Looking back by monkey6


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									Show clip. Intro I don’t know of too many people who would say it like that… and yet many people will end up with it like that. And I think one of the main reasons is because we don’t reflect, learn and plan. We don’t reflect on what has happened in our lives and what should have happened. We don’t connect the dots and learn from any mistakes and then plan for things to be different in the future! And often when we do come up with some plans we don’t execute them. Why? • • • • Could be laziness Could be that our plans are too mundane and the stakes aren’t high enough Could just be a tradition not real life stuff (we are just making plans for plans sake - it’s what we do at this time of the year)? Who knows?

So over the next two weeks I want us as the family of God to do the following. This week: Look back. With major Biblical life principles (Ephesians) look back and evaluate what this year has really been like. Next week: Look forward. With major Biblical life principles (Ephesians) look forward and plan for things to be better. And so using some major Biblical principles let’s look back at how well this year went from God’s perspective. Idea is that you use these evenings just as catalysts to do the real work of reflecting, learning and planning. How well did we get to know God this year? Read Ephesians 1: 17 / 3: 16 – 19. Having told the Ephesians just how wonderful God is he prays that they may know God even better. And the great thing is that we have a God who wants to be known and can be known. Most world religions describe gods who are distant, unknowable, uncaring. Others religions have a supreme being shrouded in great mystery and darkness. Our God is very different. He has revealed Himself to us. Through creation. Through Jesus. Through the Bible. Through our experience of all that. God has repeatedly and powerfully made Himself known to people. The most beneficial investment of time that you and I could have made this year was to know God better. Yes we will want to reflect on how well we got to know colleagues, family, friends… but how well did we get to know God? A.W. Tozer wrote, “Were we to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ‘what comes into your mind when you think of God?’ we might predict with

certainty the spiritual future of that man.” You see knowing God and knowing Christ stands at the heart of our Christian lives. Everything in our spiritual lives stands or falls there. Maybe we were really busy and worked hard trying to act and look Christian, but what really matters is how well did we get to know God? How much time did we spend reading the Bible with the aim of getting to know God better? Or did we spend most of the year relating to God with assumed knowledge or information we had heard from others? How much time did we spend reading books that would help us understand what the Bible says about God (or are we relying on what we have read in previous years – Bible and books) How much time did we spend reading the gospels to find out more about Jesus – God come in the flesh? How much time did we spend in intimacy with God (Bible and prayer)? How much special time? David wrote in Psalm 27: 4, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” To dwell in God’s house is another way of describing living fellowship with Him. How much time did we work on responding to what God said in obedience? Purposefully. God’s plan for our lives is not the gathering of information but transformation into the image of Christ. Knowing Him better includes obedience which results in transformation. Obedience takes Bible and prayer and makes them real! How much time did we invest in our own growth this year? Ephesians 4:11 – 16 The Bible describes us at the start of our faith as spiritual babies. And just like with new babies born to us, God’s desire for His children is to grow. Growth is not automatic. It requires obedience (as we have seen). Ephesians 4:15 says, “…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up in him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Or were there all sorts of excuses like busyness, etc as to why there was little or no growth? Or were we willing to accept maintenance for growth? How much time did we spend in the Bible learning about what to do for spiritual growth? 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. How much time did we spend reading books that would help us understand what the Bible says about growth (or were we relying on what we had read in previous years – Bible and books) How much time did we spend investing in building Christ’s Church

Ephesians 4: 11 – 16 Jesus said, in Matthew 16, "…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." We occupy the time frame of Earth’s history when Jesus is working to expand the borders of His kingdom and Church by driving back the forces of Hell. The battle for that expansion will continue until He returns. And He summons His followers to join with Him where He’s working to that end. And there is no limit to the opportunity, there is no limit to what kind of people He will use. There is only unfortunately seems to be limited availability on the part of His people. And if that is true then we are not putting the Kingdom of God first… which is what we should be doing. Read Matthew 6: 33. Jesus was responding to His followers’ who got their priorities confused. They were thinking about the stuff they needed for everyday life. Food, clothing, shelter, etc. Material beings seem to naturally pursue material stuff!

But Jesus told them, and He speaks to us today and says, “That’s not why you’re here. Will you stop investing your life primarily in things that won’t matter in the long run and invest them to what will?” And so He said pursue the expansion of His kingdom. That means taking every opportunity that will lead to building up the Church. How much of your time and energy and creativity did you invest (this year) in reaching out to people who don’t know Christ. Usually when we thing of New Year’s resolutions we think of the normal top ten: 1. Lose weight 2. Stop smoking 3. Stick to a budget 4. Save or earn more money 5. Find a better job 6. Become more organized 7. Exercise more 8. Be more patient at work/with others 9. Eat better 10. Become a better person But as Christians although these might be what we want to do… the kingdom of God must come first. So how did the year go? How many people – build, share, invite? Pray? What did we actually give most of our time and effort to this year? Was it putting the kingdom of God first? If it wasn’t then no matter how profitable or balanced the year looks to us… it may not be as good as you think. Now next week – get really practical on these things planning for 2008 – with some helpful ideas to make 2008 a great year.

Not yet Christian? How do you evaluate this year? Put your trust in Christ! Pray

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