Have you ever wondered what people exactly mean when they say that they have a New Year?s Resolution? I have! In the dictionary resolution is defined as the act or process of resolving, the act of solving and determining or deciding on a course of action. Plain and simple, it means to find a solution to a problem and decide to put that solution in place. So, when people say they have a New Year?s resolution, they plan on fixing a problem in their life. This sounds like a good idea to me. I have even tried to keep a few New Years Resolutions, and do you know what? It doesn?t always work! I don?t know about you, but I have found that trying to change something in my life, is not always in my control!
Often times there is a wide gap between what we think are possible resolutions we should make for ourselves and what others think?
There was a couple who were sitting with a marriage counselor for their first session and the good doctor asked them to identify what seemed to be the root of their problems. The wife responded, ?It all started when we thought it would be cute to think up each other?s New Year?s resolutions? (Houston Post, 12/31/91, quoted in Autoillustrator.com, NEW YEAR?S RESOLUTIONS/FAULT FINDING.)
And there is even the wider gap between the resolutions we make and the ones that we actually follow through on.
I was thinking about this whole concept of New Year?s Resolutions and it struck me that a lot of our resolutions are centered on bettering ourselves. Think about it. Most of the resolutions we make are more about the all important me ? and improving, or trying to improve, the quality of life for ourselves. And yes, these goals we set are often good goals ? goals that would be admirable and often lead to a better quality of life not only for ourselves but for those around us as well.
But then, as the year rolls around isn?t it funny how when those resolutions become empty shells we often shift the blame to someone or something else for it?s unfulfillment! And then it?s so easy to say, ?Next year will be different!?
As I pondered all this, a question kept popping up in my mind, ?What about God? What is His resolution for my life?? Indeed, as I thought about it, I realized that no matter what resolution I made for the New Year ? if it wasn?t centered in his desire and plan for my life then it would amount to nothing. Yet, if my resolutions are founded on the instruction of the Holy Spirit then I can find strength and resolve in the Lord?s completing those resolutions through me in the New Year!
Then I started to think further about what God?s resolution is for my life. I quickly found that this is a question that isn?t easily answerable. I mean, it?s not like God was spelling out a list for me that took me from A-B outlining what his specific desires were for me in the next year. Certainly a good place to begin looking would be in God?s word ? but then it?s easy to be overwhelmed with the number of commands and instructions found within. ?be holy?, ?do not lie?, ?give generously?, ?be pure?, ?be righteous? ? how can I be all these things? And then I think to myself, ?okay, if this is what God wants then I resolve that this year I will?? But then we?re right back to the cycle of making the resolution and then breaking it. In fact looking back upon previous year?s you often find this cycle repeated over and over again. Sometimes it seems better to resolve nothing in order to gain something.
Then I realized something that really caught my heart, my mind, and my attention. Sometimes what is on the surface is not always revealing of the whole picture. All these ?commands? and ?instructions? found within the Bible are not the ?resolutions? God wants us to make but the fruits of the resolution God Himself has made found in the lives of those who have discovered and embraced it. What is this resolution God has made? It is a resolution that runs all through the Bible, surfacing clearly and distinctly in only a few places ? yet it permeates every theme, every character, every story, and every truth found within.
One of the places where this resolution surfaces is found at the end of our text today from Ephesians 1:3-10 (which was read this morning). I would like to repeat verse 9 and 10 to you.
Ephesians 1:9-10 (NIV)
9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
God?s resolution is that all things in heaven and earth will be brought together under one head, Jesus Christ. This resolution had also surfaced in a conversation between a man, named Abraham, and God in Genesis 17:7-8,
Genesis 17:7-8 (KJV)
7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
God made an invitation to Abraham in Genesis that He has also extended to us today. God said that He would be Abraham?s God. Abraham did not first choose God. God first chose Abraham and offered to be his God.
Later, the descendants of Abraham, the children of Israel, multiplied and were living in Egypt. In Egypt they forgot about their God and worshipped the gods of the Egyptians. As a result the children of Israel became slaves in the land of Egypt. When they finally woke up and cried unto God, God extended to them the same invitation He had made to Abraham: to be their God.
Exodus 6:7 (NIV)
7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
The children of Israel left Egypt to worship the Lord God in the wilderness and move into the promised land of Canaan where once again they would worship the one true God. However, they had become so accustomed to worshipping other gods that they kept asking Moses to take them back into bondage. God in His great love continued to extend His invitation to be their God and remind them of the things He had done and would do for them if they would only take Him at His word and let Him be their God.
