Turning my calendar to January 1 is usually refreshing for me. It represents a new year with a clean slate and excitement ahead. So why does ushering in 2020 feel so heavy and discouraging? There are many indications that our culture is quickly moving in a dangerous direction. The publishing industry recently announced that Fifty Shades of Grey is the top selling book of the decade. In fact, the three installments of the trilogy occupy the top three slots in the list of all books published in the past ten years. We continue to see trends indicating an “anything goes attitude” towards pornography, cohabition, and other expressions of “sex positivity.” As we enter a new year, we are likely to see the culture continue to embrace sexuality as a nonmoral expression of our humanity.
Maybe you feel weighed down entering 2020 for more personal reasons. Your marriage is falling apart, your child is rebelling, or January marks another year begun in loneliness.
In the wake of discouragement, God has been reminding me of the Great Commission. Right before He ascended into heaven, Jesus said to His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
When I think of this passage in light of what this New Year seems to represent, I see three pieces of good news that I want to share with you. This is why we have hope.
The first piece of good news is something we may overlook. We know God has authority in heaven, but sometimes we forget that He has ALL authority here on earth as well. I have needed to remember this truth in recent days. It brings me back to trusting God … To trusting that God is sovereign in the politics of our country, in the sexual sin that is celebrated in our culture, and in our own personal cries of brokenness. None of it surprises Him or overwhelms Him.
Sometimes it seems as if darkness is winning. My heart is burdened because I see a culture that actively rejects God and a Christian culture that marginalizes His authority. But the good news is that nothing in heaven or on earth will ever dethrone Jesus as the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.
It’s not my job to fix the world or even to fix one person. It’s my job to surrender my life to the love and to the work of our awesome God. It’s my job to be sure that I am His disciple and that my life is about sharing the good news of Jesus. Every day and every piece of bad news provides the chance to show God’s love. Jesus is King, sovereign with all authority both in heaven and here on earth.
Jesus told us to go out into the world and make disciples. There are many things we as Christians are called to do, but this is the single command that Jesus gave to His disciples as He ascended into heaven. This is our number one job!
The divisiveness and sexual chaos of our day represent one thing: We are broken and don’t know how to fix ourselves. Below our busyness and mindless drive to be entertained lurks a profound relational and spiritual thirst. We are lonely. We are scared. If only the right political leader wins … If only we find true love … If only we can get away from our shame. The world can only offer salt water instead of true refreshment. As Jeremiah described, these are broken cisterns that can’t hold water.
We have reason to hope because Jesus genuinely changes lives. Making disciples means lives surrendered, one person at a time. I’m not a Christian because it’s my chosen religion. I’m a Christian because Jesus is real and He has the power to overcome sin and death. He has invaded my desperation with His life and light.
The brokenness in our world provides the opportunity for you to engage with people on vulnerable and personal topics that just might lead to God. Think of how Jesus offered the woman at the well living water by talking about her sex life and her loneliness (John 4).
Christians are to be in the world but not of the world. Every day we engage with people who are hurting, lonely, and afraid. Because we are in the world we can identify with them. We feel hurt, lonely, and afraid too! But because we are not of the world we know where to run to find truth and hope.
Don’t get caught up in debates about politics or culture wars. These conversations are simply arguments about symptoms. The power of the Gospel to redeem us is just as great as when John the Baptist first spoke it. So go and make disciples!
Oh, to know that Jesus is with me every minute. I know that in my head, but I live the majority of my day without remembering this promise. Christ is with me when I don’t know what to say to a struggling friend. He is with me when people disagree with me. He’s with me giving me wisdom to speak His truth and demonstrate His love. He is there when my heart aches at the pain and confusion around me. And He is with me when my own heart feels thirsty and unsatisfied. If I truly embraced this promise, how would it change me today?
If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, do you know that He is always with you? Do you depend upon Him as your Counselor, your Comforter, and your Wisdom? Do you know that you don’t have to do marriage, singleness, ministry, or parenthood alone?
My friend, there is so much bad news that it’s easy to lose heart or simply to stop pursuing God’s truth. I’ve been there. The gale-force winds of our culture are relentless and convincing.
If you feel confused, discouraged, or weary, let the good news of Jesus’ words fill your heart with hope. I don’t wish you a happy new year but a hopeful new year.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
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