Well, as I am writing this post, it is January 2, the day after New Year’s Day. And as I am writing, I am wondering how many people are suffering from what I call; the Reversed Cinderella Complex. Do you remember what happened at the stroke of midnight in the story of Cinderella? The Fairy God-mother had already told Cinderella that she had to be back home before the stroke of midnight because, at midnight, the magic spell would wear off and everything, including her beautiful gown and the golden chariot would turn back into what they were before the spell was cast. Well, you know the story, Cindy was having such a good time at the ball, that she lost track of time! She was barely out before the stroke of midnight, when her beautiful gown turned back into rags and her grand chariot reverted back into a pumpkin!
The Reversed Cinderella Complex is the opposite of the Cinderella story. For some strange reasons, many people believe something magical happens at the stroke of midnight at the beginning of the New Year. They are energized with new resolve and new determination! They think there will be a substantial (almost magical) change in their situation when December 31 turns into January 1. But alas, after the midnight balls and the midnight church services, even as early as January 2, reality sets in! They discover there was no magical or miraculous change, their dream-gown is still a regular dress and their grand chariot in their dreams is still the same old pumpkin they drive every day! Yes! For most people, the only change that occurs between the last day of December and the first day of January is the change on the calendar!
As much as we like to believe in the Cinderella fairy tale, the truth is; real change is not magical, real change is work! As I’m writing this post, my social media feeds are still flooded with wishes of a Happy New Year. But, I understand that the New Year will not be happy just because of ‘wishes’ for it to be so! The New Year will not even be ‘new’ if there is no effort to make it new! Neither will the New Year be happy if that happiness is only determined by what happens! My point is, there is really nothing magical about the New Year! If we want the New Year to be ‘happy’ and ‘new,’ then we must, in the words of Captain Picard of Star Trek; “Make it so!”
Changes do not magically or mysteriously happen! Changes do not occur by themselves; changes do not make themselves, we must make them! Do you really want a Happy New Year? If you do, then you must work to make it so! You must change to make it so! Perhaps, one of the reasons we often fail so quickly in our New Year resolutions of change, is because we try to do too much at once! We try to tackle more than we can handle at one time. Let me show you what I’m talking about! Some years ago, I made a startling discovery that transformed the way I look at life! I discovered the fact that life can only be lived one moment at a time! There is a gospel song in which the singer asks the Lord to teach them to live one day at a time, but I discovered, that is impossible! We don’t live one day at a time! We don’t live one hour at a time! We don’t even live one minute at a time! We only live; one moment at a time! Therefore, instead of focusing on the year, it would be more practical and beneficial to focus on the moment! Instead being overwhelmed with what we can do this year, focus on what changes we can make in the present moment. The old proverb says the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step! Ask yourself: “What changes can I make right now?” “What can I do differently, in this present moment?”
If we consistently make the effort to change our moments, we will change our minutes! Those moments and minutes, will change hours and days! The changed hours and days, will transform weeks and months! The transformed weeks and months will translate into a transformed year! No! It’s not magic; it’s work! Are you willing to put in the work to actually ‘make’ the New Year a ‘new’ year? You can do it; one moment at a time!
“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . . .”
Revelation 21:5 KJV
As we approach another new year, I am sure many are already talking and speculating about what their New Year resolutions are going to be. But, if the truth is to be told; many who are doing this now were doing the same thing at this time last year and much of what they proposed to accomplish then did not come to pass! In most cases, resolutions for the new year lose their resolve in just a matter of weeks! So, what can be done to make the promises we make to ourselves and to others more resolute and definite?
Well, I was looking at this text the other day and I saw something that might be helpful to us in our quest to make things new. You might have noticed, that while the text says: “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . ,” the title of this discourse is not about making ‘all’ things new, but rather just making things new. I did that because; only the LORD GOD can make ‘all’ things new! However, because we are made in His image and in His likeness, coupled with the fact that we were given the Dominion Mandate, I believe if we look at how He that sat upon the throne makes ‘all’ things new, we can discover a blueprint, a pattern, or a guide to how we can make ‘some’ things new!
