November 2017  
SMTWTFS
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  
     
This Week's Events
NOV

22

WED
Bible Search
JANUARY1 2017 THE GOD OF NEW BEGINNINGS

The God of New Beginnings

 

While most start-ups feverishly track figures like the total number of users, Ron Gutman, the founder and chief executive of the health information start-up, HealthTap, is more interested in a different data point.

Recently, the start-up heard from its 10,000th user who said the site saved her life.

“My local doctor brushed me off and told me it was anxiety without doing any tests at all,” wrote one woman who turned to HealthTap after seeing her doctor. After spending two hours on HealthTap, she was told by a doctor who contributes to the site that her condition sounded like a blocked artery. She soon saw a cardiology specialist who later inserted a coronary stent.

Since its founding in 2012, the site has logged nearly a billion questions and answers, from simple queries about headaches or the flu, to more complicated ones, like whether mechlorethamine is a cancer medication. Questions are then routed to a physician who is both an expert in that particular field of medicine, and who is determined by an algorithm to be likely to respond fast, Mr. Gutman said.

None of that would be possible without the participation of nearly 50,000 doctors who contribute their advice free.

 

Experts, because of their experience and knowledge in particular areas, can provide information that can save time and turmoil; they can even save lives. God is an expert at something. God specializes in new beginnings.

 

We specialize in things, too. Our specialty is in making wrong decisions. Some times we make the wrong decision when we are faced with an important choice but even more often we make the wrong decisions in everyday affairs. These seemingly small decisions add up. For example, if you choose to eat an omelet for breakfast instead of oatmeal just one morning that will not adversely Affect your health. But if you choose to eat an omelet every morning instead of oatmeal or some other healthier kind of breakfast you may find that you have coronary heart disease. The same is true in our lives when it comes to godliness. If you choose not to read your Bible or have a quiet time with the Lord just one day it will not adversely affect your walk with the Lord. But if you choose to neglect taking in God’s word every day you may find that you succumb to temptation far more easily and, even more dangerously, you may find that you do not recognize that your life has become one of mediocrity and you are unable to even recognize the spiritual deadness that has become YOU.

 

There is a device that did not exist in previous generations that has done much to speed up the process of spiritual deadness in multitudes. Because it is a time-stealer. When we ought to be seeking the face of God, taking in His beloved word (which is the primary means by which he changes us), or doing his will in actions we can be captured by this device. That devise is the television.

 

But today’s message is not about television. I only mention it because it can be a kind of a gauge of where we are in our relationship with the Lord. You have heard me say this before; the quality of our relationship with the Lord is not determined by feelings. Most Christians have good feelings towards the Lord. How could we not since He has done so much for us? The quality of our love and our relationship is shown by what we do – how we spend our time.

 

But whether we are those who have fallen into a spiritual deadness or those who have fallen into sin, God is an expert in giving a new beginning. We can leave our old life behind and start anew because our God has the power to make it so!! But there are two things we must not forget: the offer of a new beginning is not always available and He needs our cooperation!

 

Our scripture reading this morning is Genesis 12:1-4.

 

Abraham lived in Ur of the Chaldean Empire. The remains of the city of Ur had been located on the banks of the Euphrates River in what is now southern Iraq. Now, Iraq is a desert. But in Abraham’s day the Mesopotamia valley was lush and green. The Chaldeans worshipped the moon god, Sin, and even sacrificed children to it. It was a wicked place, a place where people had lost the knowledge of the true God. This is why in verse 1 the Lord comes to Abraham and tells him to leave that country, even his father’s house. This intimates that his own household participated in moon worship.

 

The Lord gave Abraham a new beginning. How did he do it? The first thing we see is that the Lord spoke to him. We can even say that he received a vision. Stephen tells us in Acts chapter 7 that this incident that we just read was accompanied by the appearance of “the God of glory.” Abraham received a vision wherein God communicated to him that he must make a new start. If he obeyed not only would he be blessed but he would become a blessing to the whole world.

