Resolutions for 2017

New Year’s Eve Sermonettes

Resolution #1 – That We Would see ourselves as God sees us: Isaiah 61:10-62:3

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  11For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.  1For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.   2The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.   3You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”

New year’s resolutions. This is the time to think about them. Do you have any? What about Adam and Eve. Do you think they would have made New Year’s Resolutions? When they were first created, do you think they would have sat down and thought about resolutions? I don’t think they would have. Why not? Because they were perfect. They didn’t need them. The very fact that we consider new year’s resolutions is because we’re sinful.

I’m also going to guess that if you’ve made new year’s resolutions, that there’s a certain sameness to them J. “I’m going to start exercising this year.” (I’m guessing that’s one that’s been on the list year’s past.) “I’m going to do a better job managing my money.” “I’m going to read my bible every day.” You see, even when we make resolutions, we tend to break them. Why? Because we’re sinful and unfaithful. We’re unfaithful to God, unfaithful to other people, and even unfaithful to ourselves!

But incredibly, that’s not how God sees you and me! God sees you and me completely differently! “For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Because of Jesus, your perfect substitute, because that baby in the manger came not only to die for your sins but to live a perfect life for you, God sees you as looking perfect, glorious, beautiful. He sees you looking like a bride walking down the aisle on her wedding day! That’s what God sees! And God’s resolution is that we would see ourselves and each other the way he does.

And how would that change your life if you consistently looked at yourself the way God describes you here? “Righteousness, splendor, royal diadem…” Do you think you would have less worry, less guilt, less negative thoughts about yourself? Do you think you might have more confidence, more joy, more peace, more hope?

And what if you looked at your spouse/kids/parents/co-workers/classmates this way, and treated them in a way which was consistent with that?  Can you imagine how much your relationships would improve?  Can you imagine how much more patience you’d show to each other, how much more encouragement, how much more respect would be there?

And how does it happen?  Very simply – by being reminded by God, through His Word, of how you look.  In His eyes, you look good!  See yourself that way!

Resolution #2 – That We would See This World for What It Is:  John 1:14-18

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”  16From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.  17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

How many of you like to go camping? I like to camp. A couple years ago my parents gave us their pop-up camper which used to be my grandparents’. We also got a couple tents from them too. Camping’s fun. But how many here would like to live in a tent for several years? Tents aren’t meant to be permanent. They’re meant to be temporary dwelling places.

And so is life. The Greek word translated, “made his dwelling” in verse 14 is literally, “pitched his tent” among us. Jesus came to this world, yes. Jesus lived in this world, yes.

But- it was only a short time. During his adult life he had no place which he called his permanent home; even during His very early life he traveled all over – Bethlehem to Egypt, back to Israel, then to Nazareth. He was here physically for 33 years; and then he left this world. His time here was a tent-dwelling-time. It was temporary.

And so is your life and mine. We’re here for a short time and then we leave this world for eternity. Think about it: the people alive at Jesus’ time, the people who saw Jesus’ glory when he came here (like the apostle John) – they’ve been in heaven for almost 2,000 years! In comparison, the time which they spent here on earth wasn’t more than a “camping trip.”

Our 2nd resolution for tonight is that we would see this world for what it is: a temporary dwelling place. That doesn’t mean this world isn’t important. It is vitally important! But just for one reason. Our time on earth is the only time we have to come to know Jesus as our Savior and to share Jesus with others. That’s it! We’re here on this is earth for that reason: to come to know Jesus and to share Jesus with other people. When our work is finished, Jesus takes us home. That’s the only thing that in the end really matters.

But is that the way we consider this earth and the things in it? Or do we wrap ourselves up with the things of this world? Chasing wealth, power, honor, glory, stuff?

Think about how different life would be if we remembered that this world was just temporary? How much more content could we be if we realize that this world is short, that heaven is our real home? Can you imagine how our priorities would change, how much more important spiritual matters would become, how much more important it would be that we shared the message of salvation with others, and how the things of this world would become less important to us, which would mean less stress, less worry, and more contentment? Do you want that? God wants you to have that: He does so by reminding you that this world is only temporary- heaven is your home.

Resolution #3 – To Know that God has Loved You Forever:  Ephesians 1:1-6, 15-18

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—  6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. … 15For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,  16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,


An unfortunate reality is that many believers in Jesus don’t understand the doctrine of predestination, and therefore, avoid it.  The reality is, the truth of predestination is really wonderful and really helpful.  The doctrine is simple: before God had ever created the world, God had chosen His people.  So, to apply it to you and me, before God ever said, “Let there be light,” He said, “Aaron, I choose you to be one of my children.”  Why did God do that?  Simply because He loved me.  Can you imagine?  God has loved me (and you) since before the world was ever created!  God has loved you for thousands of years.  In fact, God has even loved you before there was something called “time.”  J  (Yes, God created time, too, when He created the world.)  So, He’s loved you forever and ever and ever!

“But how can I know that this applies to me?”  There are several ways.  First, because when Jesus died, He died for all.  If He died for all, then you know for sure that He died for you.  If that wasn’t enough, God’s also told you how He works – He works faith in our heart through the Word and the Sacrament.  So, in your baptism, God claimed you as His own.  In the Word, God keeps on strengthening and building your faith.  In the Lord’s Supper, God keeps on assuring you that the work of Jesus was meant for you personally, for you as in individual, that YOUR sins are forgiven, for Jesus is giving His body and blood to YOU!  In other words, what God did for you in eternity (choosing you to be His child) God gives to you in the course of time, through His Word and Sacrament, so that you can approach life with the confidence of knowing that God has loved you… forever!

And that’s our 3rd resolution – to know that God has loved us forever!  Before there was ever a world, before there were fish in the sea or birds in the air, before Adam and Eve existed, God loved you!  God cared for you!  God has chosen you to be His child!  God has loved you forever!

Oh, and by the way, He’s going to keep on loving you forever, too!  He’s promised you a home in heaven, and He’s going to take you there!  And perhaps fortunate for you and good for you, God will take you to heaven this year!

And so we come to what conclusion?  Well, the first truth is that God HAS loved me forever!  The 2nd truth is that God is GOING to keep on loving me forever!  Which leads us to what conclusion?  The conclusion that God will indeed keep on loving me during this little slice of time which we call 2017.

Doesn’t that kind of encapsulate all of it?  I mean, if we remember that God has loved me forever, and will love me forever, doesn’t that help me to keep this world in proper perspective?  If we remember that God has loved us forever, doesn’t that help us to see ourselves as who we really are?  Sure!

And so perhaps we can summarize God’s resolutions for us by focusing on this truth – God has (and will) love you forever!  And if we focus on that truth by being into the Word, no matter what 2017 might bring, it will be a great year!

What’s New in the Bible?

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!