Now, it is interesting to note, as we look at the text, that God did not say He was making all ‘new’ things; He said He was making all things new! The two Greek words most commonly translated as; ‘new’ in the NT are ‘neos’ and ‘kainos.’ The word; ‘neos’ primarily denotes something that is recent in time; or something that was not there before. Whereas ‘kainos’ refers primarily to quality; something that is of a better quality and nature than the old. Neos is new in time; kainos is new in nature. ‘Kainos’ is the term used in the text. The text is not saying that God will make ‘new’ things which did not exist before, but rather that God will refurbish, renew, or make better the quality and nature of all things that already exist! The New Heaven and the New Earth will be the ultimate make-over job!
Isn’t that what we seek to do when we make our new year resolutions? We seek to make our lives and things better than they were the year before! But alas! Most of the time, the new year ends up being a repeat of the year before! Why does this happen? Why is it that our new year resolutions rarely stick? Well, I think the primary reason is because most of us don’t understand how we are programmed to function! Let me show you what I’m talking about: By nature, we are creatures of habits! We learn by repetition; doing things a certain way; over and over again. Do you remember how hard it was when you first learn how to tie your shoe laces or how to write? You had to concentrate and focus and it took time and much repetition to master those new skills. But now, you can tie our shoe laces and write your name in a matter of seconds, without much thought or effort! Why? Because you programmed yourself through repetition to the extent that tying your shoe laces and writing your name are automatic-habitual skills! Most of us can do them with our eyes closed without any thought at all!
Well, just like we learned how to tie our shoe laces and write our names, we learned every other skill and function in our lives. And just as we now tie our shoe laces and write our names without any effort or thought, so do we perform every other skill and function in our lives! Most of us, when we got dressed this morning, we stepped into one particular pants leg before the other and we put on one particular shoe before we put on the other! We don’t really think about it, but chances are, we step into the same pants leg first and put on the same shoe first every time we put on our pants and shoes! Now, as an experiment to illustrate the principle I’m talking about, the next time you get dressed, make a mental note of which pants leg you step into first and which shoe you put on first. Then the next time you get dressed, consciously make an effort to step into the opposite pants leg and put on the opposite shoe first! First, you will have to stop and think to even remember to do this exercise. Then, if you succeed in remembering, you will experience some awkwardness or even difficulty in making the attempt! Now, here’s the kicker: Chances are, you will try this experiment only once or twice, if at all. And if you try it at all, most likely, you will revert back to putting on the same pants leg and same shoe that you’ve always put on first! Why? Because you are not willing to continually go through the awkwardness and difficulty of doing the opposite of what you’ve always done! But here’s the super-kicker; should you continue with the experiment, in a matter of time, the opposite pants leg and shoe will become your automatic choice and easy and the choice that was once automatic and easy will become the difficult one! That’s how we are programmed to function and that’s how life works! Most of our new year resolutions fail because we are not willing to go through the awkwardness of remembering and the difficulty of learning to put our leg through and put on the opposite pants leg and opposite shoe first! When we don’t persist with a conscious effort to endure the initial awkwardness of doing things differently, we automatically revert back to the comfort and ease of doing things the way we’ve always done them!
But in the text, the One who sat upon the throne says: “Behold, I make all things new. . .” All things will not automatically be new, in order for all things to be new, the Lord will have to ‘make’ them new! The word ‘make’ implies effort and work! Now if the Lord will have to put forth an effort and work to make ‘all’ things new, then how much more should we be expected to put forth effort and work to make some things new? But that’s our fundamental flaw; we want a maximum return with minimal effort! We want something for nothing! We want a ‘new year,’ but most of us a not willing to put forth the necessary effort and work to ‘make’ the year new!
If we were to look at the verse that just precedes our text, we can gleam another principle in making things new. The last phrase says: “for the former things are passed away.” There it is: In making all things new, it was necessary for the ‘former’ things; the things that were before, to pass away; to cease to be. It’s impossible for the former things and the all things new to co-exist! In looking again at our experiment; we might have missed the fact that it’s impossible for anyone to put both legs through and put on both shoes at the same time! No! One leg and one foot always goes before the other; both cannot be first! Therefore, in order for the experiment to work; the one that used to be first, must pass away from being first and the one the used to be last, must be made new into being first! As we said earlier, that will not automatically happen, because the former thing was automatic; the new thing must be made new! That’s the way it is with anything in life! The things we desire to be new or different in our lives will not be new or different just because we want them to be new and different; they will only be new and different if and when we ‘make’ them new and different! Changes do not make themselves; changes must be made by us! I know we say it all the time, but is it really true? We always say: “Prayer changes things,” but is really prayer that actually changes things? I would like to suggest that in most cases; prayer doesn’t and isn’t designed to change things, but rather prayer actually changes us, and is designed to empower and motivate us to change things! I’ve noticed, as a pastor down through the years; particularly with church folks; when people don’t want to do something, they often veil their obstinacy and resistance with prayer. They say things like: “Pastor, we should pray about it!” But when they really want to do something, they don’t even mention prayer; they just go ahead and do it! In most cases, they pray about and refuse to do the things they should do, while they don’t pray and do the things they shouldn’t do!
