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James Merritt - Happy New You

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    James Merritt - Happy New You
TOPICS: New Year

The most celebrated holiday in America, you may or may not know this is not the one we just celebrated last week, Christmas. It's actually New Year's Day. That is the most celebrated holiday in our country. And you can understand it because the beginning of a new year brings new hopes and new dreams and new possibilities and new opportunities. And you know what I'm looking for every new year, believe it or not, is the same thing you're looking for. I'm looking for a new me. You're looking for a new you. And I don't think there's ever been a year in my lifetime we've ever thanked God that year's gone than last year. Can I get an amen to that? We're glad that year is over. But we all look for a new you.

I think that's why 85% of Americans will make New Year's resolutions. How many of you have made New Year's resolutions? Let's just see your hands. Oh, not many. Wow, okay. Well, you're the minority. 85% of Americans make New Year's resolutions. Why? Because we don't just celebrate a happy new year, we anticipate a happy new you. As a matter of fact, according to the website,, these are the top 10 resolutions that Americans make every new year. And I guarantee you this, whether you made it or not, whether you wrote it down or not, you don't want anybody to know it, but I guarantee you the first one on your list is this one, lose weight. I promise that's mine. I've got to do the same thing, right? Lose weight. Save money.

Okay, everybody wants to save money. Get physically fit. That's a goal that we have in our family again this year. Eat healthy. All right, that's something we didn't do a lot over the last couple of weeks. Learn something new. Okay. Drink less alcohol. All right, that's one. Quit smoking. Maybe that's, you know, you, or maybe you need to quit chewing, whatever fits your style. Reduce stress. Think we'd all like to do that. Get more sleep for sure. And then travel more, and I'm sure that's one. Obviously people wanna get out and they wanna travel.

Well, here's the interesting thing. 85% of Americans make New Year's resolutions. 44%, listen to this, who make them think they can keep all of them, but that's a pipe dream. You ready for this? 40% of the people, 40% who make New Year's resolutions will break them by the end of this month. 75% will break them by Valentine's Day. That's why I wanna propose something to you this morning. I wanna propose to you that what we need is not a New Year's resolution. What we really need is a New Year's revolution. We don't just need a new year, we need a new you. I mean, real change because you know what will make this a happy new year is a happy new you. Because there's one person you gotta live with every day of your life and that is you. Well, guess what?

There was a man by the name of Paul sitting, in all places, a Roman prison and in all places at all times, he gives us a perfect way on how to have a happy new you. If you brought a copy of God's Word, you wanna look on your iPad or your smartphone or whatever, we're in a book called Philippians. It's in the New Testament. It's about seven or eight books into the New Testament. There's a book called Philippians chapter three, and in Philippians chapter three... By the way, let me just share this with you. You know one of the reasons why I love the Bible so much? It's not just theological, though I love theology. The Bible is practical. You really ought to read this book. It works.

This book will tell you how to have a good marriage. It will tell you how to manage your money. It will tell you how even and why you ought to be physically fit and why you ought to be healthy. It will tell you how to think right. It will tell you how to live right. It is so very practical. And this is one of those practical passages in all of the Bible, because Paul gives us three simple things that if you will do them on a daily basis, I'll make a guarantee, money back guarantee, if you do the three things we're gonna talk about this morning, every day, you will have a happy new you. Now, before you think "Oh, no, it couldn't happen to me".

Let me tell you something. They are doable. They are achievable and they are possible. And here's what is really great. If you will do these things, they will not necessarily take you where you think you need to go. They'll take you farther than that. They'll take you where God wants you to go. So simple. So easy. If you'll start today and do these three things and do them on a daily basis, you will have a happy new you. All right, what's the secret? Number one, you gotta leave the past. That's the first step. You've got to leave the past. The first secret to becoming a new you is this. You wanna be a new you, if I were to say to you, "Don't you want a new you this year"? You say, "Yeah". Then you gotta leave the old you behind. You can't take the old you with you. You can't be the old you and the new you at the same time. You've got to leave the old you.

Here's what Paul said, Philippians 3:12. He says, "Not that I've already obtained all this," he's talking about what's happened in the past. "Not that I've already obtained all this, or I've already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me". Paul is looking back at his old you and he's saying, "You know, I didn't do everything I wanted to do. I didn't reach every goal I wanted to reach. I wasn't everything I wanted to be".

