JOHN SHIRK – From Luke 9:20.
Jesus was having a conversation with His disciples. He asked them what other people were saying about His identity. Different names were brought up in response to His question. Some were saying that Jesus is John the Baptist. Others were saying Elijah. And still others were saying that Jesus was one of the prophets of long ago come back to life.
Then Jesus asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
Peter was acknowledging Jesus as being sent by God to be the Savior of the world. What we believe about Jesus will affect the vital areas of our lives, including our eternal salvation, our influence in the world, and our sense of purpose for living life. What we believe about Jesus will affect how we treat other people. We will heed carefully the “one another” commands of the Bible. Love one another. Encourage one another. Be kind and compassionate to one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Peter was blessed for recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. So will we. First John 4:15 says “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.”
Acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Esther 4:14.
A quote from Mordecai to Queen Esther, “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
This is perhaps the most often quoted passage in the book of Esther. Even though this book of the Bible does not mention God by name, His hand is clearly working in the circumstances that are unfolding in this book. An evil plot by Haman to wipe out the Jews is thwarted by Queen Esther. She used her influence to spare the Jews from annihilation. Her relative Mordecai offered her the encouragement she needed to take a personal risk for the sake of saving her people.
Whatever platform God has given us, that is an opportunity to stand for what is right. It may involve personal risk. We might pay the price of persecution for standing against evil. At the same time, we will know the joy of developing a deeper relationship with God as we follow Jesus with a loyal heart.
There are general purposes that God has for His followers: Knowing Him better, Glorifying Jesus, Building the church by the use of our spiritual gifts, and being a witness for Jesus to a world who needs His grace. For such a time as this, God is raising up His people to shine the light of grace and truth on a world darkened by division and deception.
Using our position as a platform to do God’s will is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Hebrews 13:14.
“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”
There are some major differences between being a citizen on the earth and a child of God’s Kingdom. The things of this world are temporary. The treasures of God’s kingdom are eternal. Our achievements on this earth that lead to trophies, medals, and honors will fade away, but our relationship with God and our service for Him will last forever. Our anticipation of heaven inspires us to be more productive, not less productive while we live on the earth.
In light of keeping our focus on the city that is to come, the next verse (Hebrews 13:15) says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with sacrifices God is pleased.”
Seeking first after God’s Kingdom and His righteousness is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Philippians 1:6.
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
This is the result of a persistent commitment carried out from a faithful heart to Jesus. Think about the potential impact of one act of service on future generations.
Whether it’s sending an email of encouragement to a friend or helping strangers by volunteering at a homeless shelter; God can use each form of service to touch a life and multiply the impact until the return of Jesus.
We heard an example of this on a recent Lighthouse Report. Shaun serves as a pastor at a church in Denver Colorado. 4,000 people go to that church every week. But there was a time when Shaun was thinking of ending his life. In his distress, he called a man named Eric Parks, who invited him to go to church instead of ending his life. As a result of that invitation, Shaun committed his life to Christ instead of committing suicide. His life was saved, and he is being used of God to reach others with the Gospel. That is the ongoing work of God through His faithful witnesses.
Being a faithful instrument of God’s grace is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Proverbs 23:12.
“Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.”
Recently, Lifeway Research surveyed nearly 3,000 churchgoers about their desire to honor Christ and their Bible study habits. 90 percent of respondents agreed that they desired to please and honor Jesus in all they do. However, when asked how often they read the Bible, 19 percent said “every day.”
If we were in school and wanted to get a good grade, we would get into some good habits to make that happen. We would show up for class. We would listen attentively. We would take notes. And we would study those notes so that our learning would increase.
Christianity is not just an academic exercise. It is a relationship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ. That relationship grows stronger as we know Jesus better. Ephesians 5:17 counsels us to “Understand what the Lord’s will is.” That is a benefit of careful Bible study. If we want to know how to honor God through our choices, we can approach God’s word with a student’s mind, willing to learn and grow into the likeness of Jesus.
Knowledge and application of God’s Word is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From First Corinthians 13, verses 4 through 7.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
This is the description of love that never fails. This is the highest form of love that sustains marriages, supports friendships, helps the hurting, and at times, wins over enemies. This is the kind of love that makes heroes out of ordinary people. Jesus is the ultimate source of this kind of love, so these descriptions of love are true of Jesus too. Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind. Jesus never fails.
The implication of this kind of love is that God wants us to develop this kind of love for others. Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Imitating the love of Jesus is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Isaiah 53:10.
Speaking of Jesus, “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.”
The death of Jesus at the cross was the will of the LORD. His suffering was for a purpose. That purpose is revealed in verse 5 of the same chapter. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
The reasons for our suffering in this life may not always be clearly understood, but through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we see that suffering within God’s plan is never wasted. Jesus said we would have trouble, but He also said, “take heart, I have overcome the world.” Through Jesus, we have grace to overcome the trials of this life.
Living with hope through adversity is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Second Corinthians 9:8.
“And God is able to make grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
Whenever material prosperity is talked about in the Bible as a blessing, it is intended NOT for selfish gain, but rather that we do something redemptive with our material wealth. In this case, the Apostle Paul was appealing for financial support from one group of people with plenty so that they might provide for another group of people in need. He was appealing to their sense of generous delight rather than dutiful obligation. He said, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Material resources are valuable tools for supporting the ministry of our local church, promoting the work of organizations that serve the community in Jesus’ name, and directly intervening to help someone in a crisis. One of the reasons that God blesses us with things is so that we can bless others with generous love. Another reason for God’s blessings is so that we might abound in His good work. We need resources to do that.
Generous giving is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From John 6:27:
Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Jesus is pointing out the difference between temporal food and permanent food. The food that we eat satisfies our appetite and fills our stomach….for a brief period of time. But before long, we find ourselves eating again. Then the next day comes, and we are looking for more food to eat. We certainly need food to eat, but there is also more to life than fulfilling our physical appetites.
Jesus said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” A good question to ask ourselves today is, “Am I doing something that has eternal significance?” God has a purpose for us to lift up the name of Jesus so that people might put their faith in Him as Lord and Savior. Acts of service, proclamation of the Gospel, and time spent with Jesus are all worthwhile investments with eternal value.
Making God’s Kingdom and righteousness top priority is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Ephesians 5:19.
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Over the centuries, God has used music as an instrumental tool for worship and ministry. Songs with Christian lyrics have been known to be a source of comfort in troubled times, a source of spiritual growth for the heart that is searching for God, and a source of wisdom to teach us what it means to follow Jesus.
Music is a language to express our love for God and to praise Him for His goodness and greatness. Music is also a means to speak to each other about God’s saving grace through the testimony of Jesus Christ.
We can share His story through a variety of Christian songs today.
The use of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs for worship and ministry is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.