December 28, 2015

Old Habits for a New Year

We, as a culture, are obsessed with the new. And, in some ways, understandably so. Because the last 3-4 generations of Americans have lived through the most rapidly changing technological advances, perhaps since the days of Tubal-cain in Genesis 4:22! My German grandmother used to travel to America, not on a jet, nor even a propeller plane, but on a ship! My father has told me stories, from his boyhood, about buying blocks of ice with which to refrigerate their food. When my mother was growing up in Montana, there were still Native Americans who spent at least part of the year in teepees! And I myself can distinctly remember when our family got its first microwave and VCR (under 25’s may have to ask your parents what a VCR is!).

But here we are today with super-charged computers travelling around with us in our pockets. And just look at the special effects in the movies, say from the first Star Wars flicks until now. This week I sent a Christmas card to China instantaneously. And on and on we could go! And so of course we are a little enamored with that which is latest and greatest. Because we have been the recipient of so many of the benefits of ‘new.’ Today we have an app for just about everything!

But some things never change. Indeed, the most important things never change. And when it comes to the Christian’s walk with the Lord, it is still in “the ancient paths” that we will find “the good way” (Jeremiah 6:16). Our spiritual growth will still be watered from the same basins whose names Sunday School children have been reciting for decades and centuries – Bible reading, prayer, and going to church. Yes, there may be apps to help you do the first two of those things! But the fundamental habits are still the same, are they not?

If you want to grow, you should set your eyes regularly on the word of God. It should be a daily routine to seek the voice of the Lord in His written word. Maybe a chapter a day in 2016. Maybe more. Maybe less. Maybe in a paper Bible. Maybe through an app. But it is still a simple and basic truth that the word of God is “the pure milk” by which we “may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). So drink it in in this coming new year – the same milk that Christians have been drinking for centuries. Keep yourself in (or return to) “the ancient paths.”

And the same can be said of prayer. Every child in Sunday School knows that we ought to do it. But most of us, as adults, struggle to cry to the Lord nearly as often as we should. Maybe it’s all the new inventions that keep us from the old paths of prayer! But it is fundamental to find time to be with God in your closet – confessing your sins, thanking Him Christ, praising His character, presenting your own requests and those of your church family, remembering the missionaries and unreached peoples, petitioning on behalf of the persecuted church, and so on. This is “where the good way is” – the pathway of prayer. “Walk in it” in 2016.

And then there is, perhaps, the most basic fundamental of all … which is simply a commitment to be in church every healthy Sunday, hearing the word of God and fellowshipping with the people of God. Would you commit to that in 2016? Would you “remember the Sabbath” by setting aside any and every other Sunday activity so that you can fix your mind and heart on God each Lord’s Day? Indeed, would you plan even your out-of-town trips so that you need never have a Sunday outside the walls of a church (whether your own, or one you visit when away)? You will not thrive like you ought if you seek to live your Christian life, even partially, on your own. But with God and His people, you will prosper! So commit to the church of Jesus Christ in 2016 … “not forsaking our own assembling together, but encouraging one another.”

Finally, let me encourage you who are heads of households to implement the above disciplines in your family as well! Gather together daily for family worship – for family Bible reading, prayer, and song! And take up what Terry Johnson calls a family pew. In other words, let Sunday church be such an inviolable habit for you, your wife, and your children that it’s almost like you have a reserved seat!

There is nothing new in anything that I am saying, is there? I’ve said these things more than once before. And they have been the staples of Christian growth for two millennia. But this is “where the good way is” – not in the latest innovation, but in “the ancient paths.” Walk in them, more than ever, in 2016!

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