January 9, 2022


New Year’s Message ❧ Part 2 of 2

Can you believe today already marks the ninth day of the new year? Time is flying by! Time, wrote Llyod Cary, is significant because it is so rare. It is completely irretrievable. You can never repeat it or relive it…It travels alongside us every day, yet it has eternity wrapped up in it. Although that is true, time often seems relative, doesn’t it? For example, two weeks on a vacation is not at all like two weeks on a diet. Also, some people can stay in an hour than others can stay in a week! …Time forms life’s building blocks. The philosopher William James once said, ‘The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.’ Solid advice. How then should we use our lives for something that will outlast them?

In Ephesians 5 the Apostle Paul gives us this sound answer, Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5: 15-17). Notice Paul says, be careful how you walk… What’s the opposite of careful? Careless. Paul is saying, don’t live your life carelessly. Literally, this means don’t stumble through life, don’t just drift through life. Think it through. Know what you’re here for. Don’t waste your life. Find what God’s will is for your life and invest in it. You’ll never regret it. Moses understood this when he prayed in Psalm 90 So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). He’s saying, help us understand how brief life is so that we make the most of it.

This morning we’re going look at the second message we started last week. Using the word time as an acronym, there are Four Areas We Need to Make the Most of Our Time. T, is Technology. I is Interpersonal relationships. M is for Money. And, E is for Evangelism.

I. Technology. Last week I mentioned that technology is a tool that we have become so enamored by that we’ve lost touch with what it is really doing to our lives – especially our children. Screen-mediated relationships have replaced face-to-face relationships. Today, you can “image craft” yourself into the ideal person living the ideal life – of which neither is true. The truth is, our youth are struggling more than they’ve ever struggled with fear and loneliness, depression and anxiety. Psychologists are seeing an unprecedented spike in depression and anxiety, especially among young people who have grown up online, writes David Murrow in his excellent book: Drowning in Screen Time. Critics dismiss them as “snowflakes” but their fragility is a byproduct of having been raised in a digital world they can customize and manipulate. When the real world does not yield to their preferences, they experience angst. Having spent so much time immersed in screen life, they find themselves poorly equipped to deal with the challenges of real life (Murrow, p. 25).

Technology has also led to something else. It has been used to destroy free speech. Again, I find David Murrow to be helpful. He refers to it as “an outbreak of dogmatism online.” Basic civility has eroded to where there is no long any respect for differing ideas. Murrow asks, Why is the current generation of college students so quick to censor free speech? Because they’ve been deleting posts they disagree with on social media since they were thirteen years old. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc..) taught them to shout down an shut out people and opinions they find unacceptable. All this screen-inspired hubris has led to an online ‘narcissism epidemic’ among young adults. Meanwhile, civility, humility, and empathy seem to be on the decline in both the screen world and the real world (Murrow, p. 27).

Technology itself is amoral; it can be a good thing or a bad thing. What really matters is how you use it. There in lies the problem. Many parents are not paying enough attention to what their children are learning or interacting with on their screens. And the challenge is not going to get easier.

It is said human knowledge is literally doubling, on average, every thirteen months. With the help of the Internet, the rate is well on its way to doubling every twelve hours! To put this in context, in 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every 100 years. By the end of 1945, the rate was every 25 years (https://lodestarsolutions.com). Now, seventy-seven years later, knowledge is doubling every 12 months! If we know so much, then why aren’t we that much better off? Our problem is not that we have a shortage of knowledge, it’s that we have a shortage of wisdom – that is, the right use of knowledge. Our overload of knowledge has literally dumbed us down from discerning what is really important over what is trivial. In Hosea 4, the Old Testament prophet cried out, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). He was not talking about knowledge in general, but knowledge specifically – knowledge about God, who He is and what it means to know Him. He’s talking about knowledge that shows us how to live wisely. That’s what is happening in today’s world. We are gluttons when it comes to knowledge but we’re anorexic when it comes to wisdom.

II. Interpersonal Relationships. Not long ago someone shared with me they needed more vitamin “G” in their life. They were hungry for God. So they started putting their relationship with God first. Last week I mentioned our greatest relationship need in the coming year will our personal relationship with God. Our need for God is not so much what we want Him to do for us as much as our need is simply for God Himself. My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him (Psalm 62:5). What should our time with God produce in our lives? Spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity in the simplest of terms means Christlikeness. We are mature when are the most like Jesus.