So let me just get personal, let me ask you some questions. Just be honest. Did you make any mistakes last year at all? Did you have any failures? Do you wish you had a few do-overs? Or let me ask you this. Do you want the old you to be a new you or are you just satisfied with the old you? I've never been satisfied with the old me. You say, "Yeah, I want to be the new you". Okay, well, let me say, so first step you gotta take then, you gotta admit it. You'll never be a new you till you admit you don't like some things about the old you. You got to absolutely admit it. You got to drop the baggage of the past and quit carrying it in the present.

You say, "Well, that sounds good. But how do you do that"? Well, Paul tells us. He says, "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind". Just listen to those words. Forgetting what is behind. You can't focus on where you need to go until you forget where you have been. I'm gonna say that again. You cannot focus on where you need to go in your life until you forget where you've been. You cannot sail the ship of your life on the seas of the present and move toward the horizon of the future if your anchor is stuck in the mud of the past. Anybody that runs a race knows you cannot run forward if you're always looking backward. I mean, can I just be very honest with you?

I've been a pastor this past December 44 years. There's a lot of things I wish I could do over as a pastor. There's a lot of things I would do differently if I had my ministry to do over again. There are a lot of things I wish I could do over as a father. There's a lot of things I wish I could do over as a husband. There's a lot of things I could do over and I wish I could do over in so many ways. There's things I've done in my life I wish I could undo. There are words that I've said that I wish I could take back. But I'll tell you what I've learned. If I don't get out of the quicksand of the past, I'll never get on dry land to the present.

And there's some of you here today, you know why you're bitter? You know why you don't sleep well? You know why you're not happy? You know why there's no joy in your life? 'Cause you always live in the quicksand of the past. You always carry this bag... Every day you pick up this baggage called the past and you carry it with you, and here's the problem. If you live in the past, you lose in the present. If you live in the past, you lose in the present. How many people, I know them, how many people do you know, they can't enjoy the sunshine of today because they still live in the darkness of yesterday?

You may be saying, "Yeah, but you don't know about my past". No I don't. "You don't know the baggage I carry". No I don't, but I'll tell you what I do know. The past does not have to define you. Your past does not have to dominate you. Your past does not have to destroy you. There are a lot of things in our past we need to remember to forget, because listen. Don't misunderstand what Paul is saying. I want to make this plain. When Paul says, forget that which is behind you, he doesn't mean by forgetting to fail to remember. I mean, look. There's no way you can never forget your past. There's just no way. You can never, ever, ever totally erase the past from your memory. That's not what the word forget means. The word forget there literally means to not be affected by, to not be influenced by something.

For example, here's a great example. In the Old Testament, God makes this statement. God says, "I will remember your sins no more". That's what God says. "I will remember your sins no more". Well, that doesn't mean all of a sudden God gets spiritual dementia. It doesn't mean all of a sudden he gets theological Alzheimer's disease. Because, you know, look. God knows everything. Doesn't mean he's got a bad memory. Here's what it means. When God says, "I'll remember your sins no more", what God says is this. I will never allow what you did yesterday to affect our relationship today. I will totally remember to forget those things.

I heard about a man that went to see his doctor and he said, "Doctor, you gotta help me". And he said, "Well, what's wrong"? He said, "Well, I think I'm suffering from amnesia". He said, "Why"? I said, "Well, I just don't remember things very well. What should I do"? The doctor said, "Just go home and forget about it". Now, listen. Before you leave your past, this is important. Before you leave your past, you've got to learn from your past. It's okay, I've done this myself. It's okay at the end of every year to go back and go over things you didn't do that you should have done. And the things you did you shouldn't have done and learn from those things. God can use all those failures in your life to make you a better person. I mean, it really is true. Those that do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, I get that.

So I'm not saying when you leave the past you don't learn from the past. Here's what I'm saying. God is not a God of the past. God doesn't live in the past. God is a God of the present and God is a God of the future. God does not live in the past and neither should we. So let me help some of you today. Let me help you with two things. There are two things you ought to absolutely forget before you leave this building. Before you leave this building, before you leave this worship service, wherever you are, there are two things you ought to forget. Number one, you ought to forget past guilt. You ought to forget past guilt.

