“A Challenge for the New Year”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Before looking ahead it’s a good thing to look back. I encourage you all to look back on the previous year and list those blessings from the Lord that filled your heart with joy. Our family was privileged to be given two new grandsons. Titus and Max were born respectively in Wellington, Florida and Brooklyn, New York. My wife and I thank the Lord every day for such great blessings. By God’s grace and providence we now have five grandchildren!
Now, to look forward, I again challenge myself and you all to a passion for the things of God. In other words, commit to pursue godliness; to obey the Lord’s command to “be holy”, Leviticus 11:44 and 1Peter 1:15-16.
It seems to be normal fare to make resolutions and then discover that the year has gone by and we have failed to keep them. This renewed challenge, the pursuit of holiness, is one resolution that will be kept not because of our faithfulness but because of God’s promise.
The certainty of this promise being kept is a fact for everyone who is in Christ. Two things require explanation. The first is the meaning of being in Christ. The second is the meaning of holiness. Both the first and second are rooted in God. Those who are in Christ have been brought there by God and holiness is God’s work of free grace that progressively makes the one in Christ more and more like Him.
In other words, the challenge that I lay before you is simply living in Christ; every day dying to self and living for God. A genuine Christian will meet this challenge with joy in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible declares that those who are in Christ are chosen by God. “… He (God the Father) chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” Ephesians 1:4 Notice that God the Father acted by choosing men and women before He laid the foundation of the world. He chose them to be in Christ. This is all by the sovereign will and action of God. This truth revealed by God is called Unconditional Election.
So then, those who are in Christ are there solely by the grace of God, Ephesians 2:8-9. God makes Christians! It is necessary to be clear on what it means to be a Christian. A genuine Christian is a sinner chosen by God to be holy in Christ. God does this through the gospel. The gospel is God’s power to save, Romans 1:16. God raises a dead sinner to life and through God’s gift of faith the sinner places his trust in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.
Salvation doesn’t end there. The resolution, rather the challenge that will be kept is that Christians will be made holy. God made this promise, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” 2Timothy 2:13 Further, God has said, “… He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
In addition, God’s will for those who are in Christ is holiness, 1Thessalonians 4:3. God will complete what He starts but those who are in Christ are not robots. Christians are exhorted to work out their salvation because God is at work in them, Philippians 2:12-13. I have been made a Christian by God’s grace alone and He causes me to pursue holiness. I have the assurance that I am in Christ by my desire to obey Him. God has said that He confirms that I belong to Him by His Spirit speaking to my Spirit, Romans 8:14.
So then, what is my challenge? Very simply put, I am challenged as a Christian to pursue the things of God. My pursuit of holiness is a desire that God gave me at my conversion. It’s a desire that everyone who is in Christ has been given! Therefore, by God’s will we are called to engage with Him, responding to His Holy Spirit by being transformed by the renewal of our minds.
Meet the challenge God’s way through a local church centered in the word of God. The church is God’s instrument by which His people “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Ephesians 4:15