Discipleship,  Life,  Ministry

The Bigger Picture

Each year many people make all kinds of resolutions. Perhaps you made one. Maybe you made several.

We are now two weeks into the new year and you may be doing well in keeping your resolutions or maybe you are ready to give up. Your success or failure is not the purpose of this post, but it is important.

So, what is the point? Well, many of the resolutions people make relate to health. Physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, etc. So, really a resolution is (for most people) about making ourselves better in some way.

In other words, it is about doing more or better for our bodies, our lives, and our time. Thus, we could easily say that making resolutions is partly about redeeming the time. That is, we want to be more tomorrow and next year than we are today. We are thinking about a better future than our discontented present.

That is, in part, what it means to redeem the time. And people choose all types of different ways to do that. Sometimes the ways they resolve themselves are based upon their interests or their needs (such as health), sometimes they are based upon what they can do or want to learn to do, etc.

But the idea is about improving. It is about redeeming the time.

That is the purpose of this series. It is to help us redeem the time from a spiritual standpoint. It is about bettering ourselves today, our churches tomorrow, our communities next year, and our world in the decade ahead.

I do not mean for those time frames to be taken literally, but we cannot really improve the world (long-term anyway) without first improving ourselves. And as we improve ourselves, the circle of influence grows to impact our families, our friends, our churches, our businesses, our communities, our nation, and ultimately our world.

That may sound ambitious, but it is possible. The challenge is that most people do not think in those terms. We think in terms of how can I better myself or my family? That is not wrong, but let’s go back to the overarching question I have shared so many times in this series – WHY?

Why do you want to improve your life or that of your family?  Any number of reasons could exist, and they may all be very valid. But what happens if and when that is achieved? You can always make another resolution, but why? What comes next? Eventually, we have to consider a bigger picture.

God provides a bigger picture. And God desires that we are better tomorrow than we are today. And He desires that we are better next year than we are this year. It is part of His plan, and He wants it to be part of our plan. That is why we have this deep-seeded desire to grow, to learn, to be better, etc.

But God has given us more than a desire; He has given us a path. And that path begins with the Bible.

Redeeming the time means learning to live by faith. Living by faith leads to righteousness. And righteousness is godliness. Read the following verses. 2 Timothy 3.16-17. 1 Timothy 4.6-10. Romans 8.29.

Let’s work through these in reverse order.

Romans 8.29 says that God’s goal is to conform us into the image of Christ. God did not choose just any goal for us, He chose for us to become like Jesus in thought, in word, and in deed. I am far from that, and in a very real sense, I will not achieve that on this side of eternity.

But if I want to improve to that end, I must practice. I must train. Granted, it is God that is producing the change within me, but I must do my part. The idea is similar to the expression, “Work as if everything depends on you. Pray as if everything depends upon God.” (The quote has been credited to both Augustine and Ignatius.)

We often practice many things. As a child and teenager, I played a lot of sports, but baseball was my passion, and I practiced a lot. My wife is a gifted musician, and she practiced a lot. Likewise, we all practice certain things today to increase or maintain our skills. That practice (or training) is helpful. Paul wrote to Timothy that training our body does have value (1 Timothy 4.8), but training for godliness is not only beneficial in this life, but in the life to come (1 Timothy 4.6-10).

But what is the training to be? How do we know what we are to do? What does training in righteousness mean? Well, Paul later wrote to Timothy the answer to those very questions. 2 Timothy 3.16-17 tells us that the Bible is profitable for teaching and training us to be righteous. When we get off track it provides reproof and correction.

Therefore, taking time to know the Bible is critical if we are to redeem the time. And that means that the first discipline of our focus this year is related to the Bible. We should read it, study it, listen to it, hear messages about it, memorize it, etc.

One way to consider the purpose of the Bible, is to think of it as the story of God’s righteousness being made known to a people who are not righteous. The Bible reveals God for who He is, and what He has done. It reveals that we are a people, made in His image, who have chosen a different path than the one that God chose for us. But He still desires our image to be like His. So, He gave us the Living Word as a sacrifice to make that possible, and He gave us His written Word so we would know what to do.

Redeeming the time is not just about making resolutions to read the Bible and learning how to live and what to do to improve ourselves in some way. It is about looking at a much bigger picture than we can currently see. Because the more we train ourselves to be godly the greater perspective we will have – not just for ourselves, and not just for our families, but for our communities and our world.

So, we must redeem the time. But let our resolve be more than just to make changes in our lives; let us be resolved to let God do something in us that could otherwise not be done. Let us realize that God wants to conform us to be like Christ because we are in Christ (Eph 1.3-14). To do that, we need to know more about Christ, and that requires us to know the Bible.

Next week, we will begin to look at why the Bible is so important to us as we determine to redeem the time, not just for us, but for God and His world.

If you wish to watch these posts as a vlog, I am live most every Wednesday at 7 pm on our church’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-ruMRCdzAaaTo1hiDyzwOg.

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