Let me take this one step further. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity (Hebrews 6:1). The Greek word for maturity is teleios – and end or goal. We get the word telescope from it meaning to see the end of something. God’s goal for your maturity is to be like Christ. The author of Hebrews is telling us that wherever you’re at right now in your maturity, you need to press on. 2021 may have left you feeling stuck in your relationship with God. God wants us to have a vision of pressing on in 2022. I recently read of a lady who was dying of cancer. Her husband knew she only had a short time to live. He was trying to make her as comfortable as possible. She told him, You must not make things too easy for me. I must keep growing, you know. I saw this same attitude in a man who passed away this past year. His name was Al Porter. I’d known him and his wife for many years. Al struggled from severe and ongoing health issues beginning with a double-lung transplant. After years of difficult adjustment and increased limitations, he began having problems with his eye. The doctors discovered that he had cancer in his eye making it necessary to remove his eye. I remember wondering why God was allowing Al and Margi to go through so much. Over the years I visited with them on a number of occasions. When he was able, Al would go with me to visit others in need. Wherever we went, he would smile and share the love of Christ. Never once in all those years did Al complain. Instead, he would tell me, “John, It’s an adventure!” His closeness with God brought about a spiritual maturity that was more concerned about His growing up in Christ than his own very real pain or discomfort. As the upcoming days of 2022 unfold, God wants us to press on to maturity; to know Christ more fully and deeply and become more and more like Him.

There are many times in the Bible where I read God allows His people to go through some trial, some difficulty when He could have spared them. Instead, He allows them to go through it. And it is in the going through it they discover who God is, experience His peace, His joy, His strength in ways they would never have understood had He spared them the difficulty. This is what I saw in Al and Margi. Few understood this better the Apostle Paul who penned these words of understanding, Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! We also boast (express great confidence in) of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God’s approval, and his approval creates hope. This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us (Romans 5:1-5, GNB). Paul is saying when we have this attitude of hope, this confident perspective in our struggles, we will not be disappointed.

III. Money . Sometime ago I read a touching e-mail from a concerned individual about money. Verily I say unto ye…Money: It can buy you a house but not a home; it can buy you a clock, but not time; it can buy you a position, but not respect; it can buy you a bed, but not sleep; it can buy you a book, but not knowledge; it can buy you medicine, but not health; it can buy you blood, but not life. So you see, money isn’t everything, and it often causes pain and suffering. I tell you this because I am your friend and as your friend, I want to take away your pain and suffering!! So send me all your money and I will suffer for you! Cash only please! After all, what are friends for, huh??

When you boil it all down, our money is really about stewardship. Stewardship is taking care of something that is not ours. We don’t really own our money, our homes, the things we have. They’re on loan to us for a brief time. When we die, they go to someone else. The old adage is true that says, “I’ve never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse.” You can’t take it with you. Our money, our homes, the things we have are ultimately about stewardship. Stewardship is really about lordship. If Jesus is really Lord of my life, then He’s lord over my money, my time, my family, my abilities – everything. What this means is if we want to maximize our brief time here on Earth, then we need bless others with the things God has given us. God is the greatest Giver. We’re the most like Him when we give.

The Bible tells us, Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine (Prov. 3:9-10, NAS). If you want God to bless your life, then put Him first. Ps. 37:4-5 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. Whatever you want God to bless in your life, put Him first in. If you want God to bless your family, put Him first in your family. If you want God to bless your career, put Him first in your career. If you want God to bless your finances, put Him first in your finances. If you want God to bless your time, you put Him first in your time. Whatever you put God first in, God has promised to bless. That makes sense. He’s God. He wants to be first. He owns it all.

This not “name it and claim it” thinking. That’s not what the Bible teaches. God says when I put Him first, I’m putting my trust in Him, not what He gives me. If I give Him the first part of my income right off the top, I’m saying to God, “I’m giving out of gratitude for what You’ve already given me and in faith I’m saying I believe You’re going to take care of me in the future.” It’s really an act of trust, saying, “God, I trust You.” If I don’t give, I’m saying I really don’t trust God.

