Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
OUR UNCHANGING GOD IN A NEW YEAR
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
1 JANUARY 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: Psalm 90:1
1. Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Lord, You are above all heavens and earth, yet You have
made a place in Your heart for us.
May this service bring a joy to Your heart, and may it also touch our hearts so that You will find a dwelling place in us.
We thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers and for being in our presence.
Hymn: O God Our Help in Ages Past
God has always been the same. He will always be the same.
Old Testament Reading – Psalm 90:1-2
1. Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all
2. Before the mountains were born,
Or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.
3. Thou dost turn man back into dust,
And dost say, "Return, O children of men:"
4. For a thousand years in Thy sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.
5. Thou hast swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
6. In the morning it flourishes, and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades, and withers away.
What is new?
What is really new?
We all were born, and we all will die; yet while all of our lives are alike in form, we are individually quite different from each other.
Even from our birth, we are different; for we were born of different parents, or at differing times in the life of our parents.
But we are all born the same, for by God's Word we all have a body, a soul, and a spirit; but most importantly, we are given a free will.
And with this free will, we are able to choose the things of God or, with the same free will, to reject them.
We grow up in slightly different times from each other, and learn some differing and new things.
We pass from one year to the next, and one day can seem like all the others, or it can be quite new.
When Moses wrote this Psalm 3,500 years ago, he realized that life is basically the same.
He even refers to Methuselah, who lived 969 years, and says that to God, who sees everything from beginning to end, the life of Methuselah would have seemed like a day.
Yet, in the year of Methuselah's death, the great flood came and the world was no longer the same; for all upon the ark found a new world when they got off.
But most importantly, what didn't change was God's creation and heavenly will that we live as loving, compassionate, and peacemaking children of God, who do everything in their free will power to protect and care for the whole of God's beautiful creation.
The desire of our hearts was and is to be our turning away from the evil that
brought about the flood, and reject the demonic powers that cause millions of
our fellow human beings and billions of animals to suffer and die every year.
Old Testament Reading – Psalm 90:7-12
7. For we have been consumed by Thine anger,
And by Thy wrath we have been dismayed.
8. Thou hast placed our iniquities before Thee,
Our secret sins in the light of Thy presence.
9. For all our days have declined in Thy fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
10. As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
11. Who understands the power of Thine anger,
And Thy fury, according to the fear that is due Thee?
12. So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.
God is always the same.
And the span of each of our lives is quite similar.
However, since the flood, our human lifespan has dropped to only one tenth of
what is was before the flood, because we did not cleanse ourselves of the evil
that brought about the flood, as God desired us to do.
God has set a limit to the time in which He will wait for us to return to Him.
In the days of Noah, He gave the people 120 years to come to repentance, the same time it took Noah to build the ark; and all but eight persons rejected the offer.
Today He has limited our lives to even less time, and still far too many of us reject His free offer of salvation, a gift that will make all things new.
This also means that most people have refused to repent of the evil things
and ways in their lives, for our repentance is and integral part of our
Don’t we, who are made in God's image, become angry when our children don't behave or believe us?
And don’t we also quiet our anger and forgive our children when they come to us and tell us that they are sorry?
So it is with God!
And children, aren’t things much better when you do what your parents want you to do?
This is also exactly the same situation when it comes to our own relationship with God.
In order that we also might have a heart of wisdom, and understand what God is ever trying to tell us, take a moment of silence and reflect on your own relationship with God, and confess the things that are not right between the two of you.
Confession and Assurance
The Lord's Prayer
Think very carefully about what we just prayed for, and what you just prayed for.
Didn't we all pray for God's heavenly will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?
And since there is no pain, or suffering, or death, or mourning, or destruction in heaven, are we truly trying to live that way?
Or, are we continuing to promote this pain, suffering, death, and destruction to our fellow human beings, the animals, and the environment in which we all live?
Let each of us begin to answer that question as we sit down for our next meal.
Sometimes we say we believe in God, but really don’t understand. In order for all things to be made new, we must believe in Him by His standards.
The Apostles creed tells us who the God of the Bible, the God of all heavens and the earth, really is. Let us recite it together.
Affirmation of Faith
Old Testament Reading – Psalm 90:13-17
13. Do return, O Lord; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Thy servants.
14. O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15. Make us glad according to the days Thou has afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.
16. Let Thy work appear to Thy servants,
And Thy majesty to their children.
17. And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And do confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.
Hymn: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
All things are what we allow God to make them.
If we want this new year to be different from last year, then we have to allow God to enlighten us more this year than we allowed Him to do so last year.
As we move closer to God with a repentant heart, the closer He will move to us, and the newer everything will seem, and the newer it will be.