Well, I’m just about through now, but there are a few more ideas I want to share with you about making things new, and then I will leave you alone. Notice in the text, the position of the One who said; I make all things new! According to the text, He sat upon the throne! The throne is the seat of authority and power. While some would suggest ‘authority’ and ‘power’ are synonymous terms; actually, they are not! Authority denotes legal right and privilege, whereas power denotes ability and might! In the world, there are some who have authority, but they don’t have ability and might, while there are others who have ability and might but don’t have authority! But He who sits on the throne in the text has both; authority and might!
Well, the good news this morning is that the offspring of the One who sat upon the throne have been given authority and might as well! In Genesis 1:26-28, we read: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” When God said, “Let them have dominion” that was the authority! When God blessed them, and said, “Be fruitful and multiply” that was the power! Now, I hear you! You’re saying: “Yes pastor, but that was before the Fall!” Yes it was, but Jesus came to fix up what Adam messed up! The authority and power that Adam lost in the Fall has been reclaimed and regained in the Last Adam; Jesus the Christ! Therefore, the Apostle Paul says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The Greek word translated as ‘new’ in the Apostle Paul’s statement is the same Greek word that is translated as ‘new’ in our text! Only ‘new’ people can really make things new!
How can we make things new for the new year? By changing our thoughts! The Bible says: As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” If you really think you can; you can, but if you really think you can’t; you never will! Don’t worry about what others think; what you think is much more important! Train your thoughts, look at the list in Philippians 4:8 and make a habit to only think on those things! And then, we must watch our words! We must train ourselves to only speak life, for the power of life and death is in the tongue. What we say to and about ourselves is much more powerful and effective than what anyone else says to or about us! And finally, we must understand that we can’t live our lives a year, a month, a day, or even an hour at a time! We can only live our lives; one moment at a time! Therefore, we shouldn’t worry so much about making the year new; but rather, just focus on the making the present and next moment new!
Snippets from the sermon: “Decision: The Power of Choice” Text: Deuteronomy 30:19. This sermon was the 6th of a 7-sermon series on “Dealing With the D’s.” Preached at the New Hope Baptist Church / Covington, GA. December 9, 2018.
We all have the God-given authority and right to make choices and decisions. This is one of the distinctive qualities of humanity that separates us from the animal kingdom; animals live instinctively, humans live by choices and decisions.
Our choices and decisions determine our direction and destiny.
We are where we are today because of the choices and decisions we made yesterday. Where we will be tomorrow is being determined by the choices and decisions we are making today!
“I don’t have a choice!” is a fallacy: That is erroneous thinking! It’s not a matter of not having a choice; it’s a matter of not liking the available choices!
Many people do not exercise the power of choice and allow life, circumstances, and other people to make choices and decisions for them.
To strengthen your decision-making muscles:
a. When confronted with a choice, never default by saying; “It doesn’t matter.” Make a decision; make the choice between grits or hash browns, coffee or tea, etc. Resolve to be proactive in making decisions in even the smaller things that might not matter as much.
b. When you make it a practice to consciously make a decision with little things that don’t matter as much, you will be better able to make better decisions with the big things that matter more.
c. Count the cost of your decisions ; weight consequences and options. All choices and decisions cost something: time, energy, finances, emotional investments, etc.
We literally make thousands of choices and decisions everyday. What to wear, eat, drive, who to see, to answer or not, etc. Therefore, we don’t need help to make choices and decisions, we need help in making better or good choices and decisions.
Even if we refuse to make a choice or a decision, that is a choice and a decision! To choose not to choose is a choice! To decide not to decide is a decision!
The greatest choice and decision we must make is: “What are we going to do about God’s call to salvation? What are we going to do with Jesus?
