NEW YEAR’S EVE 2018
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
The Sermon: WE WALK WITH JESUS
Hey, let’s go for a walk! Will you accept the invitation? That depends on who’s asking and how you are feeling. If a mob boss asks you to go for a walk you probably won’t want to take it. If you are sick or depressed you probably don’t want to go for a walk. If it’s a nice day the invitation sounds good. If it comes from someone you want to spend time with it sounds good. About the only time an invitation to take a walk is always met with enthusiasm is when you ask your dog. How are you feeling at the end of 2018? Depends if you had a rough year or an easier one. How are you feeling about 2019? Depends on what you think it will bring. No matter how you are feeling though, God’s word gives us good news as it assures us that the one we walk with each and every day is our Lord Jesus Christ. To guide our meditation we’ll use some hymns that talk about walking with Jesus. Let’s join then in singing the first three verses of Hymn 431. Please notice how each verse really tells a story of the days of our lives.
Hymn: ‟I Walk in Danger All the Way” ………………………..…. CW #431 vv. 1-3
1. At first glance a Hymn with the title “I walk in danger all the way” doesn’t promise to be comforting and encouraging. It has all the promise of a downer. Kind of like the news Chris and I saw this morning. Their year in review had only bad stories. As you look ahead to the New Year the thought of walking in danger all the way isn’t very appealing. But there is some truth there that we need to hear. The soldiers getting ready to storm the beaches of Normandy needed to hear the warning to keep moving and keep their heads down and find cover. Christian soldiers need similar warnings. So often when we think of dangers we are thinking of potential accidents or disasters, the one in the news. I read a headline that described 2018 as the year all the world was on fire all the time. Verse one reminds us though of a greater danger, the Devil, who wants to lead us to the fires of Hell. Peter warned us of him in his first epistle:
1 Peter 5:8 (NIV 1984) “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
In 2018 our enemy the Devil looked to devour us. He set snares and traps which were temptations. Some of them we recognized and resisted. We used the word of God like Jesus did and Satan had to go away. Some of them you fell into. Some of them I fell into. We rushed back to the arms of Jesus. We heard Him say again in the Lord’s Supper. “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.” We’ll hear Him say it again tonight. What do you think 2019 will bring? More temptation of course. Satan does not give up just because we resist him or just because we are forgiven. Have you noticed yet how every season of life brings a particular temptation of body and spirit? In youth it’s lust and short sighted decision making. In middle ages it’s greed and materialism, in old age, pride and fear as the body fades. Watch and pray. Words for all of Jesus’ disciples. We walk into a spiritual battle zone every day. But we don’t walk alone. We walk with Jesus.
2. Our second verse reminded us of another uncomfortable truth. That our life has trials in it. Difficulties. I don’t know any of who like hard times. We don’t like dealing with car accidents or illnesses and diseases. We don’t like financial hardships or debt. But all of the difficulties have a master, Jesus. And Jesus does not let anything happen without a good purpose. That’s why he had the Apostles encourage the early Christian church with these words.
Acts 14:22 (NIV 1984) We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.
Hey, wait a minute! You mean hardships are not bad? That they are God’s way to bring us into His kingdom? Yes! That’s why the Apostle Paul urged us in Romans 5 to rejoice in our sufferings because suffering produces perseverance and perseverance character and character hope, that expectant waiting for God to make it all right. Did you have hardships in 2018? Financial loss? Difficult diagnosis for self or loved one? Accidents? Do you think some will come in 2019? Of course and it’s OK. In fact it’s more than OK because Jesus controls them as He walks right there with us. He will use them for the good of keeping us close, of refining our faith, to keep us and bring us into the kingdom of God.
3. A select few of you dealt with the death of a close loved one in 2018. A select few will deal with the death of a close loved one in 2019 and some of you will face your own. All of us at some point dealt with memories of loved ones lost so we understand why the hymn writer wrote about “grim death” pursuing us. Death hurts and here’s why.
Romans 5:12 (NIV 1984) Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.
Death is a reminder of the horrible nature of sin. Every time you see a death it is a visual and painful reminder of the destructive nature of sin. Sin separates. People from people. Bodies and souls. People from God. Death is grim and unless the end of the world comes first each of us is going to die. But remember, we walk Jesus. And Jesus changes everything including death. By His death Jesus conquered death and turns it into the gateway of heaven. When you walk with Jesus death still hurts but it loses its sting. It actually serves a good purpose to help us remember how much we need Jesus as Savior. When you walk with Jesus to the funeral of your loved one who died believing in Him your sorrow for your loss conflicts with your joy for them and the looking forward to seeing them again. If you are one of the select few who will go to heaven in 2019 you will walk with Jesus all the way from the imperfect and mortal to the perfect and immortal.
Let’s continue singing vv 4-6.
Hymn: ‟I Walk in Danger All the Way” ………………………..…. CW #431 vv. 4-6
4. If you noticed there is kind of a marked difference in the first three verses of #431 and the last three. After reminding us of the reality of life in a sin filled world that it will never be all peaches and cream, that the devil will be active and there will be trials and there will be death, the writer directs our eyes where they need to be. On Jesus. Remember all those dangers that we walked in during 2018 and will in 2019? We weren’t alone. Jesus walked with us and others too.
Psalm 91:10-11 (NIV 1984) “Then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”
You and I don’t know even half the dangers we walked through in 2018 because the angels were guarding us in all our ways. They do a perfect job of thwarting all the attempts of the Devil and demons to harm us. There is no reason for us to live 2019 with fear and dread. We walk with angels all the way and they are powerful beings keep harm and danger away from us and our loved ones so that the only ones that get through are the ones Jesus allows.
5. And those we did not face alone for Jesus kept this promise He made recorded by the Gospel writer Matthew.
Matthew 28:20b (NIV 1984) ‟And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
When I was serving as a pastor in Texas, one of my members, who had been Southern Baptist told me a joke I didn’t get. See if you do. “A man died and was standing before St Peter and the gates of heaven. St. Peter says, Glad you are here. Before you can enter you must just answer one question. What is God’s first name? That’s easy, the man said. “It’s Andy.” Andy! Exclaimed Peter, “Where did you get that from? Everybody knows. It’s in the song. “Andy walks with me Andy talks with me!” Get it? I didn’t. You would have had to be in a place in the country or a church upbringing that included the southern favorite song, “He walks with me” which has the refrain, “And He walks with me and He talks with me.” And he, Andy. Now the joke is based on made up circumstances. Peter does not control the gates of heaven and there is no question asked. That song never became a favorite of mine but the truth it is based on stands. Jesus walks with us. He was with you every day of 2018. Sometimes you were aware and in awe as you were bowled over by his love or forgiveness or the peace he provided in some difficult time. Most of the time you probably lived unaware or maybe forgot. But He was with you and will be for 2019.
6. And that’s why we will want to keep in mind the truth verse 6 proclaimed that our walk is heavenward all the way. Paul reminded us of that in his letter to the Philippians.
Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV 1984) Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I don’t know if I’ll get to see heaven in 2019 or if you will. That is up to God. But it is true as the hymn writer said that when that day comes “farewell you can gladly say to all your sin and sorrow.” Why? Because Jesus walks with us. By His perfect life lived for us, His sacrificial death died for us and His new life now lived for us each day we take a step to heaven and we never have to walk it alone. We walk with Jesus. Let’s declare that now as we stand to sing the first and fourth verse of a hymn many times used at Confirmation and let’s think about that as a Confirmation renewal heading into the New Year.
Hymn: ‟Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus” ………………………..….CW #452 vv. 1, 4