Dear radio friends,
We stand in the first hours of the year of our Lord, 2006. The future is unknown to us. We can never know beyond the moment of the present.
Using the figure that we find in Psalm 119:105, where we read: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” we may say that the future is dark and perilous. The picture is of a traveler on a path, and darkness is all around him. Cliffs and dangers are in front of him and he cannot see.
Do you have any insurance that will prevent you from being flat on your back this year? From being struck down dead the very next time you get into your car? We do not know whether the worst fears possible await us in this year, whether there will be the recurrence of our cancer, whether we will have prosperity or depression in our business, mental health or break-down, for we are weak and fragile. We simply cannot see or peer ahead into the future. We do not know the events of the year ahead.
But for the child of God there is one source of light, a perfect source of light, which is able to guide us inerrantly and perfectly, with great assurance and comfort — a light, says God in II Peter 1:19, which shineth into a dark place “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed.” God’s Word is our light in the darkness. Please read Psalm 119:105 once again.
I want to use that figure of God’s Word as a light to our path today. I would like to use that figure to bring to you several familiar truths that we must keep constantly before our hearts and minds in the coming year.
The figure of the light that we now use is not that of one great big dome light, a floodlight, but lights for our pathway. Think of the ground lights along a sidewalk, perhaps from the garage to the front door, that keep you from stumbling in a dark night. Or think of the lights in an airport along a runway, guiding the plane to land safely, lights intended to mark out a path and to keep one from getting lost or falling or crashing off a cliff.
These lights will be the familiar truths of God’s Word, received by faith, truths that become lights for our pathway in 2006, truths of the Word of God that we are called to believe on the testimony of the more sure word, God’s Word. These are truths, then, that we must not simply stick away in a back closet of our mind. But these must be truths made powerful through prayer and by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 119:105 speaks of a lamp. A lamp, in those Bible days, had to be lit. So the Word of God must be lit. It must become a flame, a light. And it becomes a light to our path through prayer and by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Let us consider these lights for our pathway in the year 2006.
The first light. Nothing will come into my life but that which is ordained for my greatest good. The text of Holy Scripture that we use for this is well known. It is Romans 8:28, where we read: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” As we look out into the coming year, let us take that as our light. Nothing will come into my life but that which is ordained for my highest good.
The word of God in Romans 8:28 does not say that nothing will come into my life but that which is ordained for my highest pleasure, for my greatest earthly ease; but it said this: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” We know that, says the apostle. Not we feel that, we can see that. He did not say, “Well, we would like to think that in this coming year things are going to turn out for the good.” That is not what that Word of God said. It said this: All things, everything, without any possible exception, all things will work together for good to the child of God. They will lead to, will be subservient unto, our highest good, that is, our salvation. This will take place for all who are called according to God’s sovereign purposes. God is saying that He will so orchestrate all the events of the lives of His elect children that everything must serve in this year their greatest good, that is, their salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, either God is a liar, or that is true. God is true, and all men are liars, says the Word of God. You may then stand upon the threshold of this new year and declare: “Nothing will come into my life but that which God has ordained to work my highest good.”
When everything seems to be coming apart, when unknown things would come into our life that would wipe away every smile from our face, when there is sickness and death, whatever — it will be ordained of God to work my good.
Are you, this morning, prepared by faith, through prayer, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to say that and to make that your light? A perfect illustration of this is found in Genesis 50:20. We cannot get into the whole story, but you will remember that Joseph had been sold by his brothers as a slave into Egypt. God had led him to become second ruler in Egypt and to prepare for Jacob’s sustenance. When that happened (the selling of Joseph), his father Jacob responded in the weakness of faith (Gen. 42:36) and said, “All these things are against me.” He interpreted the loss of his son as only disaster and that which was against him. Yet, all those things that Joseph’s brothers meant in an evil way were overruled by the sovereign God for good, so that in Genesis 50:20 we read Joseph saying to his brothers, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” God ruled even over the wickedness brought into Joseph’s life for his good and for the good of all of His people.
Look often at this light in the year 2006. Our greatest good is to be weaned from this world and to be conformed to Christ. Our greatest good is to be made more desirous of heaven. And so we may say this morning, without knowing all the particulars of tomorrow or the week or month or year, “Nothing will come into my life but that which is ordained of my heavenly Father unto the goal of my greatest good in Jesus.”
