? Could you let Jesus walk right in, or would you rush about? And I wonder-if the Savior spent a day or two with you, would you go right on doing the things you always do? Would you keep right on saying the things you always say? Would life for you continue as it does from day to day?

Would your family conversation keep up its usual pace? And would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace? Would you sing the songs you always sing and read the books you read? And let Him know the things on which your mind and spirit feed? Would you take Jesus with you, everywhere you'd planned to go, or would you, maybe, change your plans for just a day or so?

Would you be glad to have Him meet your very closest friends, or would you hope they'd stay away until His visit ends? Would you be glad to have Him stay forever on and on, or would you sigh, with great relief when He at last was gone? It might be interesting to know, the things that you would do, if Jesus came in person to spend some time with you."

How would you do looking back at '95 if I told you that he lived with you, he walked with you, he knows what you thought, he knows what you read, he knows what you ate, he knows how you dressed, and he knows how you talked? Would you look back and kick yourself and go, "I could've done a little better. I could've stepped it up. I kind of wish that wouldn't be published." What I want to do tonight is take some time to challenge you with this truth. Whatever can't be done about your 1995, you have to begin to deal with your 1996 today.

Let me throw this out. Satan is really interesting. Whenever you get involved with sin, he's going to give you this line first. "It really isn't that big. It really isn't that important. There really isn't that much to do to be made about what you're thinking about participating in." But as soon as you say yes, as soon as you go ahead, as soon as you decide to dabble in it a little bit, and you get that taste and it becomes bitter and you want to flee from it, you want to reject it, you want to forsake it, you want to confess it to God, he's going to reverse his tracks.

He's going to come back at you and say, "Are you kidding me? You mean to tell me that you think just confessing, a little weeping, a little agreeing with God [which is literally what the word confess means…to agree that what he says is true] is going to work? Do you really think that simply stating to him the fact that what you did is wrong can deal with that huge mistake that you just made, that very important decision that altered your life, or that very significant pain you caused another's life? Do you really think God can deal with that?"

See that's the track he's going to lay at you. There may be some of you in this room tonight who feel like it doesn't really matter what you're going to do with your 1996 because your 1995 was so screwed up, there's no way you could ever get yourself out of it. I want to tell you tonight that you're listening to a liar when you hear that voice.

The only power we have over the past (you've heard me say this a number of times) is purity in the present. There is nothing that is so big, so bad, so all important that Christ can't deal with it in your life. But I'm going to ask you this question. Will you let him deal with it your life, and then will you go beyond that? Having dealt with sin and having your need met by the one who alone can meet it, will your life change as a result of it? Will you make a new life resolution?

My banker friends would say it this way. "You don't want to live in the past. That is a canceled check. You don't want to live in the future. That is a promissory note. Only today is cash, so be careful how you spend it." Too many of us are going to do the very opposite of what God says.

When we just sang that song, "Thy word, thy word is a lamp unto my feet and light to my path…" Satan is not a creator. He is a thief, he is a destroyer, he is a liar, and he is a murderer. He cannot come up with an original thought himself. Every time you get a lie from the Enemy, all it's going to be is a twist on the truth. There are some master twists out there and some creative distortions.

God says, "Forgetting what lies behind." In other words, "I'm not going to dwell on it. It's a canceled check. I'm going to deal with it and appropriately learn from it." We aren't told to remember certain things, but ultimately God says, "Let me deal with your past. You don't live in the future. You can't do anything about that either. You live today. That's the only cash you have. Spend it wisely."

So as you reflect back now, you maybe need to deal with it a little bit. You maybe need to go, "I'm going to agree with God that some of the ways I lead my life weren't exactly like I could've," or, "I want to improve on it." I think all of us want to do that. I don't think there's a single one of us who would say, "Yes, perfect. It's just like I want. Let's move on. Let's get ahead."

What are you going to do with today? I'm not talking about January 1. What are you going to do tonight? What are you going to do with the cash you have to spend before you lay your head down tonight and sleep? What should it look like? Let's say you go, "Great God, sign me up. I want to make a new life resolution." We'll give some of you an opportunity to do that tonight. What about those of you who have done it, who have already said, "I want to live my life the way I ought to live it"? What should it look like?

We are in the book of Ephesians. Let's take a look at where we are and see how it worked out. Turn to Ephesians 5. Flip there with me. It's in the way right-hand side of your New Testament. Benjamin Franklin said this as he evaluated the new year. He said, "Be at war with your vices…" In other words, constantly be fighting the things which enslave you. "Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better man."

Tonight, we're going to continually evaluate what 1995 has built into your life. You need to take some inventory. It's told us in the Scriptures of Philippians 2 to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. It doesn't mean if you don't work diligently you won't be saved, but it means having received this great gift, having received this new life, what are you going to do with it? Where are you going to go?

Do you remember what Ephesians 4 is about? Ephesians 4 is about the fact that if you are a Christian, you have made a new life resolution, then you should look differently. It's interesting. There was a guy speaking one time at a socialist rally. He stood up to speak about the goodness of socialism. He said that socialism would put a new coat on every man. A Christian stood up right behind him and said, "It might be true that socialism will put a new coat on every man, but Christianity will put a new man in every coat."

That's what Ephesians 4:25-32 was really about. If you go back and look, he finally got to the point again where he's saying, "If you're a new man, this is what you ought to look like. These ought to be your clothes because you're new within." So even if your clothes are ratty and torn, they're going to begin to act this way. You may not have a three-piece suit. It may still look ugly. When you're saved, God can't do anything about the way look. He'll take care of that later, but he can sure take a lot to do with the way you act, the way you think, and the way you treat other people.

There's a new man in the coat. He lays out, as we looked at when we were in Ephesians last time, five different areas that ought to be different for us. Look where he goes then in 5:1. "Therefore…" In summation of all that has just happened in chapters 1 through 3 about the truth that you have made a new life resolution and God has done a work in your life. Then in chapter 4, that you have begun to adorn yourself, as you should as a believer, applying the truth of chapters 1 through 3.

