JOHN SHIRK-From John 15:12 and 13.
Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day. Oftentimes, the emphasis on this day focuses on romantic love. However, romance is not enough to keep a relationship going for the long term. Feelings come and go, but love that comes from God endures the test of time.
The way of Jesus’ love was to lay down His life for us. This is an expression of love that captures the attention of a watching world, and draws people to Jesus. First John 3:16 says, “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers”, and goes on to say that helping a brother in need is one way of doing that.
Beyond sacrifice there are other expressions of love that also reflect the nature of Christ. We’ll elaborate on those expressions in the next few days.
Sacrificial love is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From First John 2, verses 1 and 2.
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
The Gospel upholds the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, upholding both forgiveness and holiness. How can the two be reconciled? Through the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross. That is where the wrath of God on sin was poured out on His One and Only Son. The guilt of our sins was paid for completely at the cross. Through Jesus, we are set free to live for God with a fully devoted heart.
We can enjoy the fullness of God’s grace by agreeing with God that we are in fact sinners in need of a Savior. And then, as we turn from those things that we know are wrong, we turn to the One who is right for us. His name is Jesus Christ. He is qualified to defend us from the eternal death sentence from our sin. He is our advocate in the spiritual battle, to help us overcome temptation and do what is right.
The pursuit of holiness is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK-From Ezekiel 36:26.
The Sovereign LORD says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
The hope of the Gospel is found in the newness of life that we can experience through faith in Christ. The guilt of our sins is removed, and the focus of our heart is changed. Where the Lord takes residence within us, He moves us to a way of life that is committed to the glory of God. His love will compel us to doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord. His Word will be food for our soul and a compass for our daily decisions.
When God captures our heart, stubborn resistance is replaced by willing obedience.
A new heart is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK-From Colossians 3:15
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
Here, peace in the heart is connected to Christ as the source of our peace. When we follow Jesus as Savior and Lord, His peace becomes a place of refreshment in a world of turmoil and conflict.
We have the assurance of His constant love that no one can take away. We have a certain hope in His promises for a blessed future. We live in the freedom of His forgiveness. We are motivated to press on in the faith through His encouragement. Through His grace, we are made into a grateful people.
His peace, effective in our lives, will have an impact on our relationships, especially in the midst of tension. Backing up a few verses, Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.”
These are some effective ways to promote peace in our relationships.
The peace of Christ is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Romans 12:1.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.”
Christians are called to holiness. This will NOT happen through legalism to a list of do’s and don’ts in the Bible. And it won’t happen by ignoring God’s do’s and don’ts. Holiness occurs as we respond to the mercy of God by offering our bodies to Him as living sacrifices.
This involves loving God with our mind (what we think about), loving God with our heart (making Him our greatest treasure), loving God with our hands (acts of service), and loving God with our mouth (the words that we say). These are just some examples of how we can honor God with the various parts of our body.
Here is how the Message describes Romans 12:1: “Here’s what I want you to do, God helping you. Take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing that you can do for Him.”
A surrendered life to God is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK-From First Kings 18:21:
Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
The invitation of Jesus to His disciples was “Follow me.” That invitation extends to us today as well. He is drawing us away from attachment to the things of this world-the pursuit of riches, fame, and selfish pleasures, and He is drawing us to a new way of life that includes placing our trust in Jesus and pledging our allegiance to Him with our souls.
Sometimes the voices in the world such as the media, our peers, or even family members in some cases, may try to apply pressure to put our faith somewhere else. Our own sinful nature wages war on our soul. Yet, God lovingly calls us to unwavering devotion to Him.
Elijah’s words challenge us to get off the fence of divided loyalties and go in the direction of the true God.
Unwavering loyalty to God is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Psalm 46, verse 1.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Where do you turn for security? The writer of Psalm 46 talked about many fearful situations that happen in the world. In fact, many of these events are happening in our generation. Earthquakes, tsunamis, nations in uproar, and the fall of kingdoms.
Disasters have a way of destroying things and taking lives. Whatever we trust that can be taken away from us is false security. Whatever cannot be taken from us in times of disaster is true security. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8 that he was convinced that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In this way, the Lord is not just a temporary shelter from the storm, but an eternal refuge to endure the test of time. Through Jesus, we have an anchor for our souls in fearful circumstances. He might calm the storm. He might calm our fears in the midst of the turmoil. Whatever happens in our crisis, God will never remove His love from those who seek Him as their refuge and strength.
The peace of God in the midst of peril is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK-Psalm 16, verses 7 to 9-“I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.”
David wrote this Psalm. As a man after God’s own heart, it was his practice to lift up the name of the LORD and seek His counsel. God was his source of joy. God was his source of peace. God was the source of his praise.
In a similar way, God can be our source of joy, peace, and praise as our faith remains focused on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. His example of unwavering love will encourage our hearts to press on in the faith, with the confidence that we can fully trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Joy, peace, and praise are vital signs of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – Proverbs 18:24-A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
It is one thing to have many acquaintances-people who may know our name, but not know about our hurts and weaknesses. It is quite another to have someone who knows not only our name, but also about our hurts and weaknesses, and still love us through thick and thin. Jesus is that kind of friend to us.
Romans 5:8 says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In John 15, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” This is the degree to which Jesus has showed His love for us. He invites us to follow Him, and as we follow Him, He teaches us how to be the kind of friend that sticks closer than a brother.
Sincere, persevering love is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From First Peter 5, verses 8 and 9.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
If you are ever tempted to do the wrong thing, you are not alone. People all around us also experience temptation. The Bible tells us that we are engaged in a spiritual battle, and Satan is our enemy. He hates us with a passion. Jesus is our greatest advocate in this battle. He loves us with a holy passion that seeks to save us from the enemy. His weapons of righteousness are sufficient to help us to say “no” to temptation. His grace is sufficient to forgive us if we give in to temptation.
There are big differences between Satan and Jesus. Satan is a liar and is our accuser. Jesus is the truth and is the Savior of all who believe in His name. God’s Word challenges us to see these differences clearly, to resist the devil, and run to the Savior for the help we need to overcome the enemy.
Resistance to the devil is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.