A Year to Remember
It was April 3, 2010. That evening, people across the globe eagerly anticipated an event. On that evening, Matt Smith would make his first appearance as the Eleventh Doctor in the popular British television program, Doctor Who. For those of you who are not familiar with Doctor Who, first of all, what is wrong with you? But I digress.
One of the unique aspects of the Doctor is his ability to regenerate, or change his form. In this particular version of the Doctor, he knows he wants to something to eat, so a little girl invites him into her house and starts giving him food. In almost every case, he says he loves it, and then spits it out once he eats it. Apples, yogurt, bacon, beans, and bread & butter are all enthusiastically consumed, and quickly spit out, until the Doctor finds something to satisfy his cravings, namely, fish fingers and custard. Fish sticks dipped in vanilla pudding. Can you imagine not remembering your favorite food, or what food would make to feel ill?
This morning, as we start a new year, this is a time to look forward. We have a year full of opportunities ahead of us. We have a year of memories just waiting to be made. But this morning, I want to remind each of us that, like the Doctor, we have a tendency to forget things that should be near and dear to us. This morning, we will be jumping around the New Testament to discuss three things to remember this year. Nothing I say this morning will be earth-shattering to any of us who spend time in God’s Word, but as we start 2022, it’s a good time to be reminded.
The first thing we should remember is WHOSE YOU ARE. The first thing that we who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus need to remember is the we belong to God. We belong to Him, not only because He created us, but because He has purchased us. The church word we use for this is “redemption.” Pastor Mark spoke about this in his series on Ephesians 1 last fall. In addition to Ephesians 1, Paul speaks to this in his letter to the Colossians. In chapter 1, starting at verse 13, Paul writes,
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
If you are a disciple of the Lord Jesus, if you truly are a Christ-follower, then you have been bought back, or redeemed, from darkness to light. You are forgiven of your sin. Because of what Jesus did at Golgotha, all who come to Him in faith are redeemed, and fully forgiven.
How can we know whose we are? Pastor Mark has said on several occasions how important it is for us to hear from God, primarily through His Word. In John 10, Jesus addresses an audience of Jews, and He says, starting at verse 27,
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no onewill snatch them out of my hand.”
Those who are Christ’s hear Him when He speaks, and no one can snatch those who belong to Him away. This is important, so let me say this again. Those who belong to Jesus listen to their Master, and no one can steal His people away.
Ask yourself this morning, Do I belong to Christ? Have I been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son? Am I redeemed and forgiven? Do I hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, and follow Him? The answer to these questions can be found in the pages of Scripture. The Bible is clear that as we believe in our hearts that Christ was raised, and as we confess, or agree, that Jesus is, as one of the ancient creeds say, “very God of very God,”
So, we want to make 2022 a year to remember WHOSE YOU ARE.
Let us also make 2022 a year to remember WHO YOU WERE. This may sound odd. Why would we want to remember who we were before we were redeemed? For many of us, the last thing we want to do is to remember who we were outside of the saving grace of God. Well, I’m not suggesting we remember who we were so we can bring upon ourselves a renewed sense of guilt and shame. We were delivered from that. I have two reasons for suggesting this.
First, we should remember who were to remind us that we have no reason to be prideful about our standing before God. Everything we are, and have, is purely by the gracious hand of our loving Father. Go with me to Ephesians 2, starting at verse 1. We recently did a study on Sunday mornings on Ephesians 1. The good news, or rather better news is that there’s more to Ephesians than a single chapter. Paul reminds the church in Ephesus that
“you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were bynature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
After Paul opens this letter with praise for our being chosen, loved, predestined, adopted, graced, redeemed, forgiven, and all the other blessings Paul spells out, he reminds us that it wasn’t always the case. By nature, we were objects of wrath, but by supernatural grace, we are objects of mercy. We are, as early American (or British) pastor Jonathan Edwards would say, “sinners in the hands of an angry God.” But by His grace, as a song we sing here at Church Requel reminds us, “I am chosen, I’m adopted, I’m a child of the King.” By grace we can truly say, “He is for you, He is for you.” As we remember who we were, there is no room for us to have pride in who we Christ's disciples. Whenever we see a fellow image-bearer, or a sister, ensnared by sin, our first thought should be, but for the God, go I.
