Messiah Lutheran Church 6201 W Patterson Av
Chicago IL 60634

January 2019

Making 2019 A Turning Point in Your Life!

In calculus, the point where the curve on a graph turns upward is known as a "turning point".

And so, this New Year 2019 has the potential to be a "turning point" in our lives, as we seek to make improvements.

Of course, some will purposely avoid making any New Year's resolutions at all, insisting that the only resolution they will make is that they will not make any more resolutions. Either they lack the resolve to do better, or else they are under the delusion that they have no more room for improvement.

But, when we look into the mirror of God's Word and see how often we have missed the mark in our thoughts, words, and deeds, it's quite obvious that there is plenty of room for us to make improvements. As 1 John 1:8-9 reminds us, "If we say we don't have any sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth isn't in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive our sins and wash us clean from all unrighteousness".

And, so it is my prayer that 2019 might be a turning point in the lives of the members and friends of Messiah, as the same Holy Spirit that inspired Paul to write the words of Philippians 3:12-14, works in all of us to say, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me .... I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus"

As we reflect on 2018, we have to confess that too often we allowed our Old Adam to come back to life as evidenced by the sins we have committed this past year, rather than having our new nature that we received as born-again, Spirit-filled believers in Christ to live before God in righteousness and purity.

But the Good News is Jesus bore the punishment for our sins on the cross, and through Him, we can be forgiven not just of our sins of 2018 but of all our life's sins, and thus be given a clean slate in 2019! As Acts 3:19 tells us, "Repent, then and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord".

A popular button when I was growing up had the letters PBPWMGIFWMY on it. These letters were the initial letters to the words of the message, "Please Be Patient With Me God Isn't Finished With Me Yet!" And, so I remind you, "God isn't finished with you yet!" For as Philippians 1:6 declares, "He who began a good work in you will bring it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus".

When Paul talks about forgetting behind the past in Philippians 3:13, it can be taken in two different ways. One way is for Paul to forget his past accomplishments as the leading missionary of the early church. For God still had more things for him to accomplish before he breathed his last.

Similarly, we mustn't rely on our laurels and the things God has done through us in the past, as a congregation and as individuals. For God has great things for us to accomplish in 2019, as we enter the doors of opportunity He opens for us. We can rejoice in how God has used us in the past, but it's time to put the past behind us and press on to additional achievements in 2019.

But we can also take Paul's intention to forget the past as applying to his sins. For even though he confessed that he was the "chief of sinners" for his persecution of Christians before his conversion on the Road to Damascus, he had been given a new identity in Jesus Christ. As he states in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come".

Similarly, our identity is not to be based upon our past sins, but we are to leave our past behind, and affirm the new identity we have been given as a forgiven Saint in Jesus Christ. Consequently, should you ever find yourself tripped up by your sins, don't just sit there wallowing in the mud of your guilt and shame! Get up! Repent of your sins! Receive Christ's Words of absolution, "I forgive you all your sins!" and start running, again! As you resolve with the help of the Holy Spirit, to go and sin no more! For as 103:12 assures us, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us". Your identity is not to be shaped by your sinful past, but in the perfection and righteousness that Christ has given you!

Therefore, let us as a church and as individuals press forward in 2019 in the race set before us, knowing that we will receive a crown of eternal life, should we endure until the end! (cf. James 1:12; Revelation 2:10)

May this New Year 2019 be a turning point in your spiritual walk with the Lord! As James 4:8-10 encourages us, "Come close to God, 'and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you doubters. Be miserable, mourn, and cry. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up"

God bless you, your family, and all the members and friends of Messiah in 2019!

Pastor Wendt

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