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.
JOHN SHIRK – From First Corinthians 12:20.
Speaking of the church, “As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
The picture of the church is compared to the human body, where the parts are connected and working together to contribute to a healthy body. This statement comes between two interesting points made by the Apostle Paul.
The first point stresses the importance of each body part to someone who might feel inferior to others. “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’ it would not cease to be part of the body.” Each part matters and has an important role to fulfill. No part is so insignificant that it does not have something to contribute.
The second point also stresses the importance of each body part; this time, to someone who may feel superior to others. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’” No part is so important that it does not need the support or help of others.
The purpose of service in the church is for the common good of the church and to lift up Jesus as Lord to a watching world.
Expression of spiritual gifts in the church is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Leviticus 19:32.
“Rise in the presence of the aged; show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.”
Out of reverence to God, we are led to respect the elderly and those who are in authority over us. Those who are advanced in years have a wealth of experience and many have gained wisdom through that experience. The book of Proverbs is an example of the voice of experience offering wisdom to the next generation, so that they might grow up to honor the LORD.
Proverbs 1:8 says, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”
One way we can show respect for the elderly is to listen to their wisdom and learn from their wisdom. Consider their counsel seriously. The Bible also talks about respecting our church leaders and cooperating with them in service to God.
Respect for the elderly and reverence for God are vital signs of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Matthew 7, verses 13 and 14.
Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
It’s not always wise to follow the crowd, especially if the crowd is headed in the wrong direction. Jesus urges us to find life through the road less traveled. Some people in the world believe that there are many paths that lead to God. But this view contradicts what Jesus said when He told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He also said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.”
According to Jesus, He is the only way to a relationship with God the Father and eternal life. By faith, we can walk with God and enjoy His fellowship forever.
Following Jesus is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.