"Therefore be imitators of God…" That covers it, doesn't it? "…as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."

The sacrificial system that was present in the Old Testament, God used as a sign, as a type, for people to learn that there was going to be innocent blood which must be shed in order to have the sins of humanity dealt with. We saw that continually, there was to be a sacrifice. Day after day, year after year, there were sacrifices, and innocent animals were being led to slaughter. People were atoning for their sin by taking that little goat that they took to their FFA state fair and won a blue ribbon with.

It's time now that the thing that we're going to take… That innocent goat that did nothing but eat everything in the house is now going to go and be a sacrifice for you. That bull is going to go and be slaughtered. Little fluffy that we adopted into our house, that cute little lamb that's done nothing, that unblemished lamb, will go and be sacrificed. "Why, Daddy?" Because we as a people have not met God's standard, and innocent blood must be shed.

One day, God will give us one who will be a final sacrifice. Again, it's the time to remind ourselves. That's the way Jesus was first identified. "Behold the Lamb of God which has come to take away the sins of the world." There is no need for continual offering anymore in terms of sacrifice because the final sacrifice, the unblemished Lamb, has been sacrificed.

There is another part of the sacrifice system of the Old Testament and that is when you go by everyday as you walk…even if you weren't in the temple ceremony, even if you weren't a priest, even if you weren't one who took a bull that day to be sacrificed…if you were just busy around Jerusalem, you could not miss the irresistible smell of barbeque that was constantly happening on the mount. In the morning and in the evening and then all throughout the day with special sacrifices, you kept smelling burning flesh.

It's just like when you drive by Dickey's Barbeque here in Dallas or Sonny's. You smell that burning flesh. To us, it's pleasing, isn't it? It makes you pull right into Spring Creek Barbeque and break last year's New Year's resolution and eat about five of those sweet little honey rolls that they give to you for free. It's pleasing to your smell.

What those sacrifices were was a reminder that the people were being obedient. As that fragrant barbeque went up to heaven, it was a reminder to you of your need to have atonement, and it was pleasing to God, was the thought. So what do we do to please God in the New Testament? You're going to find that one of the things is right here. You live a holy life, and your life should give off a fragrant aroma.

A lot of you here have studied the Songs of Solomon. It says in chapter 1, as the woman talks about the man, "Your character is to me a sweet fragrance." It is a perfume. When she thought about her man, she described him as Eternity by Calvin Klein, not manure by a barnyard animal, the way some girls think of their boyfriends, or some husbands make their wives think of them. But their character was sweet. Their memory of it was a sweet memory.

Christ's life was a fragrant aroma to God. What he encourages us to do is to be like Christ. You want to know how you should have lived '95 and how you should live '96? This way, making your life a fragrant aroma. See if this sounds familiar.

"I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [based on what he's done in chapters 1 through 3 of Ephesians] to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice…" What did a sacrifice do in the Old Testament? It was atoning for sins, but more than that, it also sent up a fragrant aroma to God.

You, in your life, should be a living sacrifice. It's the right thing to do. It's the reasonable service of worship, is what it says. It's the right response to all God has done. How do you do it? You do it by renewing yourself and by transforming yourself with the renewing of your mind, Romans 12:2 says.

"…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is…" That humanity should not be selfish, should not be hateful, should not seek its own, but it should serve others. You're going to find out that what he's trying to tell us to do is live like Christ. You will see.

You can go back, and you can make parallels between the first Adam and the second Adam. The first Adam was in the garden and was well fed. He failed. The second Adam was in the wilderness and fasting, and he resisted temptation. If you look at Israel, which was called God's son in the Old Testament, they failed in every way that Christ succeeded. What did they do in the wilderness? They rebelled against God. What did Jesus do in the wilderness? He was obedient.

You're going to find what they needed to do and what Adam needed to do is what you and I need to do. Do you want to know how to live 1996? Be like Christ. You go, "Great. That's easy." I'm going to tell you, not only is that the expectation and the command and the possibility, but I want to do this tonight.

I want to give you six or seven areas you can evaluate. I'm going to go back, and we're going to say, "Let's look at this about Christ." I'll say, "This is not the way he lived 1995. This is the way he lived 32 or 33 AD. You compare your 1995 to that 32 or 33 AD. More than that, you continue your new life resolution to live 1996 like that." So let's go through.

In fact, turn with me to Hebrews. Turn to your right a little bit. I'll show you the other motivation for this. We believe that Jesus Christ was perfect in everything he said. That's why it's in red in your Bible. You go, "Jesus said it. We have to put it in red." If we believe that Jesus Christ is perfect in everything that he said, if he was God in the flesh, is not everything that he did also perfect? If you have faith, don't you have to believe that when God came here and walked on this earth, he knew how to live?

Then let's look at how he lived and let's evaluate our life according to how he lived. Let's go into '96 with that as our purpose. Let's evaluate it back to '95, but more than that, let's not get stuck in the past. Let's spend our cash that we have today. And let's not procrastinate. It is true that, "God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised a tomorrow for your procrastination," Augustine says.

So I don't care what you've been doing, God offers forgiveness for your repentance. But I cannot promise you this. If you squandered away '95, and you did not use that to draw you more to God's intended purpose, what's it say? "Those he foreknew he predestined. Those he predestined, he justified. Those he justified, he will glorify."

Where you're headed is to be like Christ. In 1 John 3:2, it says, "When Christ, who is our hope, is revealed, then we shall be like him." Colossians 3 says the exact same thing. "When Christ, who is our hope is revealed, you should be like him." That is the stated purpose. That is what you and I are to be like. So we need to be heading that direction. He'll eventually accomplish it completely.

