“…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
2016 is in the can, and 2017 is upon us. Another year has gone by…which means we are one year closer to eternity. We are one year closer to that day when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). We are one year closer to the day when we will hear either “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34), or, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
I’d like to give you something to think about, friend. How did you use 2016 to prepare for that day? The Bible says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Did you become closer to God this past year? “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I encourage you to use 2017 to allow God to talk to you by reading the Bible all the way through and thoroughly meditate on what you read, working insightfully to apply it to your own lives. The Psalms say that the righteous man’s “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Let that describe you every day of this new year.
It will be more than worth your while. God tells us that his Word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joins and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). He wants us to “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Take careful note of that last part. God’s Word, when “implanted” within you, “is able to save your souls.” When we take time every day to study and meditate upon God’s Word, we will learn about the gospel, which is the good news of our salvation made possible through Jesus Christ. When we penitently obey His gospel in the New Testament and learn from the commendations and corrections given to His people in the Old Testament, salvation is given to us by His grace. The path to salvation is clearly laid out in the Word of God. Salvation is offered to all (Titus 2:11) and received by all penitent, baptized believers who are added to Christ’s body which is His church (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 Corinthians 12:13; cf. Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:23).
Let 2017 be the year you obey God’s directive laid out in Ephesians 5:15-17: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” There’s not a person who reads this column who cannot honestly look back upon 2016 and see where mistakes were made, time was wasted, and foolish decisions were enacted. We all make mistakes and we all sin. None of us deserve heaven and all of us deserve hell. Yet God’s love and grace still offers us hope, forgiveness and salvation. We don’t need to dwell on the mistakes of the past. Rather, like Paul in Philippians 3:14, we can learn from our past errors and “press on toward the goal,” the prize of spending eternity with God. Let 2017 be the year where you “make the best use of the time” by coming to “understand what the will of the Lord is” by reading, studying, and obeying His Word.