JOHN SHIRK – From First John 1:6 and 7.
“If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
One of Steve Taylor’s classics is “Sin For A Season.” In that song, he exposed the faulty thinking of those who used God’s grace as a license for sin. One of the lines describes their motivation: “Gonna get the Lord to forgive a little sin. Get the slate cleaned so he can dirty it again. And no one else will ever know. But he reaps his harvest as his heart grows hard. No man’s gonna make a mockery of God.” These are the schemes of a deliberate sinner who abuses the grace of God.
God’s grace is amazing, but it is not a license for sin. Instead, it is a pardon for sin and an incentive for change. In Romans 6:1, Paul the Apostle asked, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
God’s grace enables us to come out of darkness and into the light. As we follow Jesus with sincere devotion, we experience the freedom of forgiveness and the fulfillment of joyful Christian fellowship.
Walking in the light of God’s grace and truth is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Mark 1:35.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
As we look at the life of Christ, we see His consistent devotion to the Father. He prayed regularly. Luke 5:16 tells us that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray. Consistent prayer is an opportunity that God has provided for us to pour out the concerns of our heart, praise Him for His attributes, intercede on behalf of others, and confess our sins to Him.
Prayer keeps the communication lines open with God, where we not only speak to Him, but He also speaks to us through the counsel of His Word. As we commit our lives to Him with a trusting heart, He directs our path.
As Jesus was praying in a solitary place, Simon and his companions went to look for him. When they found him, they exclaimed, “everyone is looking for you.” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else.” He was not driven by man’s agenda, but rather the will of His Father. After spending time with the Father, He was in tune with the Father’s plans for his day ahead.
Consistent prayer in a quiet place is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Second Corinthians 9:11.
“You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
One of the outcomes of a life filled with thanksgiving is generosity. Our hearts are made tender toward people in need. St. Augustine once said, “Find out how much God has given you and take from it what you need; the remainder will be needed by others.”
This thought challenges us not to be wasteful with what we have been given, but to consider how we might use what we have wisely, including life’s extras. Material things are not for hoarding, but for personal enjoyment and generous giving. We find this principle in First Timothy 6, where Paul told Timothy to command the rich in this present world to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. And then, he told Timothy to command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
Generosity is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Psalm 136, verses 1 and 2.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods; His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of Lords; His love endures forever.”
26 times, this chapter uses the phrase, “His love endures forever.” The reason that we can live with hope is because of God’s enduring love. It will never end, and it will never fail. It is strong enough to save us, and long enough to reach us wherever we are.
Even in the depths of depravity, His love is able to pick us up out of the quicksand of our own making and place us on the solid foundation of faith. His love is magnetic enough to draw us to a relationship with God forever. His enduring love is a compelling reason for daily gratitude.
Thankfulness to God is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Romans 5:8.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This highlights the difference between natural love and supernatural love. Many times in our world, people will wait to love someone until that person has proven themselves in some way, whether it be through attractiveness, accomplishment, or affluence.
God’s love is not like that. He did not wait to love us until we had proven ourselves worthy of love. If that were the case, Jesus would never have come. Instead, He made the first move toward us. He loved us first in the midst of our sinful condition, so that He could pull us out. We never have to wonder if God really loves us. If you ever feel that way, you can turn your eyes back to the cross of Christ. 2,000 years ago, His death was God’s ultimate expression of love to a world in desperate need of His grace.
Confidence in God’s love is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From First John 4:10.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Just about anyone can say the words, “I love you”, but the real test of that love will come in actions. God’s expression of love for us was not empty. He backed up His claim with a sacrifice of love. He gave us Jesus, who paid the penalty for our sins so that we could enjoy the gift of eternal life. There is no way we can outdo the love of God. But through Jesus, it is possible for us to tap into that love and let it flow through us to share with others. The next verse, First John 4:11 says, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
God’s love is not to be hoarded, but shared. As God’s love compels us in our activity, the Holy Spirit enables us to thrive where we are planted. We are refreshed by His love, even as we bring refreshment to others.
The expressions of sincere love are vital signs of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Proverbs 17:17.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Friends have a way of multiplying our joys and dividing our sorrows. One story of true friendship in the Bible is between David and Jonathan. The Bible says that Jonathan loved David as he loved himself. Jonathan spoke well of David. He looked out for his protection when he was in danger. David knew that he could trust Jonathan’s word. Those are the qualities of friendship where there is a mutual level of respect and honesty with each other. True friends keep each other’s secrets. We open the window of our soul a bit wider to a friend than other people, having the confidence that they will love us through our strengths and weaknesses, and we will do the same for them.
Jesus talked about friendship with His disciples in John 15:13. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” The next day, He died on a cross, expressing the purest form of friendship this world has ever known. As we follow Jesus, He teaches us how to be a good friend.
Being a faithful friend represents Jesus and is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – from Colossians 4:5 and 6.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Jesus once said that His followers were the salt of the earth, which indicates that we are called to flavor this world with the Gospel. One way that God helps us to do that is through our speech. When our words are full of grace, our witness reflects God’s love.
God’s grace is evident not only in the words we choose to say, but also how we choose to say them. A tone of gentleness and respect serves to build connections. When we hear of life challenges that someone is facing, we can offer to pray with them or remember them in our prayer time alone with God.
As we come into contact with unbelievers in our schools, our workplaces, and in other venues, God’s Word challenges us to look for those opportunities to share the Good News of God’s love with words of grace.
Conversation filled with grace is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Luke 8:21.
Jesus said, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
This statement broadens our view of family. At the time when Jesus said this, someone approached Jesus to tell him that his mother and brothers were standing outside wanting to see him. But they were having trouble getting through because of the crowd.
That is when Jesus widened the definition of His family circle to include anyone who was receptive to God’s Word and applied His truth to their lives. This application includes receiving the good news of salvation found only in Jesus Christ. This family definition includes people of faith for future generations, including ours. Family membership is one of God’s spiritual blessings for the follower of Christ. He enlarges our family to include God’s people who are brothers and sisters in Christ. Our fellowship is meaningful through the blood of Christ.
Putting God’s word into practice is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Hosea 10:12.
“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.”
Unattended soil is unproductive dirt. It just lays there, not producing anything that can be turned into food. This kind of soil is compared to the heart that is resistant to the Gospel. However, breaking up the unplowed ground of our heart is comparable to making our heart tender to God. We become receptive to the word of the Lord, and that word becomes a seed that springs forth a productive crop that leads to eternal life. The seed of God’s Word also produces the righteousness of Christ in us as we accept His message of grace by faith.
Choices have outcomes. We cannot expect good fruit to form out of bad seeds. Galatians 6:7 says, “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Seeking the LORD prepares our heart to receive the word of the LORD so that we might be trained in His righteousness and live a productive life.
Planting God’s Word in our heart is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.