Sermon Notes • December 27

An Option for the New Year

There are two radically different options for the New Year. Option 1 is described as follows in Ecclesiastes 1:9. Read that verse. Option 1 is that the New Year will simply be a repeat in one way or another of the old year because in the end nothing is going to be new. 

No one seriously wants 2021 to be a copy of 2020 but realistically, for the majority, the new year will be more of the same old. The particulars of 2021 may differ. We may see an end to the virus and many people going back to work but the emptiness of not feeling secure and fulfilled will remain. In 2021 they may be able to return to the crowds allowing them to temporarily take their minds off their loneliness, but nothing will really change. They will still feel an emptiness that nothing this world offers can fill. 

Praise the Lord there is a second option pictured in Revelation 21:5. Read that verse. That specific verse is a promise associated with the return of the Lord and therefore, still future, although 2021 could easily be the year of Jesus’ return since many of the signs He said would precede His return are in place. But that verse presents the reality that God is all about replacing the old with something new and better.  2021 can be a completely New Year, not different in terms of the ugliness of Covid-19 but a year with a new walk with the Lord. Christians ought to make the year ahead uniquely different and better because we enter the year committed to allowing God to move us forward in our walk with Him. 2021 can be a New Year for us in that we have another opportunity to realize the presence of God with us in each event of the year.

As a starting point, nothing can be new spiritually in 2021 if we have not taken advantage of the “New Covenant” promised to us by God Himself.We cannot not experience the newness God has for us in 2021 unless we have first experienced in our individual lives the New Covenant. A covenant was made when each party offered an expression of commitment that was viewed by all as binding. God said to the people of Israel, and later through Jesus to Christians today, that He would make a binding covenant with them, that He would be their God forever. While God has always remained faithful to His commitment to that new covenant, men have failed it over and over. God, however, never gave up on mankind. He had a way to change us so we can be seen as keeping our half of the covenant. God made a way so that our half of the covenant relationship was kept, not by us but by His Son whose birth we celebrated last Friday. There is nothing more critical to our present faith and future existence than that new covenant based not on what we do but what Jesus did for us. 

God made the promise of a new covenant through the prophet Jeremiah, Read Jeremiah 31:31-33. That New Covenant was further promised by Jesus to believers when He instituted the communion service. Read Luke 22:20. 

Option 2 for 2021 is to live not as those under a covenant that cannot be kept thereby making the same old the same in the coming year, but to live under the New Covenant and enjoy the blessings that covenant provides.

What should our participation in the New Covenant mean in the year ahead? Read how Paul described the impact of that covenant in II Corinthians 5:17. Paul was declaring that because of the New Covenant we can and should have a whole new lifestyle so the challenge for 2021 is to make that new lifestyle in Jesus more and more of a daily reality. It is a challenge to grow in a lifestyle that reflects the life of Jesus day by day.

The most comprehensive picture of the implications of enjoying the benefits and expectations of the New Covenant is found in Hebrews 10:19-25.  Read those verses and note the following key points: 

  1. “We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus. Therefore we should draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith more and more.” A challenge for 2021 is to spend more time in worship and prayer.That includes the collective worship in church but more importantly a commitment to time with the Lord in our personal and family devotions at home.
  2. Hebrews added, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” The challenge for the New Year is to live with the assurance that no matter what comes our way, God is not only with us but will see us through. In 2021 we should learn to claim more completely the promises made available to us under the New Covenant.
  3. Then Hebrews adds, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Most Christians try to do that, but we all know there is always more we can do in practical ways to demonstrate that love. Begin 2021 by identifying someone to whom you can show your love in practical ways, knowing that when we do it unto the least of them, we do it unto our Savior.

The New Testament speaks of the importance of loving one another as a New Commandment to follow. Read John 13:34-35 and II John 1:5-6.  

  1. Finally,we are encouraged in 2021 to “not give up meeting together.” It would be exciting to see our Bible study numbers growing. 

We dare not waste the year ahead by simply repeating the same spiritual standards of last year. We all know we can expand in at least some area and perhaps in several.

The new covenant expects us to live differently in 2021 than we did before we made a commitment to Jesus. Read in Ephesians 4:22-24 how Paul described that new walk. 

God knows that growing spiritually takes work and that Satan will try to discourage us as we begin to move forward. God, however, has promised to walk with us as we seek to move that way. Read the promise God made in Lamentations 3:22-23. Every day He gives us the strength to move forward in our walk with Him.

Read a similar promise in Ezekiel 11:19, 20.  Moving forward in 2021 is not something we have to do on our own. God has promised us His presence and help if we allow Him to do so. Following the decrees of God means doing that which He wants us to do.

Interestingly, with the new covenant we are also given a New Song: Many of the verses in Scripture that talk of something becoming “new” refer to a “new song” that we will be able to sing as those who belong to God. Music is the joy of the soul and the medium of praise and living closer to our Lord will bring great joy to us in 2021. Read the following verses:  Psalm 33:3; Psalm 40: Psalm 96:1 and Revelation 5:9. Regardless ofwhat 2020 looked like, we will be able to sing that new song in 2021 if we are truly seeking to renew our faith and commitment each day,

As we move into a new year, we can live spiritually in 2021 simply as a repeat of 2020 or we can live as those desiring to apply more fully the benefits of the new covenant with God. Seeking to live under the New Covenant in 2021 means we will make a renewed commitment to spending more time with Him, loving one another more deeply, and meeting together to encourage each other. We do not have to live the new year alone but with the promise of God that no matter what comes our way in the year ahead He will be with us and, therefore, we have a new song to sing. The new covenant means we can live 2021 looking forward to the day when Jesus will return and establish a new heaven in which we will live eternally. 

A year from now, if the Lord does not return, we will look back on the year ahead and see either a repeat spiritually of 2020 or a year in which we have grown spiritually because we have chosen to live 2021 in light of the many new promises God has made to us.