Always Going Forwards


January 1, 2012

A sermon preached by Bob Keller on January 1st, 2012 based on Galatians 4: 4 – 7.

Here we stand at the beginning of another New Year.  Last night Connie and I took down the calendar in the kitchen that marked 2011 for us.  Now here’s something remarkable about that calendar:  it looked like most calendars – twelve pages full of numbers.  Some of the numbered blocks had writing in them that marked appointments to see doctors or get haircuts long since passed.  The remarkable thing about this calendar was that it was the calendar that the town gives out to remind us when to put out our garbage.  The calendar that used to hang in the kitchen was the one from the school that told us what our boys would be up to on a given date as they sought an education.

Funny thing is, we replaced 2011 with a 2012 calendar that tells us when to put out our garbage through the New Year!  In a sense, our life is dictated by garbage days!

But maybe that’s as it should be.  This arbitrary date in time that marks the passing of one year and the beginning of the next may be a time to get rid of some of the garbage.

Now that 2011 is behind us, let’s leave it completely.

Being in Christ means to always be going forward. Have you ever noticed how we always talk about our walk? We talk about our walk in life or our walk of faith.  By its very nature, walking means moving forward. And as we move forward, we are always doing two things: We leave one place and go into another.  So let’s leave behind those things that can do us no good as we move forward. 

Let’s leave behind resentments and forget those things which hurt you.  Forgive those people who did or said them. I like the old saying: “Look lovingly upon your enemies, for it is you who have made them.” We choose to dislike people, based upon what we like or think. We must realize that none of us are perfect examples, so we shouldn’t hold others accountable to our standards.

Let’s leave behind our worries.  Worries are very much like rocking chairs. They give you something to do, but they never take you anywhere. 

And let’s leave behind our failures.  So many of us try so hard to be the best we can be, but we don’t always succeed. And it is in those times when we don’t succeed, that we get discouraged because we have failed. But what have we failed in? We may not have achieved just what we originally set out to achieve, but we haven’t failed.

The only time you fail is when you don’t try to do anything! We need to understand that God has called us to have faith long before He ever called us to achieve. We are called to be in Christ, and as long as we are in Him, we are successful.

That’s what Paul’s letter to the Galatians was about.  Many of them got sidetracked into thinking that their works would justify them before God.  Paul’s letter to them was rather terse in correcting them.  This letter didn’t have the usual long message of thanksgiving for the recipient, nor did it have the warm and fuzzy salutation that was typical of Paul’s letters.  The letter was short and to the point – it’s your faith stupid!  Nothing you can do will justify you.

When you go home today, look at the ads in the Sunday papers.  Sears, Target, K-mart Sports Authority, Dicks – they are all full of sales on work-out equipment.  You’ll also find ads for all of the various fitness centers.  It’s been documented that one of the highest “joining” periods of the year for health clubs in the New Year.  Drive by one of their parking lots in January – that’s about as much exercise as I get – and you’ll find them packed.  Now drive by in March and notice the difference.

It’s not that the club’s new members failed in keeping their resolutions to get in better shape.  They failed in picking themselves back up once they slipped.  They weren’t able to put a failure behind them.

 Imagine a trapeze artist swinging from one swing to another, high above the ground with no net under him. As he reaches out to the next swing, what must he do? He must let go of the one he is on. If he refuses to let go of the swing he is on, will he ever be able to go to the next swing? Absolutely not.  And in the same way, we must let go of our old year before we can go purposefully into the New Year.

A few years ago a clock was offered for sale for only $99.95 that would tell you how much time you had left to live.  It presumed an average age of 75 for men and 80 for women.  You would program your age and gender into the clock and it would count down how many days you had left.  I think that some vital members of our church – Harold, Grace, Doris, Lois and a few others would vigorously dispute the clock and have good laugh.  But the point is, for most of us, we’ve lived more of our lives than we have left.  I’ll be 60 in 2012 and I think it’s safe to say that I’ll likely not make it to 120, so I’ve definitely lived more than half of my life.  What am I doing with my second half?

We have such a short time here on this planet, but it is on that short time that all of our eternity will depend. Therefore, I think any sane person would choose to do a personal analysis and figure out what areas of their lives do them more harm than good and make a choice to leave those areas behind as they step forward into a new year of opportunities the Lord has given us.  Let’s grab hold of this future with all the gusto we have, knowing it, too, shall pass and come to a “quicker than we are ready for” end.

How many here are parents?  OK, how many here are, or ever have been, children?  That’s most of us!  Now let me ask you something about parenthood – does a parent ever completely stop loving their child?  Oh, there are times when you may not like them very much, but you never, ever stop the love.

That’s what Paul tells us that God did in the passage that David read for us this morning.  God adopted us as his child and that love doesn’t stop.  It doesn’t stop regardless of our missteps or failures.

Tony Campolo, in his book “THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING LEFT TO LOVE,” tells about seeing the play entitled “Raisin in the Sun.”  In the play, an African-American family inherits $10,000 from their father’s life insurance policy. The mother of the house sees a chance to escape the ghetto life of Harlemand move into a little house with flower boxes out in the countryside. The brilliant daughter of the family sees in the money the chance to live out her dream and go to medical school.

But the older brother has a plan that is difficult to ignore. He begs for the money so that he and his “friend” can go into business together. He tells the family that with the money he can make something of himself and make things good for the rest of them. He promises that if he can just have the money, he can give back to the family all the blessings that their hard lives have denied them.

Against her better judgment, the mother gives in to the pleas of her son. She has to admit that life’s chances have never been good for him and that he deserves the chance that this money might give him.

As you might suspect, the so-called “friend” skips town with the money. The son has to return home and break the news to the family that their hopes for the future have been stolen and their dreams for a better life are gone.

His sister lashes into him with a barrage of ugly words. She calls him every despicable thing she can think of. Her contempt for her brother has no limits!  When she takes a breath in the midst of her tirade, the mother interrupts her and says, “I THOUGHT I TAUGHT YOU TO LOVE HIM!” The daughter answered, “Love him? There’s nothing left to love.”

And the mother responds, “THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING LEFT TO LOVE. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing. Have you cried for that boy today? I don’t mean for yourself and the family because we lost all that money. I mean for him, for what he’s been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most: when they done good and make things easy for everbody? Well then, you ain’t through learning, because that ain’t the time at all. IT’S WHEN

HE’S AT HIS LOWEST and can’t believe in himself ’cause the world done whipped him so. When you start measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you take into account what hills and valleys he came through before he got to where he is.”

There is always something left to love. To demonstrate love when someone is at their lowest point in life is genuine love. Loving people like this will help to make the new year count.

And that is how God loves us.  You may remember the bumper sticker I quoted to you a couple weeks ago:  God loves you whether you like it or not!  You can’t change the way a parent loves a child, despite any shortcomings we perceive as we use our sticks to measure them. 

Let’s move forward into the new day, the New Year, that the Lord has given us with the assurance that our faith in His love, through His son Jesus, has granted us membership in His family.

As we put away 2011, one thing that we should remember is the gift that we were reminded of last week – the gift of God’s son.  It’s a bit confusing to many, but Connie sang about it in the anthem she did this morning – He is the giver and the gift.  It takes a bit of bravery to reach out and accept that, doesn’t it?  It calls us to accept being a part of the family of God, to be a child of God and to love ourselves and to love others just as He loved us and as He still does.



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