Sermon 1 1st January 2017 ‘A new Beginning’ Psalm 118, Acts 9:1-19
Hebrews 10:20 20 ” by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,”
There is a chorus that goes something like this:
“It’s a new and living way walk ye in it It’s a new and living way God has planned
It’s a new and living way I am walking day by day
I am guided and led by His right hand. ”
It is this though that is in my mind as we come together on the first day of the week, on the first day of a new year.
Yesteryear has passed and we are in a new year, a new era in our lives, as individuals, families and a church community.
For some last year was a terrible year and for other it was a great year, it all depends on your circumstances and how you perceive things. The glass is either half full or half empty.
For some it was an exciting year and others a year of grief and unsurmountable obstacles.
For the Child of God last year was the year we were supposed to have with its ups and downs, the good bad and the ugly!
It was the year of the Lord, as we walked forward in faith- for some our faith has been stretched and challenged and for others nothing much has happened in relation to what we believe and how we walk in faith, much of the same ….
Never the less we cannot take 2016 back- we can learn from its challenges and we can grow from our faith crises.
There is a verse of scripture that I go back to every January as I begin a new year, a timely reminder of priorities in life:- The Lord Jesus spoke of living one day at a time:
Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Psalm 118:24.“This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
A new year, a new beginnings, with its new challenges and situations: How are we to approach this year?
We can do so with a sense of fatalism, ‘what will be will be’, ‘tis kismet!’
Or we can see the New Year as a doorway to new opportunities, stepping stones towards a life of faith as we seek to be the people God wants us to be in a world that He has placed us in.
I am not saying that everything will be the way we want it to. Nor am I saying that politically economically things will be well. There is so much that we just do not know.
But what I would like to say is that we can be encourage by the fact that every day is a new day a day of faith opportunities, a day that we can grow closer in faith to our God, desiring to be open to His perfect will for our lives.
Imagine for a moment that you are a dedicated person of faith- you have your life mapped out for you- you are going to achieve a lot, you have the intelligence, and the opportunity the education and the breeding in the eyes of the world to achieve whatever you want- the world is your oyster, You are a person of high ideals and you cannot tolerate the stupidity of others- and from your perspective you are on the right track.
This is how Saul felt, he had a prosperous future in his religious world, a Pharisee of Pharisees, a meticulous and dedicated man of God- yet he couldn’t see clearly enough to know the truth.
Have you heard of the phrase: “can’t see the forest for the trees” (Also, can’t see the wood for the trees. Focus only on small details and fail to understand larger plans or principles) The free dictionary Web page.
Saul was like that.
It wasn’t that there were no markers, signs and prophecies that pointed to the truth- he just wasn’t looking for them in the right paces- there were so many good truths out there in the world, his world- I believe that it is similar today, so many truths, so many messages, some of them really good and worthy- put forward by people of integrity and care- and like Saul they might not be looking in the right direction.
There is only one truth that counts and that is the Way the Truth and the Life- the Lord Jesus , this separates the Christian faith from all others.
Today’s Bible reading is the conversion story of the Apostle Paul, formally known as the Pharisee Saul- we were first introduces to Saul at the murder of Stephen. Stephen was the first person in the Church to be martyred for the faith- and Saul stood by holding the coats of those who brutally murdered him- all in the name of pure religion. He may not have got his hands dirty but he approved of Stephen’s assault.
The one who stands by and approves is just as guilty as the one who does the deed!
Why this reading for the first Sunday in January- well for Saul life was going to be turned upside down, there will be a new beginning- A broom will come and sweep all the mess on the floor of his life away and start with a clean slate.
• Was this transition easy?
• Was it simple?
• Was it painless? NO, NO, NO!
We can learn from his experience. There was not only a new life in the offering; there was also a lot of unlearning to do a new approach, a new allegiance and fences to mend.
• Many of us on the faith journey come to a place where we just stop and think, question and reason, rarely is a person stopped in their tracks-
What was Saul doing when God spoke to him? Vs 1: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples
I believe that God often intervenes in situations and with people- this is not always seen for what it is- we are so busy focusing on ourselves or even others that we do not see or hear the Lord.
For Saul his moment of light and clarity was filled with awe and confusion as he was stropped dead in his tracks!
He was arrested by the one whom he was persecuting. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The Lord Jesus got his attention!
This was not the end but the beginning of a new and exciting life- a full life, a hard life for God had singled this man out for service.
For this persecutor of the faith, the one who hated the church of the Lord Jesus, the one who approved of murder and torture and the destruction of all we hold dear in the Christian life.
If this man can come to faith and experience salvation- then anyone can be saved.
For the Grace of God is far reaching. I believe that there is no such thing as a person who cannot be redeemed.
2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come The old has gone, the new is here!”