JOHN SHIRK-from Luke 1:38.
After hearing what God was calling her to do, Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
She was given the task of delivering Jesus to the world.
The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Then later, the angel said, “For nothing is impossible with God.”
It was a sacred calling, and she accepted without hesitation. Mary’s response reminds us that the Lord has a purpose for us as well, a sacred calling to deliver the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. Mary’s response gives us insight of how to do that.
Respond as a servant of God. Don’t try to change the details of His plan. He knows what He is doing. He made us for such a time as this. This is the window of opportunity to follow His calling. As we cooperate with His mission, He provides the fruit. Some of it is evident and some of it is not.
Willingness to serve God is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Hebrews 9:22b.
“Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”
This foundational truth points us to the reason why Jesus came to shed his blood for us. We have sinned against a holy God, and cannot save ourselves from the wages of sin, which is death. Only a hand beyond us could rescue us-a hand that is holy and nail-scarred. Up until the time of Christ, the blood of bulls and goats were sacrificed, but that was not really effective to forgive people’s sins. The Bible tells us that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That sacrificial system was only a shadow of things to come, not the real deal.
Verse 26 says that Christ has now appeared at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. His blood, shed on the cross, was a sufficient payment for our sins. Because of what Jesus did at the cross, we have forgiveness of sins through faith in His name. With the guilt of our sins cleared away, the barrier has been removed, and we have freedom to walk with God as His follower and friend.
Trusting the blood of Christ for forgiveness is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Micah 6:8.
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Implications of acting justly include treating people with fairness and without discrimination based on racial background or economic status. Acting justly shows concern for the poor and takes a stand for innocent victims of injustice.
Loving mercy includes willingness to forgive the sins of others just as God forgave us. Another dimension of mercy is extending the kindness of God to a wounded soul.
Walking humbly with God acknowledges our own need for God’s grace and seeks to bring Him glory in our lives. We acknowledge His greatness and depend on His goodness. Where He leads us, we follow.
God has not left us without direction. He has provided a roadmap that reveals His good and pleasing purposes. The Bible is a valuable resource to guide us in the truth of God’s will.
Obedience to God’s Word is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From 2 Peter 1, verse 5 to 7.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control, and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
These are the qualities that reflect character development in the life of a devoted follower to Jesus. Many of these qualities are mentioned elsewhere as the fruit of the Spirit. Adding these virtues to our character can multiply opportunities to be a witness for Jesus. It was Jesus who took five loaves and two fish and multiplied them to feed 5,000 people. He can take what we offer Him, and multiply the impact.
Verse 8 says, “If you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Fruit of the Spirit is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
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.