Make Changes with Something that Doesn’t Change
New Year’s Eve
“All men are like grass, all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall.” New Year’s resolution books and programs and articles make a lot of money off that Bible verse. Peter quotes from the prophet Isaiah and reminds us that all people are like grass or flowers of the field. We all wither and die. If you want evidence of sin in this world and the consequence of death, there is no better time to see this than at New Year’s.
Every year we do the same thing. We review the previous calendar year. We look at the things we have done, how our lives have changed, how we have aged. And with this review we quickly look to make changes for the new year because ever year we see the same sorts of things. I’ve gotten older this year and more out of shape and more flabby. I didn’t keep my resolutions for last year. Some of them fell miserably short. Some of the resolutions I made I didn’t even start on.
So every year we see a new calendar year ahead of us—a fresh, clean slate—and we are eager to make changes. “This year I’m going to work out more so I feel better and younger.” “This year I’m going to lose my spare tire.” “This year I’m going to work on my personal life, especially my temper and my communication with others.” “This year I’m going to read my Bible more and get involved with church more.”
But somehow every year the calendar pages fly by, we find ourselves at the end of the year, and most if not all of our resolutions have failed miserably. Why is this? Well contrary to what evolutionists believe, things in this world do not get better with age. We aren’t slowly evolving into a better universe. Quite the opposite. We are slowly (sometimes quickly) devolving and deteriorating into a worse universe. Again, this is because of sin.
Things weren’t always this way. Imagine New Year’s resolutions in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve could have made goals for the new year and they would have kept every single one. Life was perfect. They were perfect. This world was perfect.
But when they first disobeyed God, they brought sin and its curse into this world. Perfection was lost. God told them now work was going to be hard. Now there would be pain. Now there would be problems. And worst of all, now they were going to die and return to the dust Adam was first made from.
We see these consequences of sin all around us. Every year my body inches its way toward returning to dust. Every year we think about loved ones that we lost during the year to death. Every day we feel the hard work and toil and labor of this life. Every day we face the problems of life outside the Garden of Eden.
However, even though this is the inescapable reality of life, for some reason our sinful hearts try to convince us that we can make a paradise out of this sinful life. We try to build our own little paradise in our homes. Or we try to spend endless dollars on “things” we think will give us a little taste of happiness and paradise in this world. We look for glory in peer recognition or acknowledgement or awards, as if fame and glory can magically make this life more like paradise.
Yet no matter what we do, no matter what we acquire, no matter how much glory we might receive, no matter how many resolutions we might make, we always find the same thing to be true at the end of every year: “All men are like grass, all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall.” Everything in this life, our own lives included, has been ruined by sin and is destined for death. Just as the calendar pages fly by year after year, so also that is how quickly we march toward our deadly destiny.
So what better time than New Year’s to refocus ourselves? As we look back at a year of failings and more sin and a year closer to death, what better time than New Year’s to look forward to something that does not spoil or perish? That is exactly what we can do tonight with the Word of God and 1 Peter 1.
I want to point you first to the second verse of the lesson tonight. Look at verse 23: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” When we are conceived and born in this world, we are all conceived and born in the same way—in the image of our parents. That means that we are born imperfect with a sinful nature. We are born with sin and ready to sin and destined for eventual death. Using Peter’s words, we are born with perishable seed. That’s why we look to make so many changes in our lives every year at New Year’s.
The only way this could change is if we were to be born again. Jesus had this conversation once with a man named Nicodemus. Jesus told him the same thing, that we need to be born again. But Nicodemus was very confused. How is a person supposed to be born again? How could a person reenter his mother’s womb? Then Jesus explained. It’s not a physical birth we need. We need a spiritual rebirth, of water and the word Jesus said.
That’s what Peter tells us, too. We have been born again, not with physical perishable seed from our parents. Rather, we’ve been born again through the Word of God because the Word of God has the power to give you life. In Romans the Bible tells us that, “Faith comes from hearing the message.” At some point in your life, the message (the Word of God), has given you faith in Jesus Christ—a new life.
For some of you it was when water touched your body and someone said, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You were born again in baptism with water and the Word. For others of you it may have happened with just the Word only when someone told you what Jesus ended up telling Nicodemus—that, “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.” Someone told you that good news of a new life in Jesus Christ and that message created faith in your heart.
For each person it happens at a different time life, but for each person it happens in exactly the same way. God gives you a new life, you are born again, through the living and enduring Word of God.
You see, God’s Word is so powerful because it reveals to you the good news about Jesus Christ. It reveals to you that God did so love the world of perishing sinners that he did send his Son. That Son was imperishable. He should not have died because he is holy. But Jesus gave up his life and perished on the cross to pay for all of our sins. Jesus perished so that whoever believes in him as Savior shall not perish but have eternal life.
That’s the good news of God’s love. That’s what’s called the gospel. And that is what makes you born again because when you hear and believe that message, you have a new life in Christ. You have a new life bound for eternity in heaven—a life that is not perishable, but now imperishable and eternal.
Again, that is the power of God’s Word. Listen to what Peter says in the last two verses: “‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you.”