You're going to hear me say, "Jim Elliot used to say this," and I'll say it later on. He used to say this. Ultimately, it is not desire but determination which decides destiny. The ultimate truth of that is decree, not doing, determines destiny. I'll just tell you that straight out. God's decree is what's going to eventually conform us in the name of Jesus Christ. What he tells you, that being his purpose for you, is, "Get in the program and begin to look like that."

There are a number of reasons for it. Namely, because he wants to use you to bring others into fellowship with him. How is he doing in being able to use you? The miracle of the New Testament is this. "Christ in you, the hope of glory." The question should not be so much, "What would you look like if Christ came to your home?" The question is, "Can I send you into somebody's home, and they would know what Christ looks like?" That's his intended goal.

I'll say that again. It's not so much if Christ came to your home, what would you live like, but if you were walking with him, then I ought to take you and put you in somebody's home, and they would begin to know what Jesus looked like by the way you act, by the way you love, and by the way you care for other people and the way you live in a relationship with God.

That's a huge responsibility. Good thing I have a God who can do exceedingly, abundantly, beyond all that you ask or think (Ephesians 3). So he asks you an impossible thing, but there's an impossible God who seeks to empower you in the process. Look at Hebrews 12.

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…" What are we going to do? "…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Let's talk about this for a second. We are commanded right here to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Do you want to know how you should live in '96? Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. We're going to evaluate, and we're going to prepare by doing that very thing tonight.

Jesus started out by simply saying this, "I am the way. I am the truth, and I am the life." If he is the way… I'm going to ask you, just for a moment, to extend to me that as a premise. If you're here tonight, and somebody dragged you before you guys go out and have a good time, and you're hanging with somebody, I'm so glad you're here.

But if you're not convinced tonight that Jesus is the way, I'm asking you to listen to me and evaluate whether or not he can really change people's lives by what you see going on with us. We're glad you're here. Evaluate by that Christian friend who brought you. Are they living like I'm about to spell out? If not, have a conversation with them. The Bible gives you the right. We need you to help us know how we look.

If you're a believer and you agree that Jesus is the way, then you should know this. He is the truth. That's the very first thing you have to do. If you want to be like Christ (this is for believer or nonbeliever alike), if Jesus is the truth, you need to deal with that straight up. What do you make of that baby who the whole world stopped for last week? Who is he?

Don't ask it like Pilate did. "What is truth?" Then he walked away. If he would've gone to Jesus and asked him what truth is, don't you think he would've heard? The reason Christ didn't respond is because Pilate didn't ask him; he was mocking him. He asked what truth is and walked away and asked the people one more time what he wanted them to do.

I'll tell you this, if you're not for that truth, you are against that truth. You must decide today, "What is truth?" Truth is always narrow. Error goes off in a thousand different directions. Truth is narrow. I'll read you this. A guy said a modern man's pattern for truth is something like this. It's how does it feel to you?

I just had a wonderful weekend with some friends, a lot of whom did not know Christ very well. I shared this with you a couple of weeks ago. In fact, they didn't know Christ at all. If they knew him, they scoffed at him. This was where we kept going back to. It is not what feels good, because what feels good isn't going to matter. It isn't true. I think for most of my friends who I was with that weekend, the problem was not that they couldn't find truth; the problem was that they could not face truth.

I had people say this to me. Have you ever heard this? "Why do you have to be so divisive? Why do you have to stir up the waters so much? Can't you just let people be happy? Why do you want to throw this idea of consequence at them? If they're just making it through today, today's hard enough. Let them go to sleep."

I want to say, "Listen. I'm not against sleep. I'm for sleep. I practice it daily. Often, more times then I should, but I cannot in good conscience let you go to sleep with a guillotine hanging over your head if I know it's there and you're going to ignore it and that consequences to it might be enormous."

I have to tell you a truth, and that is that God, as Augustine said hundreds of years ago, has forgiveness for your repentance, but he does not promise tomorrow for your procrastination. Deal with truth. What are you doing with truth? That is the first question. Do you believe he is the way, he is the Truth (singular), and the life? He said he was, and he said that your eternity will pivot on what you do with it.

There's a guy who was Australian. This was in Sydney. It was an entire ministry. He would walk up to five people a day at lunch, and he'd say this. "Excuse me, if I could have just a moment of your time. Do you know that the Bible teaches that there's a heaven and a hell and the way you respond to the person of Jesus Christ will determine in which you spend eternity? Have a nice day," and he walked away.

I don't know what you make of the man's evangelistic method, but the story is told that literally, decades later, that same man was in another country. He bumped into somebody who was a missionary to that country, and they began to talk.

The guy asked him how he ended up there, and he said, "I'll tell you how I ended up here. About 40 years ago, I was in Sydney, Australia, and a guy walked up to me on my lunch hour. He said that the Bible teaches there's a heaven and a hell the way you respond to the person of Jesus Christ will determine where you'll spend eternity, and it changed my life."

You see, that is the truth. Some of you here tonight are going, "Don't lay that on me. I'm about to go out on New Year's Eve. It's the biggest party night of the year." I'm not concerned if you have a good time tonight. I'm concerned if you know truth. People will tell you the kindest thing you can do is let people discover truth for themselves.

I'll say, "Did you really believe that? If you had a child or if you had a blind friend who you dearly loved, and you were around the Grand Canyon, would you let him walk wherever he wanted to walk?" No. Because you love him, you'd stand in the way. He may not believe you when you tell him that three feet to his right, death awaits, but you're not going to let him experience that, are you? You're going to do all you can to get in the way.

What is truth? Jesus says he is. The very first thing you need to know about my Jesus, my friend, is that he said you must deal with truth. My wife and I were standing there visiting with somebody, and they said, "I'm just about people being happy. My religion is the religion of kindness. What I hear from you when you tell people they're going to suffer for eternity is a hateful thing."

