Each January 200 Million people will choose a problematic behavior that has plagued them for years and vow to reverse it; commonly known as New Year’s Resolutions.
In other words, resolutions are simply an acknowledge of our failures based on perceived expectations within our culture and so we make lofty plans to become a better version of ourselves.
Unfortunately, our resolutions seldom work because they center on the person we regret being rather than on who God is calling us to become.
So, over the last couple of weeks, I have been challenging you to begin to think differently about resolutions. Instead of asking, how can I become a better version of me, ask, what does God want me to become this year? I challenged you to carve out some time alone with God and boldly ask for one word to be placed in your heart. One word that you believe captures God’s desire for your life this year.
A word that will serve as a lens for you to see God’s work in your life, and a word that will shape, inform, and give you a fresh perspective of your life.
You see, we need vision, not regret.
Hopefully you’ve been inspired and encouraged by what you’ve been taught throughout this series as you’ve heard that in Jesus, you have a new and different identity . . . an identity that shapes your life. An identity that offers the vision we need.
You’ve heard words like Loved, worthy, cleansed, set free.
And if you really believe that . . . if you really believe that these are the things that define you in Christ then your life should reflect it.
- If you believe that your identity is one who is loved . . . you should be loving . . . to everyone.
- If you believe that your identity is one who is worthy . . . you should treat people with respect.
- If you believe that your identity is one who has been cleansed, you shouldn’t throw mud at others.
- If you believe that your identity is one who has been set free to be who God created you to be, you should be encouraging to one another as we all struggle with figuring out who God created us to be and to do.
And if you take a close look at your life . . . how you spend your time, your money, your energy, your resources . . . they should match up with who you claim to be in Jesus.
But most of us . . . if we’re honest . . . have to say, “they don’t”. Although we believe these truths about God and his relationship with us, and we love to hear these words, honestly, we’re afraid of letting go. We’re afraid to unclench our fists from those things that have defined us for so many years – those things we’ve made resolutions to fix - and we’re afraid of allowing God to shape our lives.
But let’s listen to what Jesus has to say to us this morning . . . Read Matthew 6:25-34
The Bible was written over the course of a few thousand years by roughly 40 authors in multiple nations. It contains 66 books: 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.
But if you were to pull out every single command, the one that is repeated the most is “fear not” and the reason is because fear always gets in the way of our relationship with the father. We see this from the beginning of the story of God. After Adam and Eve had eaten of the apple they hid from God because they were afraid of their nakedness.
Everybody fears something . . . some of them seem very irrational but others are very rational; you fear losing your spouse or your children, not being able to care for your family, not being the kind of parent your children need, you fear dying in a horrible accident, or simply getting old . . . this list could go on.
Whether your fears are rational or irrational . . . they’re always very rational to those who have them.
And what happens when we’re afraid is that it manifests itself as anxiety . . . you’re stressed, your heart rate increases, you blood pressures goes up and you get this nervous eye twitch.
And out of response our bodies are manifesting this anxiety as sickness. It’s God’s design for our bodies to communicate to our brain that we need to slow down, take a break and chill out.
You see, fear has this ability to literally cripple us, but it also causes us to get stuck in our ways, and not be the people God designed for us to be so Jesus comes and he says, “Fear not”.
Now this command isn’t coming from some religious guy with a cushy, comfy life, sitting in a big office with a secretary who answers all his emails . . . giving us principals that he himself has no need of.
At this point he’s broke and homeless, heading toward the cross. He knows how difficult this life can be. He knows what it means to have fear creeping at your door, wanting to take over your life.
And so out of love and understanding he says, “Fear Not . . . But he goes in a direction that I would never have expected . . . he goes right to our stuff. And you might be thinking, “What does my stuff have to do with my fears? Is this just another sermon where you take my stuff?
In its context . . . these teachings come in the middle of The Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is telling his followers to be salt and light in the world, to love our enemies, and not be pious. And at the beginning of this little section, Jesus lays it out straight: don’t store up treasures on earth, don’t even think you can serve two masters . . . God and money . . . because you can’t.
It’s right after this that Jesus uses a little word that has great meaning—almost like the hidden key to unlocking this text. It’s the word “therefore.” And “therefore” means something like: “in light of everything you have just heard me say” . . .
It’s like Jesus is saying in The Sermon on the Mount: “I am unfolding the wonder and potential of a new way of doing life in the Kingdom of God. Embrace it. Open your heart to take it on as your mission and vision.
And, therefore, once you decide that you want to be a part of this kind of kingdom and embrace the new identity God is giving you . . . do not worry because God will provide everything you need.