 

In verse 4 we read: “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him…” This was not a small thing. To leave your extended family and your city was a major undertaking because there was no transportation except camels and horses, no hotels, no restaurants, no place to be assured of food, no conveniences of any kind. Added to all of this was the closeness of the family unit – greater than in Western culture. This latter point is why he took Lot with him. Actually, also from the book of Acts, we know that he took his father with him at first and journeyed from Ur to Haran. Therefore, verses 4 and 5 chronicle his departure from Haran. Verse 4 records his point of obedience. We might call this his consecration.

 

He received the vision in Ur. He consecrated himself in Haran. After he left Haran he continued in his consecration. In verse 8 we read that he built an altar to the LORD “and called upon the name of the LORD.” Amen! He called upon the name of the LORD! Never underestimate the power of calling upon the name of the Lord. His building an altar and calling on the name of the LORD shows that he consecrated himself.

 

There was a delay in his reception of the vision and his consecration. He received the vision in Ur. Some time later, after his father died, he consecrated himself to fully obey the Lord. He partially obeyed by leaving Ur. Then he consecrated himself to fully obey in Haran.

 

Once he obeyed the Lord’s blessings began to come to him. An example of this is when he went into battle against Kedorla-omer and won the victory. Afterwards we read in Genesis 14:17-20.

 

ABRAHAM RECEIVED THE LORD’S BLESSING!

 

So then, we see Abraham received a vision, consecrated himself, and had a new beginning attendant with blessings.

 

Our God is a God of new beginnings! Consider Jacob. Turn with me to Genesis 28: 10-15.  In Jacob’s experience we see that he had a vision. The vision was similar to the visionary promises that his grandfather Abraham received. The Lord added that he would be with him and that He would keep him. What a glorious promise!

 

How did Jacob respond? Verse 20 tells us that he made a vow to God. Part of his vow was that Yahweh would be his God. In other words, he is going to obey the Lord! He is going to consecrate himself to the only true God. Further, he would give ten percent of all he had back to God. This is consecration.

 

In verse 21 he says, “…so that I come again to my father’s house.” This leaves the impression that Jacob is not going to make Yahweh his God until he gets back home safely. However, it is clear from everything he did and said in the 14 years before he did get back to his father’s house that he made Yahweh his God during that whole time. He did not wait 14 years to serve God. There was not a delay as there was with Abraham.

 

Immediately after this he experiences blessing. In 29:9 we read that, while he was speaking to his father’s relatives at a distant well back in Haran, Rachel came. We know the rest of the story. He loved Rachel deeply and married her (after some work and tribulation) resulting in the twelve tribes of Israel. The purpose for his journey was to find a wife and he did! His new beginning in the land of his ancestors resulted in blessing – his own family! And what a great family it was!

 

Hence, we see that Jacob received a vision, consecrated himself, and had a new beginning attendant with blessings.

 

Our God is a God of new beginnings! Consider Joseph. His story is one of the most well known in the Bible. He had a dream where the sun and moon and eleven stars bowed down to him. This dream was a vision of things to come where, in due course, his father, mother, and eleven brothers would bow down to him. Yet, that would be many years in the future. Joseph was a man who had two new beginnings. After his brothers beat him and sold him into slavery he started a new life as the servant of Potiphar.

 

In the service of Potiphar the Bible tells us that Joseph was successful and the blessings overflowed from Joseph’s life into the life of his master, Potiphar.  It says that, “the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake.” From being sold as a slave Joseph found a new beginning in Egypt over a rich man’s house. Joseph was consecrated to obey the Lord. We see that when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife to lie with her he replied, “How can I sin against God?” Then, things did not go well with Joseph for a while. He was thrown into prison for over two years.

 

But our God is the God of new beginnings. He gave Joseph another new beginning and he became the second in command of all of Egypt with all the blessings such a position entails including an Egyptian wife and children.

 

So then, we see Joseph received a vision, consecrated himself, and had a new beginning attendant with blessings.