The more we do this, the more we feel the pain and suffering of the world
around us, and seek to end our part in it.
Unfortunately, though, the evil that is in the world will still be there, but we don't have to be a part of it, or go along with those who cause it.
We can choose to be different.
We can choose to be like God.
We can choose love over fear, and show that love to each other, and every other living being by living it, and not just mouthing it.
We can show that love to an evil world that does not really know God in their hearts, by being truly compassionate and consistent in all aspects of our own lives.
And God will see from heaven and know the true intent of our hearts, and will make this year new for us.
Our faith in God will be confirmed by the good, and loving, and compassionate, and peacemaking works of our life.
And as we more and more live our lives in this way, and let God lead us, the greater will be our joy.
Joys and Concerns
Hymn: Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us
New Testament Reading – John 10:1-5
1. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold
of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.
2. "But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep.
3. "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.
4. "When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
5. "And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers."
The new year is to bring in new things, and many of the old things are to disappear.
Which will we choose?
Sometimes we put ourselves in the wrong sheep fold, or we are too busy listening to the things around us to hear the Lord's voice, and we follow along blindly after false and harmful leaders.
The Lord wants us to be in His fold, listening for His voice.
We should be a witness of our Shepherd's teachings to the other folds, but we are not to remain there, for we might be led astray.
Neither are we to refuse to be a witness to those who are not Christians, for our gift is to be shared abundantly; but in that witnessing, we are not to become a part of their lifestyle.
Remember, that our witness is believed far more by what they see in our
lives, that what they hear in our voices
We are also to flee from the false leaders who would call us into a work that is counter to God's Word.
When we are attentive to our Shepherd's call, and respond, He will lead us into new pastures, and make all things new; for the old ones will have been left behind.
Jesus Christ is our only true Shepherd.
New Testament Reading – John 10:6-9
6. This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what
those things were which He had been saying to them.
7. Jesus therefore said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
8. "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.
9. "I am the door; if anyone enters through me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Jesus offers us all things new, all things eternal.
But sometimes we are just like those who were hearing Jesus speak these words; neither they nor we understand what He is telling us.
Do you know why?
Our hearts and minds are all cluttered up with the cares and concerns of the world; and while we do hear the sound of His words, we fail to understand and perceive what He is telling us, for there is no place to store it because of all the other things present.
Thus we remain in the past, in the old year, and we do not receive the new things of the new year.
And when we do receive the new things that Jesus offers us, we no longer have need of the new year to bring in new things; for we have received all things new, and these new things of God are eternal, and thus need no renewing.
The things of God only need to be remembered.
And every one of these new things of God is based on love, Godly love, unconditional love.
The old things may from time to time also have love in them, but they also contain fear and punishment, and have limits that God's love does not.
But we will receive the new gifts of God, if we let our Shepherd lead us:
We will have a love of God, and a love of our fellow man;
We will feel that love extending unconditionally to the whole of God's
We will be filled with a joy because of all the things of God that have been revealed to us;
We will have an inner peace within us, even in the face of strife; a peace that will surpass all of our understanding;
We will have patience with one another when we do the things that are not right or don't do things when others desire them to be accomplished;
And through all of this we will find that we also have a kindness and gentleness toward each other, and toward all of God's creation;
We will be faithful to one another and to God;
And our character will show a gentleness and self-control in all situations;
For the love and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ will just overflow from us.
And everything will be new every morning.
They will be new because we have entered in through the door.
They will be new because we have entered into the presence of God and His kingdom through Jesus Christ our Lord.
New Testament Reading – John 10:10-18
10. "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they
might have life, and might have it abundantly.
11. "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
12. "He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them.
13. "He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.
14. "I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me,
15. even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
16. "And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd.
17. "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.
18. "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."
Satan tries every way he can to pull us away from the things of God.
He wants us to remain in the old things of the world. He does not want us to be made new.
He wants us to be hard of heart, and not show compassion.
Satan lies to us, telling us that our Godly strengths are signs of weakness.
He even sends us false prophets and teachers to lead us astray.
We should not listen to these lies and false teachers; we should listen for the voice of the Lord.
Paul gives us an easy test to discern the things of God in Galatians 5:22-23...
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
If what we hear and see does not fulfill all of these things, or we see or hear things that are counter to these things, we are to reject those ways and teachings, because they are of the devil and not of God.
Jesus is our only true Shepherd, and we are to follow only Him.
Jesus will lead us through the year and onward into eternal life, for only He has laid down His life for us, to take away our sins.
Be made new in Him, and we will truly have a Happy New Year.
Hymn: He Leadeth Me