Second, we should remember who we were because your story opens the door to countless opportunities. Every person here has an opportunity to demonstrate the holiness and the love of God to groups no one else could have access to. Paul rarely passed by on an opportunity to remind the early Christians of where he came from. Starting at Galatians 1:13, we read,
“For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.”
As we remember who we were, it shows others how Christ can change the heart, regardless of race, socio-economic status, gender, age, or any other demographic we’re told by the media should divide us. If you are a disciple of Christ, you have a story to tell! As one writer said, “When God transforms a life, there’s always a testimony.”
One of the things I truly love and appreciate about Olivia is how open she is with her own story If any of you don’t know Olivia’s story, it just shows me that you’ve never talked to her. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to hear her story, she will repeatedly say how it was the work of God, and never fails to give Him the glory for her recovery.
As you remember who you were redemptively, please do not think your enemy will just sit back and let you ponder your past to the glory of God. He will try to use your past to bring about guilt and shame. He would love nothing more than to see pride fill your heart. The last thing he wants is to see you influence others for the cause of Christ. This why it is so vital for you to remember who you belong to. I intentionally started with message with reminding you whose you are, so that when you do remember who you were, you can remember that the promises of God found through Scripture are for you!
I challenge you to make 2022 a year to remember WHOSE YOU ARE, WHO YOU WERE, and finally, WHERE YOU’RE GOING. This world is not what we were redeemed and forgiven for. Our ultimate destination is where we will be spending eternity with Christ. In John 14, Jesus is comforting the disciples, as they were told He will be going away.
Starting at verse 2, The Lord tells them, and us,
“In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
I highly recommend marking, underlining, circling, starring, highlighting that phrase, “if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” From the perspective of the apostles, Jesus is going away. From our perspective, we look for His return. I love this passage, and one part that makes my heart leap is “if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Jesus us saying, “I’m not holding out on you. It is not My intent to make you wonder anxiously.” While Jesus ascended forty days after His resurrection, He did not go just to be rid of us. He went to prepare a place for us. Is it any wonder the disciples were rejoicing at His Asencion?
While the book of Revelation gives us glimpses of what He’s preparing, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 2:9,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
If I may put this into a modern rendering, “for those who love God, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” No matter how we may perceive heaven, the reality is vastly greater than we could begin to fathom! As I was preparing this message, a song kept coming to mind. Many, if not most, of us know the song “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me. As I was writing this section of this message, the chorus kept coming to my mind. “Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for You, Jesus, or in awe of You, be still? Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing ‘Hallelujah?’ Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.”
At this point, all we can do is imagine. And no matter what my own visions of heaven may entail, Scripture tells us it’s not even close! Even as John is writing down the vision he’s given, it’s amazing how many times he uses “was like” or “had the appearance of.” It’s as if he’s saying, “I don’t know how else to describe what I’m being shown!” John’s capacity to describe what he’s seeing almost makes him sound like a 1980’s valley girl! The only way he can describe these visions is by comparing them to help his readers get some clarity.
Do you need to remember where you’re going? Does heaven seem more hypothetical than factual? One of the great temptations we face, especially amid a culture as affluent as ours, is to think that this world is the best we can hope for. For every Christ-follower, something that should be as a part of our daily time in prayer is for God to remind us of where we are going. One of the benefits of having weekly communion is how we are reminded, week in and week out, that Christ is returning. It reminds us that, even now, He is preparing a place for us.
We’re starting a new year. Each January we think about things we’d like to do, goals we’d like to achieve, and habits we’d like to change. I have no doubt this will be a year of building memories here at Church Requel. I say we make 2022 a year to remember! We’ll be having, Lord willing, more potlucks, more times to lift our voices in prayer and worship, and more opportunities to show our love for God and others. I know the band will be leading us in new songs. We as a church will find new opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the Mansfield area. In addition to all the memories we’ll be making here, let’s also make this a year to remember these three important truths. This year, let’s make it a point to remember WHOSE WE ARE, WHO WE WERE, AND WHERE WE’RE GOING.