New year’s hope…

I hadn’t seen Rogue One until Wednesday, and just like my friends and family who were very good and didn’t spoil it for me, I won’t go and spoil anything for anyone who’s yet to go… just to say its really good fun. But I will say one thing… ‘we have hope.’ A great line in the midst of it all, and one that I’ve been holding out and holding onto recently, and will continue in for the foreseeable.

Image result for we have hope

On Sunday morning we had a quiet-ish New Year’s Day service- but we thought and reflected on hopes and resolutions, after reading from the first chapter of John’s Gospel, verses 10-18, and also the opening chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church… I wish I’d written down exactly what I said, and it wasn’t even recorded, but here at least are the notes that I used… I may develop it further and post more after the weekend…

John testifies to this- that Jesus is the ‘one and only’- he’s not just someone amazing, but someone unique… he recognised who Jesus was- even though he could have said ‘he is my little cousin’… Recognising isn’t just seeing, its seeing and understanding/knowing… receiving and believing- not just with our heads, or just with our hearts, but with both, and with our feet… Letting this encourage us as well as challenge us…

Who are we in Christ, and so what?

John testified about Jesus- that he was the One and only… that he was the Word- the expression of God’s power in creation- just as physical forces such as heat, electrical energy and gravity only become apparent when they are expressed- when they are doing something, so God’s power was expressed and shown most clearly in Christ… Jesus was the visible  aspect of God. And John testified to that, John who had known Jesus all his life- his younger cousin, one of those who could have said ‘isn’t he just the carpenter’s son??’ was able to say ‘he is the one and only’ the one through whom we can become children of God…

And more than that…

As Paul wrote to the Ephesians- we are chosen by God…  adopted by God (as a slave set free might be adopted into a family)…

Marked by a seal… owned… but also under his care… under his banner, under his direction…

Cleansed by the blood… saved by his own action- not just saved, but saved by him taking our place, our sin… but ultimately not our punishment- because of our sins we were deserving of death and eternal separation from God… but Jesus had not sinned, and so death did not hold him, but through his action was itself defeated.

And so?? What shall we do… how shall we live? The grace of God is such that he continues to love us and welcomes us as his children, no matter whether we come to him daily, weekly or yearly. The grace of God is such that he is with us as blesses us whether we try to align our lives with his will in everything, or only so much…

Yes, God has chosen us, has known us, has spoken into our lives… the choice that is ours is how much we will listen, how much we will speak back to God, how much of our lives we will open to him…

Just as many people have New Years resolutions about their fitness, hobbies and other parts of their lives, maybe this is a good time to look at our spiritual lives and ask if they are all we’d wish them to be… if we’re happy with our knowledge of God’s love for us, if we feel that we do worship God with all our heart and soul, if we share our faith naturally with any who ask, that our prayer life is challenging and uplifting and that our times with God’s Word equip us for the day… Its easy to look at someone and compare ourselves- that person is holier than me, is more spirit-filled, a real worshipper, an evangelist… but we are all on our own journey of faith, and God’s desire for each of us, as individuals saved by the blood of Christ, sealed by the Spirit and called his children… his desire is for each of us to grow and flourish as ourselves, being transformed into the likeness of Christ- not of the person next to us, though they might be able to point us in the right direction… but Christ.

We can ask ourselves what Jesus would have said, done, bought, sung, given to etc, but the real part of it is where we then say, and so what will I say, do, buy, sing, and give to?

For myself I’m challenged by this, and I’m making a commitment to start a daily reading plan that will take me through the whole Bible this year; and to not only pray but worship God each day. My resolution is to know Christ more in all of my life, and to make him known more through every part of my life… and I fully expect to fail at times. That’s why I’m telling you- so you can encourage me and hold me to account. I want to ask you to help me grow this year. And we can all do the same for each other- You don’t need to stand up front and tell everyone what you’re doing, though at some points in the year it would be great to hear how God has been at work in people’s lives… but it is helpful for us each to be accountable in some way- you may like to write something down, or commit it to God, or tell a good friend or family member… it may be something you need a group around you for… this may be a good time for us to get another home group going…

we all know how telling someone your plans makes them more real… so this year, not just for a few weeks but throughout the year, let your faith become deeper and more real… and work with God to make that happen.

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