We gather this morning on the dawn of a new year. No doubt all of us possess goals, desires, aspirations for the new year. And how shall they be achieved? How will our desires for 2018, our goals be accomplished? Certainly not through laziness. Nothing we desire, nothing great we want, will be achieved or accomplished through idleness, through laziness and do nothingness. Nothing worthwhile is accomplished by remaining idle. No, we must work. If we would have a fruitful, indeed, joyful 2018, we must work diligently. One of the themes of the book of Proverbs is hard work, hard work contrasted with laziness and slothfulness. Work is a glorious thing. If you are starting to grow lazy, let Proverbs call you back to the joy of productivity. Laziness, idleness does not offer us greater joy. God made us to work. He formed our minds to think and our hands to make that we might change the present and alter the future.
The Christmas season is distinguished by the joy it brings. Christmas is about good news of great joy coming to unworthy people. It is about joy, happiness and satisfaction brought to us, won for us in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Christmas is cause for rejoicing!
For the third week of Advent, we focus our attention on the love of God as revealed to us in John 3:16. If there is a verse that summarizes the New Testament, it is John 3:16. For it is here that we learn that the love of God is limitless and active, embracing all mankind. In love, God gave the best, his Son. His Son was not given for one group of people or one nation, He was given so that all, without distinction, without exception, who believe in him might be rescued from destruction and have eternal life.
We all yearn for peace and yet peace often eludes us. Peace eludes us because we turn to the wrong things to find peace. We misunderstand what peace is. Peace isn't the absence of conflict or noise; peace isn’t found in individual stillness. Rather, true peace is found in the wholeness of relationship with the God who made us. True peace is being reconciled unto God and dwelling in his presence under His reign forever. And that is what the incarnation of God in Christ is about: establishing true peace in us as we are reconciled to God through Christ.
We all need hope. Without hope we despair. So we will instinctively seek out people or things to hope in, a relationship, our health, job security, but eventually, all of these things will fail us. None of them can stand up under the crushing weight of our hope. Our God is a God of hope. A God who keeps his Word, a God who is trustworthy and powerful, fully capable to accomplish all He has said He will do. And the incarnation of Jesus is proof of this. Through Jesus, the promises of God come to fruition. And it is by believing in Jesus and his resurrection that we can have hope, hope that can withstand any earthly trial or affliction.
Thinking highly of oneself is one of the highest values in our society. Our society is filled with programs and techniques to help you look and feel better than the next guy. But the Bible treats thinking highly of ourselves as a problem. In Proverbs, God reveals his hatred of our pride. God hates pride, therefore, our pride shall not go unpunished. Prideful men shall receive the righteous judgment of God. But God has made a way for prideful men to be saved from destruction through Christ. Through a humble Savior, we can be rescued from pride's destruction.
The Apostle James teaches us that genuine faith in Christ leads to personal transformation and action. After we come to faith in Christ, we grow in our love and concern for others, particularly, those who are weak, vulnerable and oppressed. Of specific concern to God is the well being and care of orphans and widows. Hence, the Lord calls the church, his people, to rise up and care for them.
This morning is our annual Missions Sunday. It is a time in which we focus our attention on the mission of the church, to glorify God through making disciples of all nations. This mission comes directly from Jesus. In his earthly ministry, Jesus performed many miracles, healing every disease and illness. Gracious and merciful as that was, that was not his primary ministry. His primary ministry was the proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom of God and urging sinners to repent and turn to him in faith. Likewise, his disciples are commissioned with the same mission, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and needy world. And to do that, we must be filled with a sincere Christ-like compassion for the lost. Then we must pray; pray for God to do what only He can do in sending laborers into his harvest to proclaim the gospel and draw sinners to himself by the power of the Holy Spirit.
How do you build a happy home? We all desire to live in and sustain a happy home life. But how do you that? Fortunately, Proverbs holds out wisdom for the path to a happy home. God has specific order and intentions for the family and the roles therein. Wisdom is to embrace God’s ordering of the family. Harmony at home is the fruit of embracing Christ and his authoritative Word on how to govern your marriage, inform your parenting, build your family and shape your home.
The Bible describes the voice of temptation like bitter honey. The temptation to sin promises to be sweet but in the end is like bitter wormwood, poisoning the soul. In Proverbs 5, Solomon goes to great lengths to warn his son about the dangers of sexual sin. Nothing is able to bring people to ruin quite like illicit sexual passion. Therefore, whether you are single or married, the Bible equips us with strategies for resisting sexual sin.