Sunday, December 27, 2015

New Year’s Encouragement

Another year is just about over, and a new one is about to begin. While there’s much about this new year that we don’t know anything about, there will be some things about 2016 that will be the same as they were in 2015. Here’s one.
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13
Wherever you go and whatever you do, your God will be there and He will be watching you. Now, I hope that you noticed that I didn’t say, ‘watching over you’. My point isn’t about God’s care for you, though that is so very true and so very important. My point is that God will be watching what you do, and evaluating it. That’s what this verse is about. God’s eyes are open. He is watching. And there is no hiding from Him since all is naked and exposed before Him. God is watching and we will give an account to Him of all the things that we will say, do and think in 2016.

Now, why would I want to preach about this? I want to respond to a misunderstanding that is too common these days. It has to do with the way that lots of Christians think about their relationship with God. The thought is that once a person becomes a Christian things with God are pretty much set. A certain kind of relationship has been established, and it really doesn’t change very much over the years. Your understanding of what it means to have a relationship with God might change, but the relationship itself doesn’t. Or so we are led to believe.

And yet, consider that thought. Is there any other relationship that’s like that, unchanging? Think of marriage. No marriage just stays the same. The relationship between husband and wife is growing or it is dying. There is change. And you can see that change pretty clearly after a couple of decades of marriage.

Our relationship with God is the same. It’s a relationship that is moving, dynamic, changing. And how it changes depends on Him. It depends on what He sees. Remember, He is watching. And I think that you’ll agree that coming to see this clearly will make a difference in how a Christian lives. So, that’s one reason why I want to preach about this.

That leads me to my second reason to preach about this. I want to encourage you. Now, I’m going to guess that that surprises some of you. You aren’t encouraged by the thought that God is watching and evaluating you. Some of you are a little distressed by that thought. You think about some of the things that God has seen in you, and you begin to feel a bit uncomfortable. While it may be that some of you should feel uncomfortable, I really don’t think that that should be true of most of you. I think that most of you should be encouraged by the thought that God is watching you.

Here’s a verse to explain what I’m thinking about.
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. 2 Chronicles 16.9
The eyes of God are everywhere. He is watching you. And why? He is watching so that He can give you strong support. He wants to help you. Imagine God helping you. Now that’s a very encouraging thought. And that’s what I would like you to take with you into 2016. God is watching so that He can help you.

And yet, I’m thinking that this still isn’t very encouraging for some of you. And it’s because of one word in that verse I just read. It’s the word ‘blameless’. God supports the blameless. You hear that, and you think, ‘Well, that leaves me out. I’m not blameless. Just this morning I …’ If you’re thinking that, your problem is that you don’t understanding what ‘blameless’ actually means, at least when God uses it.

Consider what the Scriptures say about Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist.
And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. Luke 1.6
Zechariah and Elizabeth were blameless. That’s how the Scriptures describe them. Does this mean that they were sinless? Were they perfect people? Of course not. What it means is that these two saints were working at being obedient and that they were up to date on their repentance for those times when they weren’t obedient. So, as far as God was concerned, they were blameless. Now, isn’t that true of you also — working at being obedient and up to date on your repentance for those times when you weren’t?

This makes perfect sense if you have a Gospel understanding of what the Father thinks of you. As far as He is concerned, you are loved and well-pleasing. And that is true of you because of Jesus. Since you have been united to Jesus by the Spirit what is true of Him is true of you. Think of it: not just loved — though that by itself is mind blowing — but also well-pleasing to the Father. That’s you.

So, back to that verse.
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.
God watches you. He sees what you’re doing. He sees that you are blameless. As a result, He gives you all the support you need to live well in this evil world. He makes it possible for you to overcome the many obstacles that stand in your way. Now, isn’t that encouraging?

What might this look like? Well, here’s one example from something Jesus taught.
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6.6
Do you see what’s going on here? You pray, not for show but to talk about life with your Father. God sees that. He evaluates it as working at obedience. And what does He do in response? He rewards you. Or to use a church word, He blesses you. He gives you some more of what you need to live well in this evil world. And as this happens your relationship with Him takes another step forward.

So, understand the dynamic in your relationship with God. You live blamelessly, working at obedience and keeping up to date on your repentance. He sees that, and as a result, He acts. He gives you some skill or ability or something. He changes you a bit so that you can do a better job at living well for Jesus’ sake, obedience and repentance. Because of that your relationship with Him changes. It develops, grows, matures. You understand better that He really is a loving Father and that you really do please Him so very much.

So, do you see that knowing that God is watching you is intended to be tremendously encouraging? I hope that you do and that you take that encouragement with you into this new year.

There is, however, a darker side to this. I would be failing as a pastor if I neglect to say something about this. There are those Christians who are not blameless. They hear Jesus’ call to obedience and repentance, but they refuse to live in that way. And God is watching. It is so easy to think that our sins are hidden from God because we have hidden them from everyone else. God forbid that this would be true of any of you. Remember our text.
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Remember this when Satan whispers one of his lies into your ears. ‘Go ahead. You can do that. No one will know.’ God will know. He is watching. He will know, and you will have to explain yourself to Him. And instead of God giving you a blessing that will help you to live well, He will curse you. And you will find it more difficult to live in this evil world. And if you continue to refuse to obey and repent you will find yourself very far from God. Remember, your relationship with Him is not set in concrete. It is dynamic and changing — for better or for worse. And it can get to the point where there is no relationship with Him at all. The God who, at one point, was your loving Father can become your angry Judge.

But the solution to this is not complicated. It all comes back to the Gospel. It all comes back to entrusting yourself to Jesus as the Savior, the one who has come to rescue from sins, sins like refusing to obey and repent. And you’ll know that you have been united to Him as Savior as you find yourself following Him as Lord, that is, working at obedience and repentance. And over time it becomes clear that your relationship with Him is changing. It’s growing. And it’s growing because you are living blamelessly — not perfectly but blamelessly. So, you work at following Jesus as Savior and Lord knowing that God is watching. You are aware that He sees what you are doing. And you are confident that He will bless. So, believe the Gospel and live well.

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