Light number two. Nothing will come into my life but that God Himself will be with me as I face it.
The text we now use is found in Hebrews 13:5, 6: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
The Hebrew Christians were facing tremendous difficulties in the way of attachment to Jesus Christ. They had lost their goods. Their possessions had been taken from them. They had been cast out of their families and some of them had been placed in prison. Paul says, “Be content with such things as ye have, for God not only from afar will order your adversities for your spiritual good (He will not look at you from a distance and say ‘All is well’), but,” the apostle says, “God has said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’” God will be with me whatever comes in this year. This is the promise of God’s nearness, the promise of God’s presence and protection by the Holy Spirit to protect us as we face all the stress and all the tears and all the adversities that could possibly come to us — things that would cause us to fall apart.
The apostle Paul experienced this. We may turn to Acts 18:9, 10. The apostle here is in the city of Corinth. It was a pagan city, given wholly over to sin and fornication. He was being opposed by the unbelieving Jews, who never gave up. There was a wall of opposition in front of him. What was his consolation as the apostle of God? Acts 18:9, 10: “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” His consolation was “I, even I, am with thee, and no man shall overcome thee.” God was saying, “My servant, no matter what you experience in opposition all the days that are ahead, all the things that will be lined up insurmountable ahead of you, remember this: I am not absent. I am not afar off. I have not only ordained all to work for your good, but I am with thee.”
Let us take that for our light in this year.
Light number three: Nothing will be able in 2006 to separate us from the love of Christ.
The verse that we turn to is the familiar one in Romans 8:34-39, where the apostle Paul has issued a challenge in verse 31: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” He teaches that God is utterly committed to saving us, and he goes on in verse 32 to show us all that God has done: He has not spared His own Son. God has justified us, Jesus Christ is risen, He is at the right hand of God making intercession for us — all this God has now done for us, and now, since God has done all this for us, He is committed to our complete and final salvation. “Who,” says the apostle in verse 35, “shall separate us from the love of Christ?” And he goes on to list all the things that would try. He says that the devil attempts to orchestrate these things to take us from Jesus: tribulation, distress, persecution, and on and on goes the list. No, says the apostle in verse 38, “I am persuaded.” Once again he does not say, “I feel; I would like to think; I sure hope so.” No, he says, “I am persuaded.” There has been a judgment made, a judgment of faith in my mind that now filters down into my heart. That judgment is this: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” One thing is certain in the year 2006: Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus!
Other things are certain, too. We will battle against our sin. We will stumble. We will fall. We will feel dark days. We will be given to know our weakness. Oh, yes, that is certain, too. But this is also certain: None of those things can separate us! This is not presumption, this is not false boasting. But this is faith in Christ speaking. To all those this morning in Jesus Christ who feel the great burden of sin and desire to be holy, their greatest yearning is to be like Jesus Christ. To all such, to those whom God has called and justified, God says, “Nothing in this year, nothing found in heaven above, nor in hell beneath, nor throughout all the realms of the earth, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.” Take the light of God’s Word upon your pathway.
Light four. Nothing will be expected of me in the will of God but that God, by His grace and strength, will be sufficient.
Our text here is Philippians 4:13, where the apostle says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Perhaps you look out into this coming year and say that there are things that are too heavy, too dark, too unthinkable, that you dread the coming of another day. And you say, “How will I be able?” God says that nothing will be set before you in the will of God that you will not be able, by His grace, to sustain.
In Philippians 4 the apostle Paul is speaking out of the context of a prison. He is speaking out of the context of lack, of hunger, of desiring something to eat. He says in verse 11 that he had learned to be content in whatever state the Lord had placed him. He goes on to say that he can do this because it is God who strengthens him through Jesus Christ.
Every measure of grace that we need to do the will of God has been earned for the Christian on the cross of Jesus Christ. And God will, without fail, give us that sufficient grace as our need will be. The problems, the tears, the struggles that we will face in this year have been ordained by God. But they have been ordained by God in order that He might show the power of His grace at work in us.
Remember this light. Nothing will come to you in the will of God but that God’s grace and strength will be sufficient for you. Remember this when the way is steep and lonely and heavy and you are weary. Remember the light of God on your pathway.
