The Sunday before New Year December 30, 2018
120:1-4, 528:1-6, 528:8,12-15, 120:5-6
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, who have gathered here in His house on this day to seek His forgiveness for the year drawing to a close and His blessing for the year just about to begin, grace and peace to you from Him Who is, Who was, and Who is to come,
Have you noticed that as you age, your feelings about New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day changes as well? As children we used to sneak out of bed to watch our parents play cards with their friends as they stayed up late to usher in the new year and we’d wish we could party with them. In our teens and 20s, New Year’s was a time to celebrate with friends. But somehow, as we grew older, we realized the changing of the calendar wasn’t really all that exciting. Maybe, for some of us, Midnight on December 31 just means its Tuesday and we need to remember to start writing “2019” on our checks, instead of “2018.”
How do you feel about the New Year? Are you excited for what may lie ahead? Or are you nervous about what could happen in the unseen year before us? What will 2019 be like for us individually, for our families, or for our congregations? Will it be a year of blessing or a year of hardship? Will there be war? Will we die, will a loved one die, or will new lives be brought into our lives? Will we suffer? Will faithful Christians be persecuted? We will experience poverty? What are you concerned about as you think ahead to 2019?
Let God the Holy Spirit, working through the words of the Apostle Paul, silence all those fears. Let the God-breathed words of Romans 8 sink into your ears and to your very soul as God speaks to you on this New Year’s Eve that you may enter 2019 confident in Christ. Romans 8, verses 31 through 39:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So far the Word of God
What is it that concerns you as you enter a new year? Paul gives us a pretty scary list in our text. See if one of these things speaks to you: “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword…death, angels, government powers…” Any of those hit home on this New Year’s Eve? I didn’t list “life”—but maybe the prospect of living in 2019 is scary to you.
But, what about God? Are you afraid of God entering 2019? After all, if God is against you, there is no worse enemy you can have. God is a worse enemy than a crazy North Korean dictator with a nuclear missile, a hostile neighbor or an oppressive government. He is even a worse enemy to have than the devil and all his evil angels! Jesus says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) Earthly enemies can only kill your body. But if God is your enemy, He will destroy both body and soul forever in hell. Perhaps HE is what we should be afraid of in 2019!
If there is no worse enemy one can have than God, the reverse has to be equally as true. There is no greater ally anyone can have, no one more powerful, than God Himself. King David knew that, and he rushed into battle with a sling and three stones against the giant Goliath. In verse 31 Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
As we stand on the precipice of a New Year, let this be our question—is God for us or against us? How can we know for sure? Sometimes it seems like everything is against us, even God. We have one health set-back after another, we can’t quite seem to get ahead on our bills, our family feels like it is falling apart. Is God against us?
Look where Paul directs you for indisputable evidence as to whether or not God is for you or against you. In verse 32 he takes you right up to the cross and says to you, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Does that passage sound familiar? I hope it does. We use it frequently because it is a PROOF PASSAGE. Verse 32 is PROOF THAT GOD IS FOR US. God is on our side so much so that He did not spare, He did not withhold, His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.
God is indeed for us and Jesus is the proof. At Christmas, we are given proof that God is for us. That Baby in the manger is, Christ the Lord. He is Immanuel. He is God with Us. The fact that Jesus was ever born, that we have a Christmas, is proof that God is for us. The fact that even after Jesus’ passionate prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, God did not stop the betrayal of Judas, the mocking of the Sanhedrin, the injustice of Pilate and his guards, nor the pounding of nails into the holy hands of His Son—PROVES that God is for us. Unlike the testing of Abraham with his son Isaac, God did not spare His own Son, Jesus. Instead, God delivered Him up for us all. That means God is for us!
The fact that God did not spare His own Son, can lead us to a number of very important conclusions as we enter the new year. In verses 33 and 34 of our text, Paul takes us into God’s court room. Imagine that you are the one on trial. Satan is prosecutor and is leveling the charges against you. He says to God the Judge, “Your Honor, Your Word says that lying is a sin. The defendant has lied on multiple occasions. Your Honor, Your Word says that love is the fulfillment of Your law, yet the defendant has done many unloving things toward others, said many hateful words, and had many unloving thoughts. Your Honor, Your own Son said that anyone who lusts after another person has committed adultery in their hearts. And Your Word also says that no adulterer has eternal life abiding in him.”
Are you worried about these charges being brought against you in the New Year? What defense would we have? “I didn’t know it was a sin?” We knew. How about the classic, “It wasn’t my fault. Someone else made me do it.” Neither parents nor police officers buy that one, nor does God before whom all things are exposed.
When Satan tries to bring charges against you, listen again to Paul in verse 33, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” How can anyone bring a charge when the Judge has already rendered the verdict? And that is exactly what has happened. God has already charged His sinless Son with your crimes and punished Him for them when He delivered Him up to the cross. Justice has already been served. The Judge has already rendered the verdict. He has declared you “not guilty.” You are justified! So, how can anyone bring a charge against you before that Judge?
Therefore, we can enter 2019 in Christ not fearing charges or condemnation! “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” You have nothing to fear entering the new year, because the very Son of God who died so that you could be declared “not guilty” also rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Right now He is at the right hand of God, speaking to the Father in your behalf. His nail pierced hands are a reminder of the price He paid to purchase you and make you His own. You need not fear condemnation, because your Advocate is your Savior. This is the confidence that is ours in Christ as we enter this new year!
So what was it we had to be afraid of in 2019? “Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …death…life…angels…principalities…powers…things present…things to come…height…depth…any other created thing?” What is it that 2019 holds for you? Holds for your family? Holds for our congregations? Go back to our text again and again. GOD IS FOR US! The cross proves it! Therefore, we can exclaim triumphantly with Paul, “In all these things we are more than conquerors (literally—“super conquerors”) through Him who loved us.”
When you don’t feel like a “super conqueror” in 2019 and you wonder whether God is against you, remember the conclusions you can draw from the cross. If God loved you so much that He did not spare His own Son from the cursed misery of the cross, no matter what 2019 holds for you it will NOT separate you from His love in Christ Jesus. Think of it, not even the worst—death itself—can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Paul speaks to the Philippians of “having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Philippians 1:23) Far from death separating from you God’s love, in death we dwell in God’s love eternally.
So, what is it that you are concerned about in 2019? The God who gave His Son for you can and will freely give you the things He knows you need in 2019. You already have His love—the cross proves it. Therefore, cling to this Word of God throughout the New Year and enter 2019 confident in Christ! Hallelujah! Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.