ENTER THE NEW YEAR WITH GODLY WISDOM
Dear Christian friends,
During one of the wars of ancient Greece, a small army was in hopeless retreat. They were greatly outnumbered and unable to defend themselves against the enemy. The retreating army was hopelessly disorganized. Only a few hundred were able to make it to a narrow mountain pass. But once they were there, the commander shouted a new command to halt the retreat. From there they could deal with the invaders. No matter how many soldiers there were, they had to funnel down one-at-a-time to get through the pass. A few men halted an entire army.
Each New Year we find ourselves in a similar situation. We stand at the pass that divides the old year from the new. Beyond the pass lay a new year ahead hidden from view with all its challenges, problems and blessings. We ask ourselves, “How are we going to face them?” What makes us uneasy is that we don’t know the kinds of decisions we are going to need to make. Yet the Bible says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” While we can sit and fret, worry and sweat what a new year will bring, our God makes a promise that he will get us through.
Tonight as we begin the year of 2016, the apostle Paul gives us something to think about. He exhorts us to “Enter the New Year with Godly Wisdom.” 1) Recognize the days are evil; 2) To have wisdom is the will of God.
It is easy to say that the apostle appears to be the pessimist when he says, “Be very careful, then, how you live-- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” These words can hit a anyone someone pretty hard to simply says that the days are evil. How dare he say “the days are evil?” The world is getting better. Look at the technology. Look at medicine. Look at the engineering of buildings.
One of the premises of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, the treatise that made evolution acceptable, said the good survive and that man is getting better. Yet when the apostle says “that the days are evil,” that passage brings what the Bible says into conflict with evolution. Frankly, because of what the apostle says here is why we can’t accept evolution. So we have two opposing thoughts. Which is correct? As Bible believing Christians there is only one answer, but reality backs up what the Bible says.
The days aren’t getting better. The days are as evil as ever before.
Paul wrote these words 2000 years ago. 2000 years ago there were wars and rumors of wars. There was bloodshed and killing. There were power-hungry, greedy rulers. Has man gotten any better? Some historian figured this out that in the history of the world there were only a couple of hundred years when there were no conflicts going on. In the twentieth century the two greatest wars in the history of the world were fought. How many times with the conflicts in the Middle East and superpowers taking sides hasn’t World War III been mentioned in the last year alone? The atomic bombs that killed more people outright than any weapon in the history of the world just seventy years ago are pea shooters compared to the bombs of today. And more countries have them than ever before.
When St. Paul wrote these words, the Roman Empire was in desperate moral straits. Family life was declining. It is a well-known fact that the census that took Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem was one of a series or censuses taken to measure reforms that Caeasar Augustus had made to stimulate population growth. In that day people didn’t want to get married and have the responsibilities of raising children.
Have times changed? This is a time of dead-beat dads, pre-nups and open marriages. This is a time of gay marriages. This is the day of ending every one out of two marriages. This is the day of aborting children by the millions world-wide. I am told that 30,000 a year are aborted in this state alone. So are we getting any better?
There seems to be less true faith than ever before. Percentages of people who worship the Lord regularly are less than ever before. While there seems to be more organizations than ever before to establish or promote world peace than ever before, wars continue to exist world wide more than ever before. While we have more schools and universities than ever before there seems to be more doubt and uncertainty than ever before. While there seems to be more life and family experts than ever before, there seems to be more broken homes and abandoned children than ever before. The days are evil and we would be 2015-16 fools not to recognize it.
A person who is not wise is a fool. It is interesting to look that word ‘fool’ up in a concordance. We can see what the Bible describes as a foolish or unwise person. The psalmist says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” The person who says there is no God is a fool because he contradicts his own senses. No one needs to tell you that the tree over in corner there decorated itself. Yet an atheist believes the world got here all by itself. That’s foolish. Don’t throw away your belief in God.
A person is a fool if he doesn’t believe in Christ and the resurrection. Jesus said to the men on the way to Emmaus, “He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" A person is a fool if he doesn’t have a personal and penitent faith in Jesus. Why? Because for centuries prior to his coming, the Christ was predicted. He was coming to do a rescue like no other. The Psalms, the book of Isaiah and others predicted he would die and rise again from the dead. He did and left all kinds of witnesses, over 500, to know it was true. And the Bible says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." We would be fools to turn our backs on and not believe who he is and what he has done. .
There is another way to be a fool. The Bible says, “A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct.” What a time to be talking about this! Fools mock sin. We know what is right and do the wrong anyway. Many people are going out tonight with the intents of having a taxi bring them home because they are not going to be able to drive. Cheating in marriage, entertainment of the wrong kind, overindulgence and countless other things is making a mockery of sin. That’s what a fool does.
There is still another way to be a fool. “The one who trusts his own heart is a fool.” Here we are at the beginning of a new year. To many this is a time to do some New Year’s resolutions. It is easy to say, “I am going to do this or that in 2016. I am making this plan or that one.” But where does God fit into it all. Where do we include the words “If it is the Will of God?” Or did we even consider him in our plans in the first place? Dear Christians, if we resolve to do anything this year, let’s do so with his help and guidance.
In fact, instead of living unwisely God wants us to follow his will. The apostle says, “Make the most of every opportunity.” Making the most of every opportunity starts by asking, “Do I see God in my life as my greatest need?” Will I admit to my own follies and weaknesses which have filled the last twelve months of the year and plead forgiveness and pardon? Will I by the Holy Spirit’s power always accept Christ as my pardon and hope and continue to confess him to others. When all is said and done do I see the wisdom that I need is supplied by the Spirit of God in the Word? Do I see the baby in Bethlehem as the Savior whom I really need?
When we begin there, the same Jesus Christ will control and direct our lives. We will make the most of every opportunity by shunning sin and living righteously for the lord. There are many ways to make the most of every opportunity – like committing to a more active prayer life; to pray more regularly and fervently in Jesus’ name; by praying with your household regularly at quiet time, at home, at work and even at play. This is making the most of every opportunity.
Making the most of every opportunity also includes taking advantage of spiritual instructions. Not only do we need to worship, but we also need regular study of the Bible. Bible study isn’t for the other guy, it is for you. How many years since you have had a good basic review of the doctrines of the Bible. Confirmation? Eons ago. Dear Christian, that is too long ago. How much do you read the Scriptures on a daily basis? Make the most of every opportunity.
There is still another way to enter the New Year wisely and make the most of every opportunity. If it is God’s will we have 365 days to live in 2016. There are 365 days to tell people about the Savior who loves you so dearly he would prove it by giving his life in your place. How nice it would be – but it’s better than nice – how vital it is to share him with a friend who does not know him like he or she ought. Take advantage of the opportunity. Enter the New year with wisdom.