 

God has not changed. We see Him operating in the lives of NT characters in the same way. We could consider the lives of Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark, or the centurion and we would see the same thing. But let us consider one last character: Nebuchadnezzar.

 

Nebuchadnezzar was the King of Babylon when that kingdom was the greatest on the earth. He really ruled the whole world in his days. He had received two visions or dreams. Let us read the second vision that he had. Turn to Daniel 4:10-17 and verse 27.

 

Here was a man who received a vision but who did not consecrate himself. He did not obey the words of God’s spokesman by turning away from his sins. Twelve months later things turned out quite badly for Nebuchadnezzar for he lost his mind and became in behavior and even in his thinking like an animal. This tragedy was not just a slap on the hand, being of only short duration, but it lasted seven years! There was no new beginning for Nebuchadnezzar until he changed his ways. After his humiliation his reason returned to him, he repented and gave glory to God, and the Lord did give him a new beginning: his kingdom was returned to him and “still more greatness was added to him” – more greatness than he had before. His new beginning was one that was characterized by humility. Whereas he once was proud, now he was a humble leader of his people. We see in Nebuchadnezzar that God is not only the God of new beginnings but he is also the God of second chances.

 

Some of you here this morning need a new beginning. You are either in sin or your life has become one of mediocrity. The way the Lord deals with man has not changed over the millennia. Those of us who are Christians received a vision from the Lord some time ago.  That vision may not have been a dream.  Neither did very many hear an audible voice from the Lord Himself. Most typically, our vision was simply having the understanding of our mind and our heart opened up to see our great need of a Savior, a need to be right with God. That is still a vision because the word vision means something that comes from outside of you. It is only by the Holy Spirit that one can see their condition and believe what God has said about the remedy.  You have received a vision already!

 

But, in the same way that Abraham did not act fully on his vision, some Christians have not. In the same way that there was a delay in the full obedience of Abraham (and we could add Peter and Mark in the NT) so, too, we may be in need of a new beginning.

 

How do we enter into a new beginning?

 

After we have been born again, there is still much work for God to do in our lives, and there is also much service that we can render to God. But this calls for a complete surrender of our lives to Him. We need to allow Him to:

 

  • do His work in us;
  • we need to allow Him to use us;
  • and we need to allow Him to lead us over the stretch of road that lies ahead.

 

All this demands an utter consecration of our lives to Him. It amounts to giving our consent to His working in us, to His using us, and to His directing of our ways. In dealing with inanimate objects, God does not require their surrender; but in dealing with living men and women, He needs to gain our consent before He can work in us, or use us, or direct our paths.

 

When I was a young boy, either five or six years old, I remember being sick and having to go to the doctor. Once examined the doctor determined that I needed a shot. Well, I wasn’t going to have any of that. Since he did not get my cooperation he, a nurse and my mother held me down, pulled down my pants and gave me a shot in my behind. All my struggling was to no avail. Those three adults had enough power to give me what I needed.

 

But this is not the way that God usually works. He works in a way that requires our consent. If we do not want Him to do His work in us, He waits. He is extremely patient. We parents may use compulsion with our children, but God waits for our consent. Our consecration is our consent.

 

Has there has been a time in your history when you have had a thoroughgoing transaction with God and have definitely said to Him: “I want to be in Your hands for You to work in me and through me and for You to lead me in Your way.” Everyone who wishes to serve God must have such a transaction with Him.

Only in the measure in which we:

 

  • allow Him to work in us shall we be able truly to work for Him.
  • Only to the extent to which we have been laid hold of by Him can we be used by Him.

 

I.  The Basis of our Consecration

 

When anything of consequence is undertaken by God or man, the basis of such an undertaking needs to be clear. Now this matter of consecration is one of supreme importance; therefore, it must rest on a solid foundation. If God requires that we surrender ourselves to Him, on what does He base His requirement? He must have ground for requiring our surrender, and we in turn must have ground for surrendering ourselves to Him. The Bible shows that the question of consecration is settled on the ground of purchase. “Ye are not your own,” says the Word in one place, “For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20). And elsewhere it says: “Whether we live, we live to the Lord, or if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). The Bible speaks also of our being God’s “bondslaves.” A bondslave is one over whom his master has full rights because of his having bought him. The term “bondslave” does not sound particularly pleasant, but we who have experienced the grace of the Lord know the sweetness of being His bondslaves.