Leviticus 22:32-33 (NIV)
32 Do not profane my holy name. I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the LORD, who makes you holy 33 and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD.”
Leviticus 25:38 (NIV)
38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
Leviticus 26:12 (NIV)
12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
Numbers 15:41 (NIV)
41 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.'”
God emphasized over and over to the children of Israel that He wanted them to be His people and that He wanted to be their God. What a wonderful invitation. But God had already determined that Israel would not be the only recipients of this invitation.
Genesis 12:3 (NIV)
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
And so the nations have been and are being blessed by the ?seed? of Abraham ? for as we follow the lineage traced in the book of Matthew we find Jesus listed as the seed of Abraham. DISCOVER this morning the invitation that God has placed not only before Abraham but also to every person on this planet through Jesus Christ ? ?I will be YOUR God?!
This, then, is God?s Resolution ? to be Your God. However we can?t stop there. For you see although His resolution ? His decision is to be your God ? His desire is for you to embrace Him as Your God. And God?s resolution will come to pass ? Ephesians 1:9-10 emphasizes that all things in heaven and on earth will be brought together under one head, Jesus Christ ? however, only those who have embraced God?s Resolution will receive the benefits of His desire being fulfilled in their lives.
There is another place in Scripture which talks about God?s Resolution that brings more understanding to this statement. The book of Revelation is a book about the last days and the ?times of fulfillment? that Paul writes about in Ephesians. Without going into any great detail in today?s message about the contents of this book let me summarize it by saying this. There is a day, a time period, a point at which this planet will go through something it has never experienced before and no one will want to be a part of. There will be many catastrophes during this time. It will be a time of great tribulation ? and great suffering and anguish. There is an event that I would like to pick up on in Revelation that has great significance:
Revelation 20:11-15 (NIV)
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
I can confidently say that in the future for every single one of us will be a day where we stand before God and He will either be Our God or not be our God. And for those who do not know Him as their God their destination is grim. But now I?d like to read a few verses found after this time of judgement:
Revelation 21:1-8 (NIV)
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
This passage in Revelations is what Paul is writing about in Ephesians 1:9-10. Paul is writing about the fulfillment of God?s Resolution ? that He would be Your God. A resolution that only comes to pass in your life as you embrace it.
And this folks is where God?s Resolution is echoed forth in his calling. For He is calling out to each one of you.
Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
Do you know that God has and is calling each one of you? This calling is found in the first part of the scripture read this morning:
holy and blameless (vs 4)
Ephesians 1:4 (NIV)
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
Notice the similarity between God?s call here and that found?
Genesis 17:1 (NIV)
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.
Deuteronomy 18:13 (NIV)
13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God.
Leviticus 11:44-45 (NIV)
44 I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy? 45 I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.
Here, in this passage we find the first inkling as to why God emphasizes the need for holiness and blameless ? it is because God is holy and blameless ? let?s read further ?
Psalm 15:1-2 (NIV)
1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? 2 He whose walk is blameless ?
Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
The truth of the matter is that it is only those who are holy and blameless who can approach a holy and blameless God. We find these two words used again in 2 Peter 3:10-14 when Peter refers to the Day of the Lord which we have already talked about.
2 Peter 3:10-14 (NIV)
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
So God?s call to those who would embrace His resolution to be their God is to be Holy and Blameless before Him. The next question is How? And this is answered in verses 5-6.
adopted as sons
Ephesians 1:5-6 (NIV)
5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
You become holy and blameless by becoming sons of God plain and simple. Isn?t this awesome ? God calls us to be Holy and Blameless in his sight by adopting us as His children! With this adoption comes a wonderful promise as found in Galatians 3:26-29?
Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV)
26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Notice the last verse ? heirs according to the promise. What is the biggest promise God gave to Abraham? ?I will be Your God and you will be mine!?
But this can still leave us hanging a bit ? God?s call to those who would embrace his resolution is to be holy and blameless and this occurs when we are adopted as His sons but then the question is ?How are we adopted as His sons?? The answer is in verse 7-8.
redemption/forgiveness (vs 7)
Ephesians 1:7-8 (NIV)
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
In who? Verse 5 tells us who ? In Christ, we have redemption through his blood?
