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New Year’s Eve Sermonettes

New Creation – Genesis 1:26-27, 5:1-3, Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:9-10

So a new year! What new opportunities, new starts, new challenges are facing you this year?  Every year we mark this succession of years: the old year is gone, the new year is upon us.  Well, it’s fitting for us to go back to the first new year.  Time began when God first created the world and brought light out of darkness.  The world in which we live was once brand new.  You remember how God created the world.  For the land, the water, the sky, the planets, the sun, the moon, the stars, the birds, the fish, the plants, the animals – all of those things God simply spoke and they were there, they were formed.  But when God got to His final creation, the top of creation, He paused and He counseled with Himself, and then he carefully formed and made the first man and the first woman, the first you and me, the first humans.  And He made them in His image and in His likeness.  So what does that mean?  Well, it doesn’t mean that they physically looked like God for God is a spirit.  Rather, the Hebrew word image means “an exact copy of the original in some ways.”  It’s like our word “photocopy.”  If you take a color picture and photocopy it on a b/w copier, you get an exact copy of the original in some ways.  Well, you and I were originally made like God in some ways, specifically the first humans were created perfect and holy and righteous.  Their intellect, emotions, and will were in direct harmony with God.  They wanted what God wanted, they hated what God hated, they loved what God loved.  Out of their own free will they were in direct spiritual harmony with God.  Their divine image flowed out of their bond of faith in God, out of their perfect trust in God.

And Satan knew that.  So, when he came tempting Adam and Eve in the garden his aim was to attack their trust in God and in His goodness.  “Did God really say…” in other words, “If God really loved you would he hold something back from you?”  And then when Adam and Eve believed the lie and trusted in the devil instead of God, their image of God was shattered and lost.  So, later on, when they have children, we’re told that Adam’s son Seth is born in his image, in his likeness, in sinful Adam’s image.  And every human born of a sinful dad and a sinful mother has inherited that sinful image.  You and me included.

But then God did His wonderful thing in our hearts.  Through the Gospel, maybe it was through hearing His Word or maybe it was at our baptism, God worked faith in your heart to believe that Jesus is your Savior from sin.  That alone is our acquittal before God’s judgment seat.  Yet, immediately when God worked faith in your heart He also re-created His image in you!  He made you into a new creation, gave you a new self!

The image of God re-created inside of us moves us to want to be like God.  As believers we again think like God thinks, find joy in what pleases God, want to conform our lives to God’s will.  That’s the new creation inside of us!

Yes, however, in this earthly life, the image of God inside of us remains imperfect, it’s only partially restored.  We still have a sinful flesh, an old self, that we have to continually battle against until our dying day.  But the real you and me is the new creation of God’s image.  And it’s through hearing and reading and being strengthened by the gospel that our new self can with the battle against our old self.  So this coming year, make this a goal: feed your new self by hearing the gospel regularly, live the new self by being like God in your thoughts, words, and actions.  And what’s really neat?  When you live according to your new self you’ll have the most meaningful life because you’ll be living how God in Christ recreated you to be!

New Covenant – Jeremiah 31:31-34, Luke 22:19-20, Hebrews 9:11-15

Covenants are a big deal in the Bible.  Covenants were kind of like treaties or pacts that two different groups would make.  Sometimes it might involve a peace treaty for war, sometimes it would be between a conquered group and the conqueror, sometimes it would involve one group paying another group a certain amount of money for that group’s commitment to protect them from other invading groups who want to battle them.  There were one sided covenants and there were two sided covenants.  And the typical Hebrew phrase wasn’t “make a covenant” it was “cut a covenant.”  Because sometimes when a covenant was made they would cut animals in half and lay them down and the two parties would walk between them in order to say, “If I don’t fulfill my side of the covenant cut me in half like these animals.”  Powerful!

God had made a number of two sided covenants in the OT.  One was that Israel was to follow all of God’s laws and regulations and God promised to keep them as His special people, to care for them, to fight for them.  However, if they failed to keep His laws, they would also lose His protection.  Another had to do with their land: Israel was to be careful to obey God fully, follow all His laws, and they could have the Promised Land as their possession till the end of time.  However, if they failed, which they did, they would lose the land, which they did.

God has also made a 2 sided covenant with every human.  If you live perfectly, completely perfect, don’t have one sinful thought, word or deed, you will be welcomed into heaven.  If you don’t, you die.  That’s exactly what Jesus told a religious teacher: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus said, “Do this and you will live.”  But the problem?  Everyone has failed.

And that’s why we need a New Covenant.  Back in Jeremiah God promised it.  This new covenant wouldn’t deal with outward things, but with heart things.  It wouldn’t be conditional or two-sided, it would be one sided, God would make it and make sure it happened regardless of what the human party would do.  And the heart of this new covenant would be the forgiveness of sins.  And Christ became the mediator of this new covenant who with his blood cleansed us of our sins.  And part of this new covenant is Jesus’ own body and blood that He gives us to eat and to drink in the Lord’s Supper.  The Lord’s Supper is part of the new covenant in which God gives and assures us of the forgiveness of all of our sins! What better thing to do in the new year than to make more use of this new covenant by hearing more about Jesus and receiving often this covenant in the Lord’s Supper!

New Heavens and Earth – 2 Peter 3:11-13, Revelation 21:1-5

A new year brings new hopes, new goals, new excitement for this year to be better than the last.  But no matter how much we might dream or hope or try to make our lives better, it will never be heaven.  In this life there will always be pain, sadness, crying, disappointments, problems, troubles, hardships, death, etc.  Why?  Because this old world that we live in has been corrupted with sin.  Even nature itself suffers from the consequences of sin- hurricanes, tornadoes, natural disasters, sicknesses, disease.  All of nature is longing to be freed from its bondage to decay.  So what problems are awaiting us in this new year?

Thank the Lord that this world is “old” and that we have a new world to look forward to!  Thanks to Jesus – His life, death, and resurrection – you have a wonderful new heavens and new earth to look forward to!  God will make a new heaven and a new earth – the home of righteounsness.  A place where everything will always be right and good.  Where God will dwell with us, where there won’t be any more tears or death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things will pass away!

So, how should we live in this new year knowing that this world is “old” and is “passing” and one day will be destroyed?  Should we cling to the things of this life at the expense of treasuring heavenly treasures?  No way!  In the new year focus the new heavens and new earth, arrange your priorities knowing heaven is your home, and rejoice for you have an awesome heaven to look forward to!