I said, "Your problem is not in defining truth. Your problem is in facing it." Let me tell you some awful things. Do you know there is child abuse? I hate child abuse. Do you know there are people who are born in this world mentally handicapped and physically handicapped? Do you know that there are people who are left and impoverished and abused? I don't understand it. I don't like it, but I have to face it. I have to deal with it the best I can.

Do you know what I don't like? Any Christian who can say you're going to burn in hell for all eternity with a smile on their face has something wrong with them. I said, "I don't like the fact that there are going to be people who suffer for eternity, but I don't get to decide that. I have to face and do all I can to be a medium through which God can use to keep them from that. What are you going to do with truth?"

My wife looked at this sweet girl who was saying that to us. I said, "The question is not what is good for them and what makes them feel good today." My wife, in a very wise way, looked and said, "Can I ask you a question? Where is that going to leave them for eternity?" Her response was, "I don't want to face it. I just want them to be happy today." Who does that sound like? Someone who loves them, or someone who is more concerned about friendship?

Truth is more important than friendship. Truth is more important than unity. Truth is more important than success. We can never surrender truth. How did you do in 1995 holding onto truth? Were you more concerned about being culturally relevant, politically correct, or were you theologically sound even when it caused you problems at the office?

I hope you did it not as a club, but with gentleness and respect. What is truth? Jesus is truth. I want to tell you about the way truth lived. The very first thing he was (Write it down. Ask yourself how you did) was a servant. Mark 10:45 says this. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." A lot of folks have problem with the idea of service. They don't spell it S-E-R-V-I-C-E; they spell it S-E-R-V-E U‑S. That's the way we think of service.

That's not what Christ had in mind. It's not serve us; it's service. He is the model. When you think about what you're doing with your life, if it's still a self-centered life, if you are still concerned with what feels good today, looking out for number one, if it makes you feel good it must be truth, then you have missed where truth is directing you. "For even the Son of Man [evaluate your year] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

It's amazing how blind we can be to what true service is. A lot of you guys are going to be in relationships or are in one now. What Christ does not tell you to do is to meet somebody halfway. One of the problems with saying that you'll meet somebody halfway is this. If Kurt and I have a disagreement, or if Kurt and I are trying to work something out, and I say, "I'll meet you halfway," the problem is that most of us are a terrible judge of distance.

When I think I'm meeting Kurt halfway, I've taken 2 steps, and I expect him to come 20. I'm going, "Hey, I've gone halfway, brother." God says, "Don't worry how far they've come. You go all the wayto them. You go as far as you need to go. You lay down your life for them. It's never easy. It never feels good.

There is nothing quite as creative as a person in the middle of self-justification. When you think that you're not serving and you don't need to serve because other people aren't anteing up, God would say to you, "Stop trying to rationalize. I'm calling you to give your life for others as I gave my life for you."

I was talking to a very dear friend, a close friend of the family today, about her marriage. She was talking about specifically the fact that she and her husband are at the point now of not just divorcing but calling it all quits and getting involved in other people's lives. One of the things that's gone on is she can't understand why this guy will not love her kids and won't serve her.

But even if she could get beyond the fact that she wasn't having her needs met, she looks at her kids who don't even miss their dad anymore. He's so absent. When he's home, he's in the bedroom. When he's not in the bedroom at home, he's out doing something else. She asked him one time, "Why don't you go outside and play with the kids some? They desperately want to be with you." His response was, "I don't really like to be outside."

Yet, this is the same guy who I guarantee you during deer and duck hunting season will be up at 5:00 in the morning sitting in a treestand outside for hours. It's the same guy who will go and play 6 hours of basketball outside in 100-degree heat during Hoop It Up. His problem is not that he doesn't like to be outside; his problem is that he's selfish. It's killing him, it's killing his marriage, and it's going to kill his kids.

He is calling us to serve others. Do you want to know the problem is in marriages? Men are too concerned that their wives submit and too concerned that they're getting to be the head. Do you know what the head should do? Follow Jesus. The head should die in serving their wife. Women, do you have a hard time submitting to somebody who would give his life for you or who would do all that he can to cherish and honor you?

It makes a submission a completely different story, doesn't it? Let me tell you why I submit to Jesus Christ. Not because, if I don't he'll divorce me, but because he's died for me to show me how much he loves me. I'll submit to that. How are you doing in serving others? Here's a tougher twist on it.

Do you know one of the things that's more different for me than serving people? When I serve people, do nice things for them, visit them, spend extra hours with them after I should be home with my family sometime, and adjust my schedule with the permission of my family in an un-abusive way to spend some time with others who need it and giving and serving in that way, people are always going, "Boy Todd, let me just tell you. You really minister to me. Thanks a lot."

It puts me in a position of control when I'm always giving and always serving. Do you know what's really hard for Todd Wagner to do? Let people serve him. Part of being a servant sometimes is not always being the giver. It's being the receiver. Yesterday, I had five guys who were at my house for four-and-a-half hours, who helped me rake and bagged 65 bags of leaves at my new home.

It was difficult for me. I felt like I needed to do something. They said to me, "You can't buy us breakfast when we go out to eat." They bought my breakfast after they raked my lawn. Some of y'all are saying, "Who are those five guys? I have some yard work. Get them over here." I'm not telling you. They're coming over to my house again next Saturday.

Some of us in this room need to learn to be servants by letting somebody else help you. When somebody wants to know what you need, do you tell them what your needs are? "Do you know what I need? I need a friend. Do you know what I need? I need somebody to work through this area of struggle with me." Sometimes, that's what a servant is. Christ was a servant.

Let me give you another one. Not only was he a servant, but he was an evangelist. You cannot look at very many parts of Christ's life and see him where he's not actively sharing his faith. He's doing it again and again and again. The longer I've been a believer and the more equipped I've become…

Some of you guys are thinking, "Golly, not an evangelist. I mean the servant thing was one thing, but not an evangelist. I don't want to start telling people about Jesus. Do you know what people are like who tell folks about Jesus? They get laughed at. They're often very offensive. They're out of touch. Come on, not that."