Light five. Nothing in 2006 will frustrate the saving purposes of God in Jesus Christ. The Bible says that there are real forces. They are strong and they are relentless. They oppose His cause on earth and His purpose. There are real forces set against the gospel of Jesus Christ and against everyone who will confess that gospel and truth, forces that are filled with a hellish rage, forces that work to commit spiritual genocide on the church of Jesus Christ and the people of God. But they cannot frustrate the saving work of Jesus Christ. They cannot bind the Word of God. They cannot take even one little one from the hand of Jesus. They cannot keep Christ from saving His own.
Our text here is Matthew 16:18, where Christ says to Peter (and in Peter to all of the church): “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Jesus is saying there that His purposes, God’s purposes in Jesus Christ, shall not be frustrated. The channels of His elective grace to call and to gather unto Himself His people and to keep them will not be dammed up by the world. Yes, we are certainly called to be faithful. We must keep ourselves in the Word of God. We must be zealous as Christians and as the church to bring the Word of God. And, as Christians, we are always called to use the means of God. We must use God’s Word, we must attend the true church faithfully. And the true church must not resort to gimmicks or to methods of our own choosing to advance the gospel. No, we must hold fast to the faithful and sure testimony of God’s Word.
But in all of this we know that the forces that oppose the gospel, mighty and cruel, are under His control. Christ is at God’s right hand and nothing will frustrate the saving purposes of God in Jesus Christ in the year 2006.
What a powerful Word of God that is.
The final light for our pathway is this: Every passing moment in the coming year will bring us closer to the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Remember that light upon your path.
The passage is Romans 13:11: “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we [first] believed.” From the time that we first believed, that is, that first work of grace in our hearts, until now, our salvation has drawn nearer and nearer. Each day brings us closer to the great day when Jesus Christ shall stand upon earth in all of His glory. In the year 2006 we draw nearer to that than we ever were before. We come closer each passing day to that day promised us in the Scriptures when the heavens will be parted and Jesus Christ shall appear in His magnificent splendor and glory, and every eye shall see Him.
We draw nearer to that glorious day when the trumpet shall sound, and the voice of the archangel shall be heard, and the dead in Christ shall arise, and all men shall be gathered before His throne to be judged, when the new heavens and the new earth shall be created, when the wicked and the devil shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, when the words shall be heard, glorious word, “Come, ye righteous, come, ye blessed of My Father. Enter into the kingdom that is prepared for you.”
Are you ready? Is this what you are looking for in the coming year? Is this the goal, the hope, that lays hold upon your heart and is the motive, is underneath everything that you have done and will do in this year? No. I do not know when Jesus is coming. No man does. The Lord says, “Be ye ready, for ye know not the time that the Son of man doth come.” But this I know. It is the wicked servant who says, “My lord delays his coming,” and goes into the lord’s household and beats and afflicts his fellow servants. It is the righteous servant who prepares himself for his Lord’s coming. He stands on his tiptoes. He is looking out. He is ready. He desires his Lord to come.
What is the light for our pathway in this coming year? Here is a light for us to follow: every passing moment in the coming year will bring us closer to the coming of Jesus Christ.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Here are six lights for our pathway in the coming year. I have not told you anything new. The Christian faith rests upon proven, time-tested things, things of old abiding ever new in the heart.
As we stand at the beginning of this year, with all of its uncertainties, let us take the Word of God as our more sure light, a light that shines into the darkness and will without fail guide us. What are those lights? 1) Nothing will come but what is ordained for my good. 2) Nothing will come but that God will be with me. 3) Nothing will separate me from the love of Christ. 4) Nothing will be expected of me but that God’s grace will be sufficient for me. 5) Nothing will frustrate the saving purposes of God in Jesus Christ. 6) Each moment brings me closer to the moment when I shall see my Savior in all His glory.
Then, of you, it may be said in this year (Prov. 4:18), “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
Let us pray.
Father, we seek Thy blessing as we stand on the threshold of this year. Go Thou before us. Work, by the Holy Spirit, in our hearts, that we may take the Scriptures to our hearts — that sure light shining in the darkness — and that we may walk surely with our faith resting only upon Thee and Thy promises. In Jesus’ name, Amen.