The end of an old year. The beginning of a new one. A new year. A blank slate. The chalkboard is wiped clean. Before us are 365 days. That’s 12 months. Or 52 weeks. As we limp toward the end of 2017 we stand ready to run into a new year: we’ve got 8,760 new hours staring us. The year 2018 is set to hold 525,600 minutes. By December 31, 2018, we will have experienced over 31.5 million seconds.
What do you plan to do with your year? What kind of resolutions are on the table for 2018? Maybe to push away from the table? Are you planning to achieve some milestone this year? Are you looking to change and, as the old-saying goes, “Turn over a new leaf?”
Regardless of your resolution plan for the new year, I want to challenge you to take part in an initiative at First Baptist that I’m calling “A Fresh Commitment at First.” The way this came about is quite interesting.
Shortly after becoming your pastor in January of 2017, your deacons approached me and solicited my input. They had been looking at our church covenant, and noticed that it might need to be updated. Some of the parts seemed to be creating rules for membership that weren’t biblically prescribed. Other parts seemed to focus on what we were against instead of what we wanted to support. Long story short, the deacons asked me to give input about the need for a new church covenant, and the content therein. That was the impetus of this new sermon series.
By the way, how many of you reading this even knew that this church had a covenant?
And if you did, how many of you have read our church covenant?
And if you’ve read the church covenant, how many of you remember what it says?
I would venture to say that the percentage gets lower for each of those questions.
Throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, there is a clearly defined community of God. God creates a covenant relationship with His people. This covenant was first established with the people of Israel through Abraham, and then God established a new covenant with His people, the church, through Jesus Christ. As members of God’s covenant family at First Baptist Church, we should be committed to Jesus Christ and to each other in a covenant relationship.
I began to think on some questions: What does it look like to live as part of a covenant community within the family of God? What does Scripture expect of those who are part of God’s covenant community, the church? What kind of commitment should a church member be willing to make as a part of the church? What kind of covenant should we have with God and with each other?
As I thought through those questions, read Scripture, and talked with ministry colleagues, I identified seven basic, core commitments that should characterize the believer and be embraced by any member of the Lord’s church. I’m sure we could list many other kinds of commitments, but I believe these seven are the most foundational.
Then, as I thought about each commitment, I realized that they would make great commitments for me to make personally in the new year. Then I realized that you, too, would probably be thinking of making some new commitments in the coming year. Everything seemed to come together and lend itself to a new sermon series for the new year.
Later in 2018, the deacons will ask you as a church to adopt a new church covenant. A copy of that proposed church covenant will be available the first Sunday of January. But before they ask you to adopt a new church covenant, I wanted to walk you through each of these seven commitments that we’re asking every member of First Baptist Church to make. I’m going to make these commitments in my own walk with Christ and in my relationship with His bride, the church, and I would ask you to consider doing so as well.
Each week I will focus on one aspect of the proposed new covenant (and my own fresh commitment to the Lord). Over the course of seven weeks, we will see how Scripture calls us to be committed to (1) worship, (2) the Word of God, (3) the advancement of the gospel, (4) stewardship, (5) unity, (6) prayer, and (7) service to God and others. Each week I will present you with a very specific commitment in each area. We will even have some cards for you to take each week that you can use throughout the year to remind you of your commitment.
As you begin to wind down the year and unwind from a busy Christmas season, I would ask you to consider making “A Fresh Commitment at First” with me. Would you be willing to be faithful for these seven weeks as we learn about how we can commit ourselves to God and to each other? I believe God would be honored. And I know that we would be blessed.