Look at the way Christ did it, not the way abusive people have done it. Jesus was always telling people who he was, and he was always doing it in a way that was gentle and with respect, but it got the truth. We have a deal where we can train you to share your faith in a way that is not offensive, in a way that there will be a toolbox that you can use for the rest of your life.

We don't just teach it to you and ask you to go apply it. Part of us teaching it to you is we go out with you and you watch the way we do it: in love. "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith," 1 Timothy 1:5 says. But are you out there doing it? I do. I love the privilege of sharing truth with people.

Everybody has different opportunities and maybe even different difficulties in doing it. One of the difficulties I have with my profession of being a pastor is as soon as folks find out what I do, they expect me to say what they think I'm going to say. One time, in fact, it was when Ally was getting ready to be born, my wife and I went to our childbirth classes (Lamaze classes). The very first thing I did the very first night is sometimes my biggest fear.

They go, "We're going to go around the room. Wives, you tell what sex your baby is and who your doctor is. Husbands, you tell what the due date is and what you do for a living." I go, "Oh no." I'm just meeting these people, and right away I'm going to carry all the baggage of that out of touch pastor they've known their entire life.

So it got to me after about four couples went. I looked, and I said, "The due date is supposed to be sometime in April, and I'm a consultant." My wife goes, "I don't know…" then kind of hit me and whispered, "What's a consultant?" I hit her back, and I'm like, "Come on." I'm not at all ashamed at what I do. In fact, I'm pleased sometimes to share.

What was neat after that was they broke us up right away (guys and gals). I got to go over, and I'm just a guy. I'm hanging out with the other guys, and the guys are supposed to talk about what things they think are going to go change in the household as a result of this new child coming. The women are talking about what changes they expect are going to happen to their bodies while the guys are going, "I'll tell you what's going to happen to their bodies."

We're over there, we're supposed to talk about what changes are going to happen to our family, but the guys are talking about their wife's bodies. "Well, their body is going to do this." I said, "Here's a change I think is going to happen to our family. We're going to have really work hard to keep our relationship with our wife like it ought to be. When those kids come, it's going to be easy to pour our attention on them and get our focus off our wife."

They go, "That's good. Write that down." We were supposed to make a list. So we throw out stuff. "Well, we're not now only have one woman tells us to not watch football, now we going to have a kid pulling us away. I go, "Okay. I'll write that down." I said, "Here's another one," and I threw out two or three things like that first one.

We got back together, and we shared our list. You wouldn't have believed… She was shocked at the guys' list. She goes, "That's the greatest list I've ever seen." All the guys are going like this to me, thinking we're heroes. So we have a 10-week class with these folks. We're having some conversations on and off with all these people, getting to know them well.

The very last week of class asked us to go around, and this time we're supposed to share what you want to give to your kid. So two or three couples went, and then I go. I said, "There are two things I want to give to my kid. First, I really want to love their mom in such a way that they will always know they have a secure home. They never have to wonder if mom's going to leave dad or dad is going to leave mom.

Secondly, I really want to love my kid in such an unconditional way that when I tell them that there is a God who cares enough for them to come, to take on the form of flesh [I did say it this way], to walk on this earth and to die on the cross and love them unconditionally that they would see enough of that in me that they could believe it and come to know Jesus Christ."

Now, it got quiet, but of the next eight couples who went, seven of them said what they said, and they go, "And what he said." Before that night was over, you wouldn't believe how many folks I got to consult with about Jesus. I love it. I love when I go out sometimes, and the question irresistibly comes up. Sometimes people say, "What do you do for a living?"

Sometimes, depending on where I am, I go, "Guess." They'll guess everything. Sometimes they say, "I don't know. Do you sell insurance?" I go, "Fire insurance." I just let it go places. Once somebody said, "Are you a carpenter?" I said, "I work for a carpenter," and let it go. It's fun to share your faith. We want to help you do it.

It's scary. Every time I do it, my heart races. I go, "They're going to take me for a fool that I believe this is true," but by the grace of God and with the same tools we want to equip you with, I believe God can use you. He was an evangelist.

The third thing was he was a "discipler." Let me ask you this. Who was the one person…I'm not talking about five or six…that this year (1996) and because you started January 1, 1995, saying, "I'm going to spend some time with you. I'm going to teach you everything you know about the Bible. Then we're going to learn more together," as a result of your 1995 is ready now to lead a church? You see, Christ called you to be that. He said, "Go ye, therefore, into all the world and make, not converts but disciples, teaching them to obey all that I've commanded you."

Remember, "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." **Go and make disciples. Paul says,"And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also."**

How'd you do in 1995 at being a discipler? That's all Jesus was about. He was not a mass evangelist. His program to reach the world was discipleship. How'd you do? Is there somebody who knows Jesus and not just a little bit but has grown for a year because of you? If the answer is not yes, we have to change that for '96.

We have opportunities for you to disciple people. If you're not ready, then let me ask you this. What do you need to do for the next six months so that on July 1, 1996, you'll be ready? We can plug you in. Our theme here is simply this: take away the excuse. You don't know how to share your faith? We'll teach you. We'll show you. You don't know how to disciple? Come, and we'll show you. We'll teach you everything we know, and then we'll send you out when we have nothing more.

Let me give you a little quick fact on discipleship. Jesus knew how to reach the world. I've shared this before, but it's good to think about again If you had an evangelist who every year for 70 years genuinely lead 1,000 converts to Christ…I mean, genuine conversations. At the end of one year, you have 1,000 people. In 2 years, 2,000 people, and he did that 70 years. At the end of 70 years he would have 70,000 people who he individually led to Christ. Not discipled, mind you, but true converts.