To say that; ‘the church is not what it used to be’ is a great understatement in regard to the condition of much of the Black Church and the White Church in America! For those who may be offended by the terms; “Black Church” and “White Church” let me remind you that historically, in America, the divided came into existence because White people did not want to worship with Black people! In fact, during those days, there was much debate as to whether Black people were even ‘human-people’ and consequently capable of being Christians at all! So it was not a case where Black Christians wanted to be separate, but more of a case where White Christians refused to be united! Apparently many White Christians didn’t give much credence to the Apostle Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28, where he said: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28 ESV) And even today, after all these years, the eleven o’clock worship hour is still the most segregated hour of the week in America!
Therefore, I am writing this address to Black and White Christians because, until we can authentically, honestly and truthfully address and biblically deal with the racial (cancer) divide in the church, the world has no reason to listen to anything the church has to say about Jesus! In his high priestly prayer in the garden, prior to his passion, Jesus prayed: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23 ESV) According to what Jesus prayed, the reason the world does not believe, is not because the Gospel is not being preached, but because the ones who claim to follow Jesus are NOT UNITED AS ONE! It is the unity of believers that will cause the world to believe!
But why is unity so hard? Because of sin and selfishness! Sin and selfishness is the root of all racism! Racism in any form is sin and evil! We (the church) will never have any credibility as authentic witnesses of the faith until we repent of our evil ways! I am sickened by all of the hypocrisy and foolishness that is occurring in the church today! In places where there is some semblance of racial togetherness, most so-called Black and White Christians are not united in Christ, they are united in profit: They are united in seeking blessings and prosperity! But in the real issues, they are divided as ever! For instance, just a few years ago, a White church in Mississippi refused to host the wedding of an interracial couple! Just recently, I just read of a small Christian school in Georgia that has cancelled all association with Nike because of their association with Colin Kaepernick. Many White Christian churches and pastors are all in an uproar because of Kaepernick’s protests during the National Anthem. What seems to be (purposely) getting lost in all of this is the reason for the protests! First of all, Kaepernick has stated over and over again, that the protest is not about the flag or the national anthem, but rather he chose to respectfully kneel to bring attention to the plight of Black people being unjustly treated by the police and the justice system in America! The protest is not about the flag or the military! But people have made it about those things in order to divert attention away from the real issues! People are protesting to highlight the fact that Black lives matter! On one hand, some Whites are upset because they think by saying Black lives matter, Black people are saying other lives don’t matter! But that’s not the case at all! The Black Lives Matter movement, Kaepernick’s protest started in response to an American justice system has historically operated in a manner that makes a distinction between White lives and Black lives! That is a historical and verifiable fact!
By the way, the attention and disgust many so-called Christians have shown toward Kaepernick seems to imply that they have made idols out of the flag and America! According to the Bible, the believers’ first and primary allegiance should be to his God, not his country! And if the primary allegiance is to God, than by virtue of that fact, the primary concern should also be the concerns of God! The primary concerns of God are the Kingdom of God, justice, and righteousness; not a flag or any country! For a Christian to be more concern and have more respect for a flag than for a person or a group of people (created in the image of God) is simply nonsensical, unbiblical, and idolatrous! Real Christians are motivated by love! Even if you don’t agree, your Christian faith demands you treat your adversary with dignity and respect! You can’t be ‘hateful’ and Christian at the same time! You can’t be a Black racist or a White racist, or a White supremist and a Christian at the same time; one term negates the other!
The questions all of us, who claim to be believers or Christians must truthfully answer are: Is my political association more important to me than my faith? In other words, does my politics dictate my Christian faith or does my Christian faith dictate my politics? Am I a Christian who happens to be Black or White, or am more Black or White than Christian?
But all of this has served to separate the saints from the ‘aints.’ The true people of God are not the ones who say they are, but rather the ones who prove they are by their consistent actions, as the Bible says: “A tree is known by the fruit it bears!”
There was a song written several years ago that said: “There will never be any peace until God is seated at the conference table!” In the same way, there will never be any racial equality and justice in America until all those who claim to be Christians, churches, pastors, bishops, prophets, or whatever are more Christian than they are anything else!
We are divided in this country by race, politics, ethnicity and many other things, but we can only be truly one in Christ when we are truly one with one another! It’s not a matter of one group giving up their agenda or rights for another, but rather of all groups giving up their agendas and rights for HIM!
