New Year and the Cross

More than just wishing you a “Happy New Year,” I’d like to share a message with you from the Apostle Paul that pertains to the year that is past and the year that we’ve just begun.

It’s interesting how a new year takes on this “magical” sense in our thinking.  The calendar turns over from one number to the next, and suddenly we act like anything is possible!

Lose 20 pounds – so maybe you couldn’t do it in 2018, but 2019’s another story! Or what about resolving to save money this new year, while spending it just as fast as last year? Or how about John Lennon’s old line, “A very merry Christmas, and a happy New Year,  Let’s hope it’s a good one, Without any fear.” I haven’t yet experienced any new years like that.

A new page on the calendar doesn’t automatically change us, much less change the world.  A New Year also cannot erase the old.  It does not undo the past. Your “digital footprint” from 2018 remains. The mistakes and missed opportunities from the past year are still just that. The habits you formed or continued in 2018 will likely perpetuate into 2019.

Let’s focus, instead, on the One who can erase the sins and carry the sorrows of the past year – and of every point in our lives.

The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians, “And I, when I came to you, brothers,  did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:1-5)

 Paul shoots off no fireworks.  There’s no Times Square ball drop. No theatrics.  He has just one talking point, one message: Jesus Christ and Him crucified!  It doesn’t seem to match the excitement and the pizzazz of New Year’s celebrations around the world …

Just the cross. Only Jesus.

I can’t offer you much help with your New Year’s resolutions, or with making the holidays more “festive.” Instead, let’s set our sights on the greatest blessing we have as brothers and sisters in Christ: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified!

 The message of the cross addresses what is past.  While the calendar cannot change what has already happened,  Jesus’ cross does cover all past sins.

In Romans 6 we hear this Good News:  “We know that our old self was crucified with [Christ] in order that the body of sin might be [done away with],  so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.”

Christ has already taken 2018 to His cross!  He has set you free from sin,  free to live with Him now by faith,  and soon,  by sight!

Not only has Christ dealt with the past,  but He has dealt with the divide between heaven and earth!  Colossians 1 tells us,  through Christ, God [is reconciling] “to Himself all things,  whether on earth or in heaven,  making peace by the blood of the cross.”  Likewise, Ephesians 1 says God’s plan is “to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Jesus’ blood is like the glue that binds heaven and earth back together.  No longer are we cut off from God because, in Christ, we are no longer enslaved to sin! At the cross,  you have peace with God!

One more good word for you as far as the past is concerned: God’s Word says in Colossians 1, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses … God made alive  together with Christ, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with all its legal demands.  This He set aside,  nailing it to the cross.”

Once again, this is God’s promise for you: your sins of 2018 or 2008 or 1998, or any time are gone– they were nailed to the cross with Christ! They were paid for, once and for all.

 

This message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is also for what is yet to come.

We don’t know what 2019 holds,  just as there were many things (mostthings, really) in 2018 which we never saw coming.  I’m personally ready to move on from 2018, although I know the calendardoesn’t really make thatmuch difference.

You’ve all seen the year in review news clips and articles. 2018 was a year of political gridlock,  back-to-back-to-back natural disasters,  and far too many other tragedies, some far from home, and some all-too-close to home. Plus you know what your own 2018 has been like.

We’ve heard and experienced way more bad news than we’d wish,  which is why we listen for Jesus to speak His Good News over us.  And He does!

Let’s begin this New Year “at the foot of the cross.”

 At the cross, Jesus shows the world what love is.  Jesus shows us a God who loves us,  despite all the sins of our past and present and future.  The cross shows us that God loves us enough to deal with our sin – He does so by dying for you and for every person.  Christ endured the shame of the cross for the joy of sharing His love with you and with all who trust in Him, forever!

If that’s how our God loves us,  then His love certainly follows us and precedes us into this New Year!  No matter what 2019 holds,  it cannot change the fact that you are deeply loved by Jesus!

Once again St. Paul says it so much better than we can, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … I am sure that neither death nor life,  nor angels nor rulers,  nor things present nor things to come,  nor powers, nor height nor depth,  nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39)

Nothing can come between you and the love of God in Christ Jesus! Absolutely nothing! Not 2018, not 2019.  Nothing in this life,  nor even death itself!  God’s love for you in Christ Jesus abides,  from one year to the next,  from one age to the next,  through the valley of the shadow of death, and in the house of the Lord forever!

We mark this New Year in the joyful hope that Christ has died,  Christ is risen,  and Christ will come again for us!

In closing I’ll share this prayer from the hymn, “Abide With Me”:

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me
Amen.

 

[This post was based on my message at Zion Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD on January 31, 2018.]

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