How many of y'all would like to be used to lead 1,000 people a year to Christ? That's a pretty significant thing. You know what? He has a better idea for you. One that if you do not for 70 years, but for 30 years, won't affect 70,000 people, but will see to it that every human being on the face of the earth…do you hear that…has not just heard the gospel and accepted it but heard the gospel, accepted it, and been discipled for the year. Here's the program. It's called discipleship.

The first year you spend time with one person. All you do is you teach them everything you know. You teach them how to read the Bible, seek God, forsake sin, and share the truth. You do it for a year, and at the end of that year, you say, "Okay, Herb. You and I have it done. Now Herb, you go over there and grab Tony. I'm going over here and grab Luke. Let's get after it."

For the next year, you and Luke run together while Herb and Tony do it. The next year at the end of that year, the four of you guys go, "We've now spent a year with everybody here. Let's break up and do it again." You do that and, you can watch the math. It doesn't sound very impressive. The first eight to ten years you get up into the 500s, but you watch what happens the eleventh year, the twelfth year, and the twentieth year. Do you know that by the thirtieth year, you are up close to four to five billion people? Do the math yourself.

Do you know if the world would've done what Christ said they'd have done the year he left that in a matter of 20 years, I think it was (based on the population of the earth at that time), every single person on this earth would've been not converted but discipled for a year. Let's not worry about what they screwed up in AD 31. Let me ask you this. What are you doing in 1996? Is there somebody who can do the right thing in 1997 because you're going to do the right thing with your 1996? He was a servant.

He was an evangelist. He was a discipler. What else was he? He prioritized. Christ knew what it was about. Do you know how many times he left sick people, lost people, and hungry Christian people? He said, "I have to go. I'm taking off." He never had a hard time saying no. Christ moved. He has a priority about his life that he did not let other people set his agenda. Write it down.

If you do not set your own priorities, somebody else will set them for you, and they will not have your best interest in mind. Christ is a man who lived by priority. He was purpose-driven. He knew why he was here. He got serious about it, and he lived his life that way. He did not let his world influence him. He let the Word of God influence him. What is your priority? Is it God‑given? Is it God‑driven? It has to be.

Let me tell you one of the ways Christ was different. I want to encourage you with this. He lived with an eternal perspective. Do you want to know the first thing you should build into your disciple? It's not necessarily how to memorize Scripture. It's how to live with an eternal perspective. That was Christ's priority. It's been well said that the immediate payback to this kind of lifestyle isn't very good, but the retirement plan is out of this world.

Do you have an eternal perspective? I have to tell you; the immediate payback is not very good. You're going to get abused. You're going to get taken advantage of, but the retirement plan is out of this world. First Peter 2:23: "And while being reviled, He did not revile in return…but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously."

How could he do that? How could he hang on the cross? The thing that amazes me about Jesus is not that he went through the physical pain of the cross. That is more excruciating than I can imagine. The thing that blows me away about Christ is that he, being God, hung there when people spit on him, mocked him, and said, "If you're God, save yourself."

Do you know what I would've done if I was God? I'd have gone, "Lord, time out just for a second. Let me have a minute with them back here. Let me reveal my glory just for a moment. Then we can reverse time, spin the earth backward, get Superman over here to do it, and then we'll go back, and I'll die like I should."

He didn't need to do that. Not in his own vengeance, but as a man. He laid aside his godliness, and he let God the Father, execute justice. And guess what. He still hasn't done it. He still hasn't let his wrath go. God hasn't, the Father. He still hasn't let it fly. He still hasn't let it rip. Do you know what Jesus did? He did exactly what you're supposed to do according to Ephesians 4. He was angry, and yet he sinned not.

He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Being reviled here, I will not revile in return. I'm going to let you take care of it." God said, "Vengeance is mine." You can only not strike back as judge and jury if you believe there is a sovereign, perfect, just, and holy judge and jury who one day will make it square.

Let me encourage you with this a little bit. We read right there in Hebrews 12, where it says that Jesus was seated at the right hand of God the Father. Do you know that there is one time after he is seated at the right hand of God the Father in the Scriptures that you see Jesus stand? When was it?

Acts 7. What was going on in Acts 7? There's a guy named Stephen who was a child of that God who we are talking about tonight who was being stoned, who was being murdered. It encourages me every time I read it. It says that Stephen, when he was being stoned, stood there. It says that the heavens came back, he looked in the heavens and he saw Jesus…what? He was standing at his throne.

Let me tell you my little heresy. I can't prove this Scripturally, but I want to believe it because it encourages me. That is simply this. The reason he is standing is because he knows he isn't done. He has come as a Lamb to take away the sins of the world, but we know he is returning…I can substantiate this Scripturally…as the Lion of Judah who will execute justice. I believe the reason he was standing is because he said, "I want to go now."

That's when the first one of his children was abused. Stephen, the first martyr. He stood up, and he said, "Let's go get him." I believe it's just the sovereign patience of God. This gives 2 Peter 2, 3 and following a whole new meaning for me. That is why it says, "Do not count the mercy and grace of God as slowness, as some count slowness."

The reason he waits on his throne is because of his patience and great mercy for you hoping that some of those fools stoning Stephen, some of those idiots raping friends of yours, some of those idiots abusing children will repent and come to the knowledge of him and be saved. You have a God who understands, and he cares. I think he's standing. I think he's ready to come.

If you have an eternal perspective, it will help you do what he did on the cross, and that is let him judge because he'll do it better than you do, more thoroughly than you'll do it, and perfectly without any injustice involved. He was a servant. He was an evangelizer. He was a disciple. He had this priorities right (see eternal perspective). He grew.

Luke 2:52. Here's the fifth one. He grew. "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Are you growing? So many of us are growing physically. We're working out hard. We're very sure to make sure we grow in stature. That's just part of it. Jesus didn't just grow in stature as a child and as an adult. He grew in favor with God and man.

