Welcome to 2021.
Are you glad that 2020 is in the rear-view mirror? If so, why?
Now, I realize that last line may create a lot of emotion, but the question of WHY is not irrelevant?
Sure, COVID disrupted the planet, and more importantly, it disrupted many individual lives in unimaginable ways.
Sure, the world saw racial tensions elevate throughout the year and some of those issues led to further protests and calls for reform.
Sure, America had a presidential election that had as much contention after the election as it did prior to election day.
Sure, the world saw disasters related to fires, as well as weather-related issues all over the world.
So, yes, 2020 was a challenging year. Let me assure you that it is ok to want 2020 in the past, but if we do not understand why we feel that way, then we really have not learned anything, and therefore we cannot grow – and go – forward.
And that leads us back to the original question of this post. If you are glad to see 2020 in the past, why is that so? 2021 makes no promises to be better. Indeed, it could be worse. After all, for most of us, at this point in 2020, we were humming along in life. Sure, we all had problems, but many of those issues are now forgotten in light of everything else that transpired last year.
But nothing surprised God. God was fine in January 2020, in April 2020, in September of 2020, and He is fine today.
The weather is a natural phenomenon that does have an impact of our lives and culture. But the other issues mentioned are the result of, and lead to the remaking of, culture.
As I mentioned in the last regular post of 2020 (dated November 20th), this blog is not about culture per se. But it is about living in, not of the world. It is about learning to be influencers in the world more than about being influenced by the world.
Therefore, we must redeem the time (Ephesians 5.16). We must be engaged with God – the Maker of heaven and earth, and the initiator of culture, in order to work towards remaking (or shaping) culture toward His design.
So, to help us look at these matters differently, to help us stay grounded, to help us grow, to help us be influencers, to help us shape culture, we need to be intentional. We need to think beyond the WHAT, to consider the WHY, in order to be more effective with the HOW. That is all a part of the SYSTEM that I wrote about last year (see the posts from June-Oct). That is, we need discipline.
But it is not our discipline we need, it is the discipline of God working within us. These disciplines are called spiritual disciplines and are not just meant for us to become closer to God; rather, they are meant for us to know God better so we will love Him more, and serve Him from the outflow of that love.
I will be using Donald Whitney’s book (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life) as a guide; however, I will be incorporate many resources. But again the goal is not just to practice a discipline – the goal is to love God, to live life, to engage culture, etc.
In other words, it is to live in, not of the world. It is to redeem the time.
So, today, on this first post of the year, I just want to mention the Great Commandment (Mark 12.30-31) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28.18-20). How do we shape culture? How do we redeem the time? We love God. We share His message. We can boil our lives down to those two ideas.
But to love God we need to know Him. To share God’s message, we must know it. How does this happen? We must take time to hear, read, and study the Bible. But as I just said, this discipline is not just for the sake of hearing, reading, or studying; it is about doing. James 1.22 says that we are not to be hearers only, we are to do what the Bible says.
We can easily make James’ word “hearers” into “readers” and those who study. The Bible is filled with information. But that information is means to transform us. Why? So we can transform others.
As our world gets busier and busier, to be able to make something of our lives that really counts, we must get more information from the Bible than we do from the world. We are bombarded with messages from the world each day. The news hammers us with information. We have podcasts. The notification sounds and blinking lights on our phone remind us that we could be missing something important. But probably not.
None of these avenues of information are designed to lead us to where God would take us. I am not suggesting that the news or our phones, etc. are bad. But they are tools even though we often treat them like gods.
So, what if we were to start our day with the one true God? What if we spent a few moments with God to begin our day instead of checking our phones or turning on the radio or tv or computer first thing every day? What would that do to our thoughts about all that is happening around us?
So, this week, my encouragement is to read the Great Commandment – slowly. Process it. Then read the Great Commission – slowly. Then take time to consider how our love for God and others is related to our sharing His message with others.
Then, read 1 Timothy 4.6-10 where Paul urges us to train for godliness. Again, that is the purpose of the disciplines. But again, we do not train just for the sake of training – we train to put what we learn into practice. That training (exercise) prepares us to participate when it counts, and it is time to make it count.
It is time to redeem the time. It is time to engage. It is time to influence the culture for God and with God. And we do that by first engaging with Him and His Word.
We will look at Whitney’s reasons from the book more next week as we prepare to engage with the first discipline related to making the Bible a regular part of our lives.
Beginning this year, I am using content from this series on Redeem the Time as part of a video series on our church’s website as well. If you would like to watch, the videos can be found here or by searching for Fairfax Baptist Church (Missouri) on YouTube. They are streamed live on Wednesday evenings at 7pm CT and I do allow time for questions related to the content.