New Year’s service
Introduction Albu van Eeden
We welcome everyone to the first day of 2020. It is not our year but the Lord’s. We long for the Lord to speak to us this morning. We do not know what He has in mind for us this year but we place ourselves on the altar and say, “Lord, we want to go wherever You might lead.” Like Moses, we want to add, “Lord, we do not want to go if You do not go with us.” We trust that the Lord will grant us the fellowship of His Holy Spirit as well as fellowship with one another. Paul admonishes us not to neglect the coming together of the saints.
Isn’t it wonderful to experience God speaking to us in various ways? Isn’t it unexpected, fresh and new to you? Whether you experience it at a funeral or in daily living, it is like manna from the Lord which is sweet and unknown. It is wonderful to see how the Lord supplies us with more than we need. That is why we can enter this year with strength, hope and assurance which does not come from man, friend or foe.
Today’s reading will be taken from Luke 4.
And He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and He stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
Luke 4:16 – 20
What a rich portion this is! May our eyes gaze at Him! If you want to receive God’s favour, spend every day with your eyes fixed on Him, and in this time of worship, see Him and gaze on Him attentively.
When Jesus stood up to read, the attendant handed Him the right book for the season, for that day, for God’s will to take place in the synagogue. With the Spirit of the Lord is upon us we can be of great value to His kingdom but without the Spirit of God we will spoil this year and damage, even the cause Christ and His work. New Year’s resolutions and wishes can be nullified if God’s Spirit is not at work in and amongst us. If you are prepared to deny your life and lay it down for Christ, you can be an attendant who hands over the correct book at the right time so that Jesus will be able to speak His words, even of prophecy.
Verse 19, “…to proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord.” Another translation says, “…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God. To comfort all who mourn”. The word ‘acceptable’ can mean delight, desire, favour, pleasure and will of the Lord. Other English translations render the original text as follows: “…the year when the Lord will show His favour”; “…the year of the Lord’s good will”; “…the year of the Lord’s good pleasure”. The verse prophesied a future day when God would show His people goodwill while bringing God’s promised vengeance on Satan in fulfilment of Genesis 3:15, by sending the promised Messiah who would deal with the separation between humanity and God caused by sin. When Jesus quoted this scripture, this prophecy was being fulfilled by His ministry and sinless life, which would culminate in His atoning death and resurrection.
This can be your glorious year. It can be mine. We need not live a life separated from God. Keep your eyes on Him so that this year may be a favourable one because of the salvation brought by Jesus, a year in which God has His vengeance on Satan. God is hard at work. He is busy with your soul although you think He is in heaven. He is fighting for you. Jesus is interceding for you. He gave His life that you should have life. When He speaks in your heart and points out the sin in your life, do you care about it? When your hand wants to touch that thing and a voice says, “Don’t touch. Don’t do that!” It is Christ warning you. He is interceding that you will be saved from touching that thing. Do you care when He warns you?
The Lord wants this year to be an acceptable year and that your life is acceptable to God. He came to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, the day of His favour. Remember when Moses spoke to the children of Israel about the 10 commandments, he said that they would be life to the people. He received the commandments for the benefit of the people, not himself.
In Deuteronomy 8:2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
Imagine God leading you for 40 years to see whether you are prepared to humble yourself! Does the Lord have to wait 40 years so that you and God can acknowledge whether you have humbled yourself? This verse states that God allows you to roam in the desert, to suffer, acknowledge and prove whether you can humble yourself. The danger exists that you have been part of God’s chosen people for 40 years but you may not even have the slightest idea that God is testing to see whether you have a humble spirit and whether you will humble yourself. Are you only happy to see the miracles? Do you drink from the free fountain of Christ’s atonement? Do you eat of the manna but still lust for the pots of Egypt? God has kept you through his grace and you see the blessings but you do not know that God is testing you. You may be 20 or only 30 years old but you can lay down the law and state your opinion. The Lord says in this text that for 40 years He has tried to get you to see yourself and come to your senses. In the end God will have the final say. Will you blush on that day or rejoice?
In Deuteronomy 8:5 – 10 Know also in your minds and hearts that, as a man disciplines and instructs his son, so the Lord your God disciplines and instructs you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and reverently fear Him. For the Lord is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills. A land of wheat and barley and vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; a land in which you shall eat food without shortage and lack nothing in it; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for all the good land which He has given you. (AMPC)
Although you have this wonderful promise, He humbled you and allowed you to hunger and fed you with manna so that he might make you realise that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. God wanted to know what was in their hearts. Whether you are here, a listener or a deserter, know this: God wants to know what is in your heart. Whatever caused you to desert – God wants to know what is in your heart. God wants to know what your intentions were and are. What is in your heart? You may speak and quote Scripture as you wish but God wants to know what is in your heart. Do you ask God to prove your heart as David prayed: “God, search my heart”?
Just prior to the announcement Jesus made in Nazareth in Luke, He was tempted by Satan through Scripture. Satan was religious and theological. He used the correct Scripture. He aimed to hinder the favourable year of the Lord. In Jesus’s reaction to Satan, He quoted Moses in Deuteronomy 8:3 “…man does not live by bread alone but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”
Friend, do you seek God’s approval in your opinions, words or writings? Do you act in order to receive God or man’s approval or are your actions as a result of your own heart and choices? Jesus announced the year of the Lord’s favour. What do you announce through your actions and your life? Beware that you will not be reprimanded like Peter when Jesus said, “Behind Me, Satan”.
Are you preaching the good news to the poor, release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind? If you do not have God’s approval, you will not preach the good news to the poor. If you do not have God’s approval, you cannot announce release to the captives. Without God’s approval, how will the blind see? How will they be delivered? Are you mindful of the things of God or man? Jesus called His disciple a satan because he was mindful of the things of man and not the things of God.
What a year this one will be if Jesus would pronounce the year of the Lord’s approval over my life, your life, our lives.
In conclusion, a quote from Charles Spurgeon, whom I honour:
“I put myself into His hand for guidance. I know not the way that I should choose: the Lord shall choose mine inheritance for me. I need counsel and advice; for my duties are intricate, and my condition is involved… The counsel of the infallible God I seek in preference to mine own judgement or the advice of friends… Glorious Jehovah, Thou shalt guide me! Soon the end will come: a few more years and I must depart out of this world unto the Father. My Lord will be near my bed. He will meet me at heaven’s gate: He will welcome me to the glory land. I shall not be a stranger in heaven: my own God and Father will receive me to its endless bliss. Glory be to Him who will guide me here and receive me hereafter. Amen.”