Every day, every year we are reminded of our sin as we are reminded that we are like grass or flowers of the field. We are just withering away and bound for eventual death. But there is something that does not wither away or die. There is something more powerful than this perishing world of sin. That’s the Word of the Lord. The Word of the Lord stands forever. And this is the word that was preached to you. It gives you life in Jesus Christ.
So as we gather here on another New Year’s Eve, just hours away from 2015, we are again reminded of this perishing world. We look back at 2014 and we think about mistakes. We think about failures. We think about sins. We think about all the changes we need to make in our lives for 2015 and we set New Year’s resolutions to do so.
But how about some good news for once as you start a new year? We all have failed in this last year. We all got older in this last year. We all sinned this last year. We all marched one year closer to eventual death. That is life in perishing world of sin. But here’s the good news—in fact, it’s great news. We all have also been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable seed.
That means that as we start another new year, we actually have things to look forward to! We have another year of God’s grace to enjoy. We have another year of our new life in Christ. We are another year closer to our imperishable, eternal life with Christ in heaven. So that also means that no matter what happens in my life or in the world around me, the future is nothing but bright and exciting when God and his Word are in my life.
So as we are about to begin 2015, why not Make Changes with Something that Doesn’t Change in your life? There’s nothing wrong with our normal New Year’s resolutions. In our perishing worldly lives, it’s good to look to make improvements. Making positive changes in our health, our weight, how much TV we watch and how many books we read, how much time we spend with our family, etc.—these are all good things. But how about centering all your changes for 2015 around the one thing that doesn’t change—the living and enduring Word of the Lord.
Peter mentions one thing in these verses that might be a good place to start in verse 22: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”
Make changes for the new year in your relationships with others. You have been purified and forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ. How about now working on using the love of Christ to help you sincerely love others? Jesus has loved you deeply and given himself for you. In 2015, how can you show that kind of sincere and deep love from the heart for one another?
Or what about your family time, your relationships with your family, your work ethic, your work relationships? Can you make changes there? What about your temper, your control over food or drink, your cravings and desires of the flesh, or other pet sins in your life? What about taking care of the body that God has given to you—your health, your weight, your mind? Are there changes to make in your life there?
Again, there are many changes that we can make in our lives each new year because we are perishing sinners in a perishing world of sin. We can always look to make improvements in how we love others, how we love ourselves, how we live God pleasing lives and avoid sin and temptation. We need to make changes and it’s good to make changes. But we need to understand that any and all changes in life need to center around the one thing that is most powerful and does not change—the living and enduring Word of God because God’s Word has given us new life through faith in Jesus Christ.
So if everything else in this world and our lives is changing, how about this most important resolution for 2015—make a change in rededicating yourself to that one thing that does not change. As the ancient Latin symbol in your service folder says, verbum Domini manet aeternum (VDMA)—the Word of the Lord stands forever. If you dedicated yourself to that one thing that does not change, you will be surprised how much your life will change.
A little over a month ago during Thanksgiving break, Noah discovered one of Becky’s old books in our house—a children’s Bible. But it is no preschool book. It has nearly every story in the Bible. It’s illustrated much like a comic book with captions and word bubbles for conversations. But the words are very much so on elementary or middle school level. It’s also normal Bible size—797 pages.
Noah thought it looked pretty cool and it was neat to find one of mom’s old books. So he started reading. Quickly that day he was enthralled to read by himself about stories he had learned already and then new stories he didn’t yet know. And he kept reading and reading. He only took breaks to share how far he had read or a cool story he had learned about. I think he read all of Genesis and Exodus in a day or two.
This last Sunday night Becky and I were watching TV. The kids were in bed, but Noah was doing some reading again. Suddenly he came out with a big, proud grin on his face. He told us he had finished. He read all of it—the entire Bible, 797 pages, in almost exactly one month’s time.
I’m reminded of New Year’s Eve about four years ago. We finished our New Year’s service and I was greeting people as they walked out. One former member who was about 70 years old walked out and had that same kind of big, proud smile on his face. He said, “Pastor Phil, I used your one year Bible reading plan this year. I had to read for an hour today, but I finished—the whole Bible in one year!” He was so happy. (But maybe I was more happy.)
When you commit yourself to the one thing that doesn’t change, it’s amazing how many changes will come in your life. The joy of knowing Christ more. The strength of faith from a stronger relationship with the Lord. The peace from renewed confidence in your imperishable, eternal life in heaven. This will always happen when you are connected to the Word of the Lord.
Go ahead and make resolutions for this year. Make lots of them for positive changes in 2015. But commit yourself to personal Bible reading. Commit yourself to family devotions if you have a family. Commit yourself to Sunday Bible study and to Family Night. Commit yourself to regular worship attendance. Make changes starting with the one thing that doesn’t change and that stands forever, and you will find a very blessed 2015.
Posted on January 3, 2015, in Church, Sermons and tagged 1 Peter, 1 Peter 1, Bible Reading, Church, Commit, Commitment, God's Word, Isaiah, Latin, New Year's, New Year's Eve, New Year's Resolutions, Peter, Read Your bible, Resolutions, Sermons, VDMA, Word of God, Word of the Lord Stands Forever. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.