Are you growing in your handicap? Is it lowering? Fine. But if you're only growing with a lower handicap or with a bank account and you're not growing in favor with God, something's out of whack here. Jesus was perfectly balanced. Let me tell you another area he grew in. This is something the church can really learn.

Jesus was not trapped to tradition. He did not do something this year because he did it last. In fact, he didn't do something last year because the Jews did it for 400 years. He grew with the true application of truth in a loving way to people. What are some things that we as a church are holding to that we will not change because it's the way we do it?

Do you know what I think we need to do in '96? I think we need to grow up a little bit. I think we need to let people wear jeans when they… Oh, forget it. No, seriously. If there are things in your mind that you cannot do because it's not right, maybe you need to grow out of it. Christ says you do not put an old patch on new clothes because it'll rip it. You don't put new wine in old wineskins. It'll burst it.

What Jesus is saying is you have to learn to grow. Don't change truth. You can't change it. It's not alterable. What can change sometimes is the way you do things in a loving way towards others. Will you grow? Are you going to let go of some the traditions you have? Maybe for some of you, frankly, it's to get smashed on New Year's Eve. You just let it go one time a year. You need to grow out of that. Maybe some of you guys go, "One of the things I always do is I struggle in relationships." Well, are you going to grow out of that?

Let me tell you the way you grow. This is the last one I have down here for you. Christ was [this is a bad word] disciplined. He was a servant. He was an evangelist. He was a discipler. He had his priorities worked out. He grew, and this brother was disciplined. That word disciplined is either unnamed in our society, we don't even think of it, or more likely, whenever you bring up the word disciplined people immediately go, "Legalist. Legalist. Legalist. Don't give me that discipline thing."

You have to know why we're disciplined. Jesus was the most disciplined man who ever lived. You look at his life. You check it out. He practiced the spiritual disciplines. The man was involved in fasting, in prayer, in solitude, in the study of God's word, in memorization of the Scriptures, and the list goes on. How are you doing in the area of disciplines?

There was a time on The Merv Griffin Show, years ago when Merv Griffin was still on, that he had some guys on there that were bodybuilders. Those guys got up there, and Merv said, "What do you do with these muscles?" They stood up, and they flexed, and Merv goes, "No. You don't understand. What do you do with them? What do you do with all that?" They stood up, and they flexed. They turned around, did one of those deals, pointed to their calf, whatever it might be.

As Christians sometimes we say, "What are you doing in your quiet time with God," and we list off what we're doing. We're flexing our discipline. That is not why we read the Bible. It's not why we exhort you to prayer. It's not why we want to let you into the truth about what fasting is. We don't want to let you into what the truth of what confession is and sharing and submission and those other disciplines.

You don't do a discipline as an end. Disciplines in Scripture are a means to an end. They were the spiritual disciplines, and Christ was into them. If you believe that he is God, you have to believe that he knew how to live. When Jesus was here, and he laid aside his godliness to live as a man and submit to the heavens, even as you and I do, with the Spirit of God indwelling him, even as the Spirit of God indwells believers today.

He practiced the disciplines, not so that he could show everybody how spiritual he was. That, though, was how he could grow. That is how he has the means to evangelize. That is how he had truth to share in his discipleship. That is how he was motivated to be a servant. Because he did the means through which would accomplish the ends.

You do not read your Bible for the sake of reading the Bible. You don't memorize Scripture so you can win at some Bible trivia contest. It gets you in the way of Christ. When Christ calls you to come to him, you are called into a relationship. It is not a list of things you do. You're not called to a life of works. You're called into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The way you do it is through the spiritual disciplines.

There was a blind guy by the road of Jesus. He threw himself in the path of Jesus. Zacchaeus saw it but couldn't get to him, so Zacchaeus got in a tree and yelled out at Jesus. The way that you seek Jesus and get in the way is on your knees. It's in God's Word and hearing his voice. It's in time of prayer, solitude, fasting, and journaling. Are you disciplined?

The world hears the word discipline, and they go, "Oh, man. That's not fun." We ought to be like Brer Rabbit in the briar patch. To the world, it's simply a bunch of thorns and something to be desperately avoided, but to us, it's home. It's life-giving. The disciplines are not a drudgery. If they're a drudgery to you, it's because you don't know what God gave them to you for. Not as a test, but as a means through which you would attain godliness.

What's it say in 1 Timothy 4:7? "Discipline yourself for the purpose ofdisciplining yourself." No. "…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness," and the purpose of Christ-likeness. Guess where you're headed, Ephesians 5 says: to be like Christ. Guess how you do it: through the disciplines.

Do you want to grow as a servant? Do you want to grow as an evangelist, as a discipler, and as one who thinks like God thinks? Do you know how you do it? Discipline yourself. The word in the Greek, an interesting thing, is gymnazō. It's where we get gymnasium from. In fact, the King James Version, if you went and read (those of you who have the King James Version) 1 Timothy 4:7, it says, "…exercise thyself rather unto godliness."

The reason you exercise the spiritual disciplines is that you might be conformed to the image of Christ. It's the means that get to the end. They are not the end. If you are burdened thinking God loves you because you read your Bible, that God loves you because you memorized Scripture, or that God loves you because you're doing any of the disciplines, let me free you up tonight. Those are the means through which he can use you and grow with you, not the means by which he loves you. They are a right response to his offer of relationship.

Let's wrap it up simply by saying this. What Christ is calling each one of us to do in Ephesians 5 and other places is to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. As 1995 winds down to an end, as you compare yourself to what Christ was like, once you agreed there are areas of your life that are out of whack, confess it, forsake it, and then live today. Spend your cash today, so that December 31, 1996, you won't have to look back and go, "Uh." You can go, "I lived that year like Christ would. I was conformed to his image. I was involved in the process of being like him."

If you're not ready to do some of those things today, all I want to ask you is this. What do you need to do today so next week you'll be ready to live that way? Do you want to know how you can test your maturity? I'll give you four T's. How do you respond to trials?How do you respond to temptation?How do you respond to truth? How are you doing at restraining your tongue?