 

The Lord has purchased us with a great price so that now no one of us has a right to himself. The authority over our lives was given into His hands by right of purchase. It is on this basis that He claims our surrender. At great cost, even at the cost of the precious blood of His Son, God has bought us for Himself. By virtue of His having bought us, the authority over our lives is neither the world’s nor even our own; it is His. He has, therefore, clear ground to require that we hand ourselves over to Him.

 

II.  The Motive Power of Consecration

 

There are slaves who realize that the authority over their lives is in the hand of their masters, and they clench their teeth in bitterness of soul to serve them. They have no love for those who own them. But you may remember that we are told in Exodus 21 of a slave who at the end of six years’ service could have become a free man, but he declared, “I love my master...I will not go out free” (v. 5). Thereupon his master led him to the doorpost and bored his ear with an awl. By submitting to this, the slave said in effect, “For love of my master I want to be his slave forever.” He could have entered into liberty, but for love’s sake he repudiated his freedom. This is true consecration.

 

William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice in 1878 to the House of Commons, told a touching story. The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter and endanger her life by breathing the child’s breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, “Momma, kiss me!” Without thinking of herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and some days thereafter she went to be forever with the Lord.

Real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn’t count the cost. The Bible says, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.”

 

This is the motivating power of consecration: our love for the Lord. If we love Him we will have the power to consecrate ourselves.

 

III.  Consecration requires a definite act of the will and a definite break with our personal past.

 

When Abraham set out for the land of Canaan from Haran it was not on a whim and neither was it because that is the way the wind was blowing. He made a decision, a definite choosing, to obey God and enter into a journey that would last the rest of his days. He would never return to the life that he had in Ur.

 

When Jacob set out from Bethel, the place of his vision, to Haran (the opposite direction that Abraham took) he went with a confidence that was his because God had spoken to him. This confidence resulted in a definite choosing to make Yahweh his God not just in name but in reality. Jacob would never be the same man he was before.

 

God is offering you a new beginning. If you will take it then you must see the vision that this is what God has called you to. He has not called you to live a humdrum life. He has called you to a life wholly given over to His Son, Jesus Christ. There may have been a delay between your reception of this vision, this understanding, and your current state of being. But, just like Abraham, the delay need not be a deterrent to your consecration now.

 

Maybe you have failed Him in a large way on more than one occasion. Well, our God is also the God of second chances! He is! But the offer of a new beginning is not always available. We could rehearse the lives of Saul or Belshazzar in the OT or countless people throughout history. It is available now. As we approach the beginning of a new calendar year it is an opportune time for a new beginning.

 

If you see the vision you must consecrate yourself in a definitive way. If you want a new beginning you must not simply think that a general feeling of wanting to live for the Lord in a higher way will accomplish anything. You must make a definite break with the way you have been by submitting to the Lord in a definite way. You can do this by setting a side a day for fasting and prayer. Confess to Him your failure and say: “I want to be in Your hands for You to work in me and through me and for You to lead me in Your way.” Do not refrain from saying that simple prayer many times.

 

Your definite consecration should include a daily time reading and meditating on His word. Commit to do that! A definite and distinct resolution to live every day for the glory of God. Even if you are not one whose prayer life is strong, wake up each morning saying, “Lord, this is the day that you have made. I choose this day to live for you. Empower me and fill me with Yourself. I love you and I need you this day. Help me to use those opportunities that you bring my way this day. Amen.”

 

Do not fear. God will give you a new beginning because that is His desire and His specialty. He did it for Abraham. He did it for Jacob. He did it for Joseph. He even did it for Nebuchadnezzar. He will do it for you. Then get ready for the blessing!