Welcome to 2016! A new year holds the promise of a better future. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, no doubt one of your New Year’s resolutions is to continue to grow into the likeness of His image. If it’s not, it should be, because that’s what you have been saved to do.
My family and I spent a few days in Spartanburg seeing my in-laws over the Christmas break. Whenever we travel we have to spend a lot of time packing and preparing to leave. We pack our clothes, the kids’ clothes, the kids’ toys, food, juice cups, etc. There is a lot of preparing to do.
Imagine if we just got up one morning, got in the car with our pajamas on and left. It would be kind of silly. Within an hour we would have kids crying for juice or food. Not to mention by the time we got to Spartanburg and got ready for bed after bath, the kids would have no clothes! So we’d have to go to a store and buy some. That would be foolish and expensive. And it would be a consequence of being unprepared.
God calls us to grow in our faith and trust in Jesus. But in order to do that, we must make the adequate preparations.
One way that you can prepare yourself this year for growing in your faith is by simply learning about Jesus. Luke wrote His Gospel to a man named Theophilus for the express purpose of teaching his friend about who Jesus was and what He did.
What was it, though, that Jesus did? What did He teach? For starters, Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God through His birth, life and ministry. He then died on the cross and bore the wrath of God for the sins of mankind. Through His shed blood He defeated eternal death as well as Satan and sin’s ultimate power over man. By His death He purchased righteousness to those who call upon His name as Lord and Savior. He proved who He was through performing miracles, including being the object of the ultimate miracle: the resurrection. Being raised from the dead proved He was God. It helps to learn about who Jesus was and is.
My 3 year old daughter Annabeth is learning how to play with her siblings. It’s a process! Her siblings have two choices: they can get mad and frustrated and yell at her. Or they can instruct her how to play and have more fun playing with three people, instead of two.
So as we look to grow in our faith this year, we can prepare ourselves by just learning about Jesus: who He was, what He did, who He is, what He’s doing now, and when He’ll come back. The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) deal with what Jesus said and what He did. Perhaps this year you can read through the Gospels. Pick a Gospel and read through it. Learn who Jesus is. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve read it before. Read it again. Try to read it with new eyes.
Secondly, we can prepare ourselves to grow in our faith by simply trusting Jesus with our lives. Scripture says that after Jesus’ resurrection, He presented himself to his followers for 40 days teaching them and preparing them for His departure. Scripture records ten “appearances” or “proofs” that he made in those 40 days: to the women at the tomb, to Mary Magdalene, to the two men of Emmaus, to Peter in Jerusalem, to ten disciples, to eleven disciples, to seven disciples fishing, to eleven disciples once more, to five hundred persons, and to James, his brother. Therefore, this teaching that Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection is not just some myth that was glazed over. It was recorded at least ten times.
When Jesus appeared to them He spoke to them about the Kingdom of God. What is that? There is a literal Kingdom of God: It is all believers everywhere who make Jesus their Lord and Savior. His kingdom in Heaven will be easily visible. All in Heaven will be a part of the kingdom of God. However, the Kingdom of God is also His reign in the hearts and lives of His people. This can only happen when a person’s sin is forgiven and eternal life is received. It also means that Jesus has been given authority over everything in heaven and on earth. Jesus is the center of God’s Kingdom. Believers enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus desires His church to be filled with believers who have a trusting faith in Him. But we must prepare ourselves to be able to trust Him more. We need to be learning more about him. We need to be believing in Him. This is the formula for a successful 2016.