Have you broken any of them yet?
How many of you have ever felt the searing frustration or grinding discouragement over lack of personal discipline or steadfastness to personal commitments? Even in February?
What is wrong with us?
Over 2,700 years ago, God clearly communicated to Judah through Isaiah their problem:
I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider (Isa. 1:2-3, KJV).
I am sure you have heard in the public arena the expression “Don’t be a pigheaded fool!” Well, I was at one time even worse than a stubborn mule. In fact, I still deal with the wretched tendencies of the sinful nature continually warring against everything that is good that I desire to do in 2007 for God’s glory.
Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment (Isa. 1:4-6).
How much chastisement will it take from God before we finally change and no longer do the sinful habits with which we engorged ourselves in 2006? From top to bottom, Judah had misery and no desire for healing.
To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood (Isa. 1:11-15).
Orchestrated services for ministry, big crowds in auditoriums, and prayers in 2007 will mean absolutely nothing to God—in fact, He hates it all if our hearts are not right before Him.
At the end of a calendar year, have you ever felt shame?
Isaiah thunders at the end of chapter 1:
And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed. For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them (Isa. 1:28-31).
What will be the oaks (elon) and the gardens that seek to stand in the way of our firm resolution to God in the new year? The danger in 2007 is to pursue the elon divorced from the one, true God for the satisfying of the relentless, hunger cravings in our hearts. But don’t do it; because in so doing, “ye shall be as an oak (elah) whose leaf fadeth” (Isa. 1:30).
What was God’s hope offered for the wholly sick 2,500 hundred years ago?
For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them (Isa. 36:24-27).
What is the Lord Jesus’ message to Nicodemus 2,000 years ago?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:5-6).
In application, your ultimate hope for the year 2007 is not in your turning over a new leaf, your personal resolve to reform your mind or your body, or your strength of willpower to see any kind of change. Biblically, your hope must rest solely in God through the power of His gospel for transforming your life. There cannot be any other addenda.
The resulting work of the Servant of the LORD in lives is spectacular. Think of those who will submit to the ruling, gracious work of the Messiah.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees [elon] of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified (Isaiah 61:1-3).
Keep this in mind as you live out 2007. Depending on your own flesh, you will be among the elon that fade. What more can flesh do? Depending on the gospel through the empowering of the Spirit, you will be among the elon of righteousness, stable and secure. To Him be the glory!
Todd Wood is pastor of Berean Baptist Church (Idaho Falls, ID). He received his B.A. in Missions, M.A. in Theology, and M.Div. from Bob Jones University(Greenville, SC). But more than anything he hungers for the A.I.G. degree affixed to Apelles (Rom. 16:10). He also operates a blog called Heart Issues for LDS.