How much should I give? Five percent? Ten percent? Fifteen percent? Abraham in the Old Testament gave ten percent, so many think they have to give at least ten percent. That’s a good standard, but God doesn’t tell us an exact amount. The reason is simple. He wants us to give from our hearts, not out of a set standard. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” (2 Corinthians 9:7, NLT). Jesus said, Where your treasure is there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34, NAS). When Dee and I got married we made a commitment to honor the Lord with our lives and that included trusting Him in our giving. He wanted us to give, so we gave. It hasn’t always been easy. We could easily find a hundred reasons why we shouldn’t give. But we gave and God has blessed in ways we could never leverage.

IV. Evangelism. This leads to our final point of where God would have us make the most of our time – evangelism – telling others about Jesus Christ. In the Bible, Jesus gave us the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Most of you are very familiar with them. But did you know there is a third great that He gave us as well? The Great Promise. They’re found in a number of places in the Bible, but I want to focus on two main ones. The first is found in Matthew 16, I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it (Matthew 16:18). Eight chapters later, Jesus’ makes a second like promise, This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14). Four things Jesus says that will happen – not might, or could, or should, but will with absolute certainty: 1) He will build His Church, 2) the whole world will hear His Gospel, 3) all the powers of hell will not stop Him, and 4) the whole world will hear the Gospel and then the end will come. What is Jesus saying? Simply this, confidently occupy until He returns. The greatest use of our time in which we can have the greatest confidence of purpose is telling others about Jesus Christ; His love and forgiveness for those who place their trust in Him. The most repeated command God gives us in all the Bible is to fear not. Yet, one of the greatest fears people have is sharing the Gospel. They fear telling others about Jesus for a host of reasons; they fear of rejection, they feel inadequate, and so on. Jesus knew this. That’s, in part, why He gave us the great promise. He will build His Church and all the powers of hell will not stop it. This should embolden us to confidently occupy until He returns.

A while back, someone slipped a book in my box entitled: Gospel Reset, by Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham. One of the questions he asks why is: Where Did the Church Go Wrong? America has more churches, more Christian books, more Christian media than anywhere in the world, yet we’re seeing less and less of an impact. Why is that? Ham attributes much of it to people’s view of eschatology (study of the end times). Many Christians are throwing up their hands in defeat. “What’s the point of trying to do anything?” they ask. Ham points out this attitude is more about fatalism than about biblical prophecy. He reminds us that no where in Scripture the truth about Jesus’ return inspire such a response. In fact, just the opposite! He reminds us the Bible teaches in Philippians 2:15 that when we find ourselves in the midst of “crooked and perverse generation we’re to appear as lights in the world. Or when Paul told the Roman believers of the return of Jesus it was to motivate them to put on the armor of light, not sit around passively and let people go to hell. To do nothing is a misapplication and inappropriate response to eschatology and Bible prophecy. As things get darker in culture, the Church must shine all the more brightly in society. It’s an opportunity to work, not an excuse to wait (Ham, Gospel Reset, p.84).

He recognizes there is rampant sin in our culture. That we’re clearly seeing the Paul’s description of the decay and rot sin brings into our world in Romans 1. Things are getting worse. Yet, he points out as bad as things are, they are not as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember, God told Abraham if there were just ten righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah, He would spare them. God may not have found even ten righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah, but there is an enormous remnant of on-fire Christians in America.

His point: we need to confidently occupy until Jesus returns. Contend for the faith, give answers for what you believe, preach the Gospel. It was this theology that drove him to purchase 800 acres of land in Williams Town, Kentucky and build a creation museum and as well as a 510-foot-long wooden replica of Noah’s Ark – all which cost millions and millions of dollars.

His efforts were met with sharp criticism by other Christians. They felt it was a waste of time and money since Jesus was going to return soon. Ham says, I believe we should do whatever we can to reach people with the message of God’s Word and saving Gospel. I agree. We don’t know when Jesus is going to return. In fact, in Matthew 24:36 Jesus specifically points out no one knows the day or the hour of His return but the Father.

As we look to the days ahead, I want to challenge us to confidently occupy until either Christ takes us home or He returns. Our cause in Christ is assured success. It will not fail. This is what Paul has in mind when he says we’re to make the most of our time.

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