God?s resolution is that He would be Our God. It would have been impossible if He had left it at that. When He made that statement to Abraham He followed up on it by telling Abraham what to do in order to make that possible (see Genesis 17:9). God established his covenant with Abraham and the Israelites by giving them the law that they could follow to show that they embraced His resolution. Through Moses, God set up a sacrificial system which necessitated the shedding of the blood of ?clean? animals to bring the forgiveness of sins for those who offered the sacrifices. Because sin demanded death it was only through the smoke of the sacrifices that the Israelites could know God?s favor by having their sins covered by the blood of the sacrifices. This would give them the appearance of being holy and blameless before God. It was their faith in the sacrifice that made this possible.
But this system of the law was set up merely to show how impossible it is for man to measure up to God?s standards of holiness and blamelessness. Truly, it is only by God?s grace that forgiveness of sins can be obtained and thus the fulfillment of God?s Resolution realized. And it is into this arena that the well known verse John 3:16 comes to mind.
John 3:16 (NIV)
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
It was through the blood of Christ shed on the cross that the grace of God is released to all who will receive it. His sacrifice, ?once and for all? made possible not only for the forgiveness of sins, but also our adoption as sons and thus us not only appearing but being holy and blameless before God. Do you know what that means? It means that for those who embrace God?s resolution for their lives you ARE HOLY AND BLAMELESS before God. He doesn?t look at you and say, ?O look at that wretched creature?, He looks at you and says, ?Come here, my child?!
Many of us begin the new year with different resolutions that often by year end leave us feeling defeated and hopeless. But this year I invite you to discover or rediscover the Resolution God has made. The language Paul uses in this passage found in his letter to the Ephesians emphasizes that God chose us first. He called us to HIS OWN purpose and grace. It is his resolution to be our God AND our Father! BUT it is a resolution that will only be fulfilled when we embrace it.
Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV)
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.
To those who don?t believe in God:
– whether you believe in God or not is moot ? the fact is, God believes in you and wants to be your God and wants you to know His love in your life. There will be a day that all of us will face where your unbelief will be brought up short as you realize that He exists. This moment will be the most fearful moment of all eternity as you are confronted with the realization that He is not your God and He doesn?t recognize you as one of His. To you I say right now, there is nothing to lose by believing in Him and embracing His resolution and receiving the gift of His son Jesus Christ. But you have everything to lose if you fail..
To those who aren?t sure what to believe:
– many faiths and many different positions have probably floated around your heart and your mind. But you?ve probably discovered that there seems to be no faith that is more demanding than this one. It seems there is no other faith that claims to be the ?only way to salvation?, or contains such a seemingly narrow and rigid view of God and Heaven. And then, you?re probably not even sure you?d like to believe in a loving God sending someone to hell. To you I shout the wake up call. Hell is not a creation of our loving God but a necessity for a sinful Evil. God does not choose hell for anyone ? He chooses that all would be with Him in eternal life ? that?s why He went to such GREAT lengths and sacrifice to make this possible. It is our OWN choice or LACK of choice that condemns us to hell. Why does a loving parent tell their child not to play on a busy road? Or why is their the concept of Law and Order in a Free society? The point is that with the entrance of sin into the world there needed to be a plan for the dealing and healing of sin ? and sin can only be dealt with by destroying it so that the healing of it?s effects may take place. This view may seem narrow and may appear rigid ? and it is so ? but that doesn?t mean it isn?t right. On the day of judgment the only words that will ensure you life are, ?I am one of Yours Lord, I am your son through Jesus Christ? Don?t waste another moment, study the word of God ? not books about the Bible ? not what others say about it ? but study it yourself. Everyone who enters into a serious study of the Bible in an attempt to discover God find Him and find Christ. Don?t wait ? embrace God?s resolution for your life.
To those who nervous or scared or afraid of what this next step will bring:
– Don?t be nervous, don?t be scared, don?t be afraid. Be reassured ? God loves you! No matter what problems you bring ? no matter what past you bring ? not matter what you bring ? come to God and let Him be Your God. Know that for those who embrace His resolution for their life Paul writes,
Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
To those who are Christians who feel distant from God:
– Don?t let your feelings get in the way of the truth of your status in God?s eyes. You are his child! And just as children go astray sometimes, we too are apt to do this. But the fact remains that in a loving way God will bring us back to Him and even now He is doing that. Don?t run away from the discipline of God but embrace it ? for He is your Father and He is Your God!
To those who have embraced God?s Resolution for their life and are Christians in name and belief and are serving Him wholeheartedly and with joy:
– Let this message be a challenge and a reminder to keep in your heart of the fact that God has made you his own. Let it be an encouragement that it is through His work of grace and mercy that we are His children (not by anything we can do). And let it be a motivation to express God?s resolution to all we come in contact with so that they too can come into a wonderful relationship with Jesus Christ.