FIRST-PERSON: A new you for a new year

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)--In the ancient world there were no bottles, no recyclable cans. They would put liquids into animal skins that were tied together and used like canteens. Obviously, as time went on, the skins would become brittle, and they would eventually break, spilling out the liquid.

When Jesus told the parable of the wineskins, He said, "New wine must be poured into new wineskins." [Luke 5:38] New situations require new structures. You get a new job and you've got to learn new skills. New relationships require new ways of relating.

What are your wineskins? Maybe old ways of thinking? Or acting, talking, listening, responding in ways that worked well in the past, but now they just don't cut it.

It's a new year with the challenges of new wine -- Will you reach for the old wineskins or will you abandon them for new ones?

Even though I am not a prophet, I can predict three things that you will face this year: new problems, new pressures, new possibilities. And the new wineskins you'll need to face these challenges are: creativity, conviction, courage.

New problems will require creativity.

The bad news is you'll have more problems in 2002. The good news is they're not the same problems you had in 2001. You get a whole new set.

New problems require new solutions.

The old ways of thinking and relating, your old attitudes may not work. The Bible says, "The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them."

Most people spend more time and energy trying to get around problems than they do solving them. Yet, you're made by the Creator. You're creative. The biggest block to your creativity is your attitude: "Your attitudes and thoughts must be constantly changing for the better. You must be a new and different person, holy and good." Eph. 4:23-24.

I heard about an old man -- 105 years old -- who was interviewed on The Today Show. The reporter asked, "In 105 years, I'll bet you've seen a lot of change." The man replied, "Yes, and I've been against every one of them."

This year [2002] you cannot have a hardening of the attitudes. You've got to keep going, growing, and developing. Attitudes are like diapers: every once in a while they need to be changed or the place starts to stink!

New pressures will require conviction.

Conviction is a willingness to stand up for what you believe.

Romans 12:2 "Don't let the world squeeze you in its mold, but let God remake you so your whole attitude of mind is changed." Have you decided what values you're going to base your life on this year? If you haven't, you need to decide what you're going to do. Write out what values are important to you.

One of the most popular songs in the 1980's was Boy George's Karma Chameleon, "I'm a man without conviction." What we need today are men and women of conviction, men and women who are not wishy-washy, men and women who say, "I don't care if everybody's doing it. It's not right, and I'm not going to get caught up in this materialistic binge. I'll do what's right and not let the world squeeze me into its mold."

New possibilities will require courage.

The year 2002 is going to be full of God's wonderful plans for you. I don't know a more exciting time to be alive. There are great possibilities! God wants to do great things in your life in this year, but it won't happen automatically. You've got to step out in faith. There's an element of risk.

Hosea 10:12 "Plow new ground for yourselves, plant righteousness, and reap the blessing your devotion to me will produce! It's time for you to turn to me, your Lord, and I will come and pour out blessings on you."

What are you planning to harvest this year? Three hundred sixty five days from today, how are you going to be any different? If you plan to have differences in your life a year from now, you've got to start cultivating now! You need to cultivate some new habits. You need to cultivate some new relationships. You need to cultivate some new activities. It just doesn't happen.

What do I want different in my family? What do I want different in my finances? What do I want different in my personal walk with Christ? What do I want different in my relationship to my children? You've got to start cultivating now. Whatever you sow you're going to reap. If you don't sow anything, you won't reap anything.

I dare you to do something different with your life this year! Get off the bench and get in the game. What could hold you back?

One of the biggest mistakes that Christians make -- even ministers -- is they think they can live their life off of a single commitment they made back in 1976. My spiritual birthday is Jan. 23, 1960. I'm 41 years old spiritually. The first 10 years of my spiritual life, I tried to live on the basis of that one decision. I thought it was enough to carry me the rest of my life. I wondered why I wasn't growing as a Christian -- why I wasn't developing; becoming all that God wanted me to be. I prayed, but I didn't see that many answers. In 1970, I discovered that the Christian life is a continual renewal and a deepening of the commitment -- not just a once-for-all decision -- but an ongoing commitment and daily renewal.

Romans 7:6 "Now you can really serve God; not in the old way mechanically obeying a set of rules, but in a new way." The new way is serving God through a relationship. Some of you are stuck in legalism. You thought that was pleasing to God. God says, "No. I want you to serve me in a new way. Love me and be loved by me."

God wants to do such great things through you in 2002. I don't know a better time to say, "Jesus Christ, I personally commit my life to you. I open it to you. I recommit it to you."


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