Jesus is saying, “I’m not trying to take your stuff. I’m trying to take your stress because your stress is keeping you from being who you’ve been created to be in the kingdom of God, and a lot of your stress is connected to your stuff.”
So, if you choose to live in this new way . . . to embrace the new identity God is giving you . . . then the question suddenly becomes totally different.
The question is not “what do you have?” but “who do you love?”
He begins with food. He says, “Don’t worry about what you eat”
Now for most of us, food is a big deal . . . after all, you need it to survive
But Jesus isn’t saying “don’t eat”.
He’s saying, “Don’t worry about what you eat because food can become all consuming.” And sometimes our stomachs become our Gods. When we’re happy, we reward ourselves with food. When we’re stressed, we comfort ourselves with food. We have a relationship with food that is more like a relationship we should have with God.
What’s interesting is how many of our New Year’s resolutions revolve around food. We feel guilty about what we’ve put into our bodies – almost as if we recognize this truth - and out of guilt, resolve that we’re going to eat better but the problem is that food is still the focus – it’s still our God.
And Jesus says, “Life is more than food . . . and the body more than clothing?”
Now this sounds like hippie talk, right? I mean, we need to wear clothes, but the problem is that we can get consumed by looking good.
Clothes are only in style for a few months because they keep changing what’s in and what’s not. And you want to be up with the times and the trends.
So out of worry, we go buy the “right” clothes but then we have debt . . . and debt adds to our stress. So, we’re stressed about looking good and then we’re stressed about paying to look good.
Jesus is saying, “Don’t worry when chick-fil-a isn’t open on Sundays and don’t go into a panic when you can’t afford that outfit that you really want because you can’t add a single day to your life by worrying about those things . . . in fact, the stress is literally kill you.”
Then he continues by saying, “Consider the birds”. They don’t have to build huge pantries to store all the all the food they got from BOGOs and extreme couponing. No, God provides for them and he gives them what they need to survive. And if God’s going to feed the birds, he’s going to feed us.
And then Jesus says, “Consider the flowers” . . . they don’t have malls to get the trendy clothes, but they look awesome. And they don’t look in the mirror and say, “does this pedal make me look fat?” No, they don’t but Jesus says that even Solomon, this rich, wise man that had everything he ever wanted was not as beautiful as these.
And if God can make the fields look so amazing, fields that will be beautiful one day and the next day be thrown in the fire . . . how much more will he clothe you?
Do not be afraid . . . don’t let these things produce fear and anxiety because your father, the one who created you in his image, knows that you have needs and he will take care of you.
So, instead of being afraid of things that you really can’t control. Instead of creating New Year’s resolutions that we know statistically we will fail and add another layer of guilt, shame, regret, and stress to our lives . . . seek his kingdom.
If you were to read this text in Luke, Jesus says . . . “If you really believe what I’m saying . . . if you really believe that God will provide all you need to live out your identity then sell your stuff and give to the poor because where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”
It’s the follow up statement to what we talked about last week, where your heart is, your life will follow.
You see, your life follows your money. Odds are your money goes to your fears.
- You want security, so it goes to a home.
- You want comfort, so it goes to entertainment
- You want status, so it goes to your possessions.
- You want approval, so it goes to clothes
If you really believe that God gives you an identity as one who is loved, valued, and set free than quit clinging so tightly to your stuff. Open your hands and let it go and then see what happens.
Some of you might be thinking, “I kind of like what Jesus is saying because I’ve got some old junk that’s just taking up space in my house and this will give me some inspiration to have a garage sale”
But Jesus is saying, “Don’t give junk to the needy . . . take something you love, something you’ve worked really hard for and give it away. Take something that’s incredibly significant to you and give it away. Take something that actually pains you to lose and give it away.
And as we give our best, God isn’t taking our stuff. He’s taking our stress. He is reorienting our hearts and our minds and our lives and eyes away from ourselves. It allows us to get to know the father and rely on his generosity . . . and it allows us to love others.
Some of you are now saying, “I knew it. I knew that this was all about trying to get my money and my stuff . . . I knew it.
But I say to you . . . “Fear not” . . . God doesn’t want to take your stuff. He doesn’t need your stuff.
He wants to take your stress and so much of your stress is connected to your stuff. And as you give, you’re not only giving your stress to him, you become an agent of God’s care for others . . .
You see, one of the ways that the father feeds and clothes others is through his sons and daughters . . . through you and me.
So, take a risk . . . Be generous and see what happens in your heart. See what happens with your fears. See what happens with your anxieties. See what happens with your relationship with the Father.
And through our generous giving . . . may people see Jesus, the greatest treasure of all.