In any walk of life, there will be times of great blessing and times of great difficulty. There will be times when you feel full of joy and there may be times when you may feel quite desperate. But whatever your circumstances today, God says to you: “Rejoice in hope”...
As Christians, we believe lasting hope and change comes not from our own efforts and resolutions, but from our devotion to, and conformity to reflection on Jesus Christ. So instead of offering resolutions for the new year, I want to offer a New Year’s reflection.
Read these each month and use the theme for that month as you study God’s word. In doing so, you will grow in greater conformity to our precious Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. You can anticipate that, because it is true!
This is by far the most defining characteristic of Jesus. Throughout his earthly ministry (and even now!) He exuded love to everyone he encountered, whether saint or sinner. As Christians, love should be our distinguishing characteristic, as well. “Everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35).
In the new year, let Christ-like love rule the day. While we should never compromise God’s Word, we can still express brotherly love to others in our everyday interactions with them.
Reflection: In what specific, tangible ways does Christ love others in the Bible?
Compassion is borne out of love for others. It means “to suffer together.” Compassion compels us to come alongside and partner with someone who is suffering, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.
Scripture recounts several instances when Jesus was “moved with pity” (Mark 1:41). This God-given feeling caused him to move toward the sufferers out of love for them and do something to help them.
Reflection: Read John 11. Reflect on Jesus’s compassion and love for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. How does it change your life to know that Jesus’s weeps with us?
Forgiveness is why Jesus came to earth, to die on a cross so that we could be forgiven of our sins and receive eternal life. Thanks to God’s great forgiveness of our sins, our relationship with God can be wonderfully restored.
It is the same with our earthly relationships. Unforgiveness keeps us separated, but forgiveness reunites us. Forgiveness enables us to lay aside the debt of wrongs and sins done to us (and vice versa). Forgiveness heals fractured relationships.
Reflection: Please read the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Meditate on it this month and think about those in your life whom you need to forgive. Read also Luke 23. Ask yourself: What does it mean for my life if Jesus could forgive those who crucified him?
Humility means “lowliness of mind, modesty.” As the saying goes, “It is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Humility is a mindset, an attitude, the opposite of pride, “haughtiness, disdain, arrogance.”
Hear this from Philippians 2:5-7:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Reflection: How can you follow Christ’s example by “taking the form of a servant” and begin to cultivate humility in your own life?
Just as compassion is an outgrowth of love, obedience is an outgrowth of humility. “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
Jesus’ obedience manifested itself in doing the will of his Father, not his own (John 6:38). He made God’s greatest wish and desire—that none should perish, but that all should have eternal life—and made it his own (2 Peter 3:9).
Reflection: In what way are you struggling to obey God right now? How does Christ’s obedience move you to be more obedient of God’s will for your life?
Even before his birth, Isaiah said that one of Jesus’s names would be Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus offers this peace through salvation. Jesus’s broken body tore down “the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14) between God and us. Amen!
Peace is yet another characteristic that should define God’s children, so much so that it is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Reflection: Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). How did Jesus bring peace to those he came in contact with? How does he bring us peace today?
Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins was (and is) the most significant act of love, compassion, humility, and obedience ever expressed. He willingly gave himself in death, so that you and I could have life. It was his ultimate act of service for sinful mankind, having come “not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).
Reflection: Read Matthew 23:11-12. Meditate on all that Jesus has done (and continues to do) for you, to help you begin to cultivate a sacrificial servant’s heart for others.
Prayer, first and foremost, is to exchange our own wishes (our wills) for God’s. Recall when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. He asked God to take away the cup of death which he was about to drink. But, ultimately, Jesus prayed, “…yet, not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Notice the exchange of Jesus’s wish for God the Father’s?
Reflection: Jesus also knew that he could not fulfill his ministry without his Father’s help and guidance, Therefore, throughout his three-year ministry, he frequently withdrew from everyone and went to isolated places to be alone with God (Luke 5:16, 6:12; Mark 1:35). How can you withdraw for times of spiritual refreshment and seek God’s help and guidance?
SEPTEMBER: AVAILABLE, ATTENTIVE
Often, we are so consumed with our own lives and schedules that we aren’t as available or attentive to the hurting, the needy, and the spiritually lost as we should be.
Consider how most of Jesus’ three-year ministry was spent in open, public places (by the sea of Galilee, on mountaintops, at public bathing pools, on roadways). People could come to him at any time. And they did. By the thousands. Jesus intentionally made himself accessible, welcoming everyone, both saint and sinner. (See Luke 7:36-50, 17:11-19; Mark 2:1-12, 14-17)
Reflection: How has God been available and attentive to you during your journey with him?
God the Father cannot lie, and neither can Jesus, God the Son. (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:18).
Unlike Jesus, however, we can lie, exaggerate, bend the truth. It is part of our sinful nature. Yet, believers are called to “take off your old self with its practices…[and] do not lie to each other” (Colossians 3:9).
Reflection: What truth did Jesus speak that you most want to share with someone you know?
When the confused disciples couldn’t grasp the meanings of many of his parables, Jesus patiently explained them. When Thomas doubted who he was and demanded proof before he believed, he patiently complied. Praise God! For he is patient with us, his stubborn, errant children (Psalm 103:8).
Resolution: Make Romans 15:5 your prayer this month: “May the God who gives [patience] endurance and encouragement give [me] the same attitude of mind toward each other, which Christ Jesus had.”
Holiness is not merely a set of moral codes to follow. Moral behaviors are the outgrowth of an already holy character. In Christ, we are holy at the moment of our conversion. Our lifestyle choices and outward conduct, through the ongoing transformation of our lives, then reflect that holiness.
Just as God is “set apart and separate,” we are to spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and in some cases, physically disassociate ourselves from the world’s sinful activities, values, beliefs, and philosophies.
Resolution: If you have put your faith in the free gift of grace, found through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), then Christ’s holiness has been attributed to you. What good works has God “prepared beforehand” (v. 10) in your life?