What is eternal life? Well, the Greek word that is translated as ‘eternal’ in the New Testament is a word that means: “1) without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be 2) without beginning 3) without end, never to cease, everlasting.” Using those definitions, we can readily see that number one and two apply to God and definition number three is applicable to eternal life as it refers to the prospective fate of saved humanity. But as we read the Bible, we discover that definition is not so cut and dried as it seems. For instance, in the book of Revelation, there is a descriptive scene in which the devil, the false prophet, and all those whose names were not found in the Book of Life, will be cast into the lake of fire and tormented forever. Now, the last time I checked; forever and everlasting were terms that meant basically the same thing! Hence there must be more to eternal life than just living forever, because, according to the Bible, everyone; the saved and the lost, will live forever! The question is where?
Another wrinkle in the equation comes from the revelation in the Bible that eternal life is not something that believers get when they die! The Bible teaches; eternal life is a present-possession of the believer! Jesus said, in John 5:24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (ESV) Note the use of the past-tense; ‘has eternal life’ and ‘has passed from death to life.’ The beloved Apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:14-15: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (ESV) Again, note the verb tense; eternal life is not something that is awarded to the believer at death, eternal life is a present-possession!
Therefore, since there is more to eternal life than just living forever and eternal life is something that believers presently possess, then apparently eternal life must also have something to do with the ‘quality’ of life! Jesus gave an insightful definition of eternal life in John 17:3. In his high priestly prayer in Gethsemane, on the eve of his passion, Jesus said to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (ESV) According to Jesus, eternal life is knowing the only true God and knowing Jesus Christ who was sent by the only true God!
Now, this ‘knowing’ the only true God and ‘knowing’ Jesus Christ, who was sent by the only true God, is more than just an intellectual knowing. In the Bible, the terms; ‘know’ and ‘knowing’ are often used as euphemisms for intimate sexual relations. In the Genesis 4:1, we read: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” (ESV) It is obvious from the context, that the birth of Cain did not happen simply by Adam finding out all he could about Eve! No! The phrase; “Now Adam knew Eve his wife” meant Adam had ‘carnal knowledge,’ Adam had sexual intercourse with Eve and as a result; Cain was produced! In John 17:3, of course sexual intercourse is not in view, but rather an intimate spiritual relationship is suggested! Eternal life is an intimate spiritual relationship with the only true God and an intimate spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ, who was sent by the only true God!
Of course, the primary way to facilitate this spiritual relationship, from the human stance is to begin with intellectual knowledge. But, isn’t that how all relationships begin? People who are married, and even those who aren’t, didn’t become sexually intimate at first sight! (At least, they shouldn’t have, but it’s a different world these days!) No! Usually couples get to know one another first! And how do they get to know one another? They do so by the exchanging of ideas and thoughts through verbal and written communication. They talk to one another and they write notes and letters to one another! Well, in the same way, God speaks and communicates to humanity through His love letter; the Bible! In the Bible, we can read about what God is like, what God likes and what God dislikes! In the Bible we discover God’s character and attributes. As we respond to what we read in God’s love-letter to us, we follow God’s instructions and dictates and begin to communicate (pray) with Him. As we comply with God’s terms of the relationship as expressed in God’s love-letter, God gives us His Spirit to live within us and the relationship deepens to the level of spiritual intercourse through worship. Just as you can’t really make love (you can only have sex with) to a person you don’t know; we can only praise and worship God as we get to know Him. The acts of praise and worship (including prayer and the various other spiritual disciplines) strengthen and intensify the spiritual relationship that promotes and fosters, what Jesus called: eternal life!
As a result of eternal life, the believer lives a life that is qualitatively different and superior to the unbeliever who does not have eternal life. This eternal life is characterized by love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) The believer consistently experiences, from day to day, God’s supernatural favor and grace in ways that cannot be rationally explained! Eternal life is not just a ‘retirement plan’ for life in Heaven nor just ‘fire insurance’ to insure against life in Hell; eternal life is the Kingdom life God originally intended and created man to have on earth, as outlined in Genesis 1:26-28. Because of sin, death (the physical separation of the body from the spirit/soul) is the experience of all men! However, eternal life provides the means and assurance of victorious living in the present and in the future; eternal life is now and later!