Have you grown to be more like Christ? If so, the way you respond to trials should've changed this year. You can tell more about a guy's theology on LBJ than you can in a Bible study. How are you doing with trials in your life? Is there a hope that is unexplainable given the circumstances? If so, it's because you're being conformed to his image.

How are you doing with temptation? Are you continually beat up by sin? Is there habitual sin, a vice, that is getting your goat every single time? If you're maturing in Christ, you ought to be making headway in that area. How do you respond to truth? Is it to you something you don't want to face or, having found it, do you cling to it with all your life?

And then the fourth thing, that beast, the tongue. How are you doing at restraining your tongue? Is it used to abuse and to tear down those who are made in God's image? Or, is it giving, "…only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear," as Ephesians 4:29 says?

How do you respond to trials? How do you respond to temptation? How do you respond to truth, and how are you doing at restraining your tongue? If you're here tonight, there is an awful truth I need to share with you. That is that one day, you will stand before God, and he will judge you. He will do a gaze over your life, and he will take what you have to offer him.

Though you may not be a mass murderer, you will find that you are not without blemish. You will find you are not holy, you are not completely perfect, and you will find yourself wanting before him, unless you have trusted in this truth, and you've accepted the offer of life which he gives you tonight. The only requirement Christ has for you is that you thirst and that you come to the one place you can have your thirst quenched in Jesus Christ.

In Ephesians 1, it says that we have been chosen before the foundations of the world and that we should be holy and blameless before him. "With his deep, penetrating gaze," is what that word means. Do you know this truth? If you trust Jesus tonight that when he does that deep, penetrating gaze back over not just your 1995 but your 1994, your 1993, those awful college years, and goes into you, do you know what he's going to see?

God will see not the errors with the Tri Delta folks. He's not going to see the errors in your weekend binges. He's not going to see your errors when you file your tax forms. He's going to see deep inside of you who know Jesus Christ, his Spirit, his Son, his perfect sacrifice. That is the wonderful truth of Ephesians 1:5. That deep, penetrating gaze which God casts inside believers finds purity, finds forgiveness, and finds hope.

If you don't know that when Christ looks inside of you that he's going to find that, I call you tonight to come to him. I offer to you what I accepted 15 to 16 years ago, which is to say good gifts I do not want to bring. A resume I do not want to submit. I know that if it's not for the grace of God alone to save me, I cannot be saved. The Scriptures say, "For we are not saved according to deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing of his blood, and by the renewing of his Spirit."

Do you need a Savior? I offer him to you tonight. What a way to start the new year. Don't make a New Year's resolution; make a new life resolution. Put a new man in the coat. Please do not hear me say tonight that you need to go out and act differently if you don't know him personally. But if you're a new man, your new coat will operate differently, it'll hug differently, and it'll shine differently. Let's pray, and then we'll sing a song of affirmation. So we'd seek him first in all that we're about and make that your prayer.

Father, we stand before you. As we evaluate our life, we see that we left a lot out of '95 that you wouldn't have left out if you were living here. We just agree with you. We confess that in some area, whether it would be being selfish and not serving or being selfish and not letting others serve us, or not willing to share with people at risk of what they might think of us, or not really initiating a love relationship where we pour our life into another person.

We feel like we've thought a lot of times not with an eternal perspective but with a fiscal year perspective. Too many of us, even as Christians in this room, look back and go, "Golly, I'd like to have that one over," and we thank you that the loving kindness of God is new every single morning. We don't need to wait for January 1, but the mercies of God are new every single morning.

We come and throw ourselves at the Merciful One, and we thank you for the sacrifice of your Son ultimately and initially. We thank you for the incredible truth that we as believers if we confess our sins, you're faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So we thank you that we found forgiveness in our repentance.

But we do not want to then play games and assume there will be another opportunity next week to get our life straight. We want to stop procrastinating today. We want today to be a time that we begin to live out what your intended purpose for us is. That we would be godly. That we would be Christ-like. That we would be holy. That we would be blameless.

We thank you that, ultimately, it is your decree, not our doing, that will find us acceptable in your sight. May today, it not just be our stated desire but our determination, our discipline to grow. We thank you that that will determine tomorrow the life that we live. With your Spirit in us, we ask you to guide us.

I pray, Father, for those who are here tonight now who don't know you who want to make a new life resolution, who realize they've been trying to serve and to please a perfect God, and they know now they cannot do that based on the things they do. Tonight, all they want to do is respond to this incredible lover, Jesus Christ, and they confess that they alone cannot meet your standard of perfection and they just confess in their heart right now that if it wasn't for Christ dying on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for their sins, they could never be found acceptable in his eyes.

So they cling to that cross and that alone. They say, "Father, if it is true that Christ is God, and I believe it is, and that he died for me, and I believe he did, and I believe that you raised him from the dead, and that now he sits or even stands at the throne waiting to return, and that because of my belief and your offer of love and your offer of sacrifice for me that I am now your child and no longer a dead man deserving judgment but a child who your deep, penetrating gaze now finds the perfect unblemished Lamb of Jesus Christ and not the wickedness of my heart which resides there."

Thank you that you've changed me and that if any man is in Christ, he's a new creature and the old is gone. Not just '95, but all of it, and not just today, but all of '96 and '97 and what is to come because Christ has met my need. You are indeed a good God. We throw ourselves at your mercy, and we intend (all of us) to live in a way of 1995 that people would see that we seek first what is to be sought: godliness and discipline for the sake of godliness that others might be drawn to him.

Change our selfish hearts to selfless ones. Make us a people who love each other, who tell the world about him, who build truth into people lives, and who do it gentleness and reverence. May we seek you first in everything we do. Amen.


About 'Ephesians, Volume 3'

Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ.  Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 5 and 6.