So last year, did you mess up with somebody? Did you do the wrong thing? Did you say the wrong thing? Yeah, I did. Okay, confess it. Repent of it. Ask forgiveness from God and from whomever you may have done wrong and then move on from it. Forget past guilt. Here's the other thing you need to forget, past grudges. Forget past grudges. Somebody hurt you last year. Somebody hurt me last year. Somebody do you wrong last year? Somebody did me wrong last year. Somebody left you holding the bag? Somebody did the wrong thing. Somebody walked out on you. Can I tell you what you need to do? Forgive it. Whether they ask for it or not, forgive it. Give forgiveness.

You say "Well, but they won't accept it". That's okay. Put it in the bank and upload it so they can download it when they need it. But don't carry it around with you all the time, because let me tell you something about your back. I've got a bad back, I know what a bad back's like. Your back was never built to carry a grudge. You aren't built that way. You need to forget past guilt. You need to forget past grudges. If you want to be a new you this year, if you want a happy new you beginning right now, leave the past. That's step one. Step two, real simple, live in the present. Live in the present. You leave the past. You live in the present. Once you put your past where it belongs, which is in the rear view mirror, then you put the present where it belongs, which is on the windshield.

Listen, this is a trick question. Do you know what the most important day of your life is? Today. I play golf. There's a saying in golf and it's so true. Some of you know this. The most important shot in golf is your next one. You have to forget the one you just hit. The most important shot's your next one. The most important day of your life is today because that's the only day that you have. Mother Teresa said, "Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today. Let us begin living right now". So what does Paul tells us? He says, "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it," but he says these four words and they're so life-changing. He says, "One thing I do..." Those two words, "one thing" may not seem like a big deal to you.

Those two words, "one thing" can make an unbelievable difference in the way you live your life every single day. One thing. There's so much power that comes in concentrating on one thing. You know, I was reading the other day and I'm bad about doing this. Every psychologic study that's ever been done has found something. Multitasking does not make you more productive, it makes you less productive. I'm guilty of multitasking and it's bad. Let me tell you what we've learned. Studies show that multitasking can harm your brain. It can lead to memory problems. It can hurt your grades if you're in school. It can harm relationships. It can increase stress. It increases depression. It causes social anxiety and it makes you less efficient.

Listen. You cannot multitask life. You can't do it. You can't multitask life. Every day, there ought to be this one thing that you seek. Paul says, "One thing I seek..." He said, "Wait a minute. What's that one thing"? Here's what Paul said. "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God called me heavenward in Christ Jesus". And we'll say that again, listen to what he said. Paul says this is one thing I'm gonna do every day in my life. "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus".

By the way, that word for goal, boys and girls who are taking notes, that word for goal, that's the Greek word skopos. We get the word scope, we get the word telescope from that. It means to look at. And what it literally means is you take one little small mark, and you fix your eye on that mark. We've learned scientifically that concentration is the secret of power. For example, take a river. If you'll take a river and make that river flow in one direction, and if you'll make sure that river never overflows its banks and goes in a different direction, it can become a tremendous source of electric energy.

Last century, we discovered something about light. We discovered that you can take a simple light beam and if you'll just concentrate that light beam on one thing, you can turn that light beam into a laser beam that can cut through steel all by just concentrating on one thing. We've adopted a mission statement and we have our church. The reason we want our church to focus on one thing. If somebody were to come to, if you were to come to me today, if you visit our church, you say, "Can you tell me what your church is all about"? I'd say, "Sure. Our church is all about one thing".

This is our one thing. Point people to Jesus and inspire them to live the cross-shaped life. That's our one thing. You can sum up our church in that one sentence. One thing I ask you to focus every day of your life. When you get out of bed till you go to bed at night, do one thing. Point people to Jesus and inspire them to live the cross-shaped life. So for example, every week we ask you a question. Those of you who go to our church know what we ask, right? I don't ask you, "Who is your three"? I don't ask you, "Who is two"? I ask you, "Who is your what"? One. Don't worry about two or three, just focus on one. And it's actually the same one thing that Paul was talking about. This is why we ask you to do it.

Listen to what Paul said. Paul said, "Here's what I want. Here's my one thing. I want to know Christ. Yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead". Paul said this and boy, what a great way to live. Paul said, "I'll tell you what I want to do every day of my life. If I don't do anything else today, if I don't do anything else today, I want to do one thing. I want to know Christ and I want to make Christ known". That's it.

I want to know Christ and I want to make Christ known. I'll leave this afternoon, I'm going to Gainesville to do the funeral service for a classmate, a high school classmate I graduated with. His name was Gary. I met Gary in the seventh grade of elementary school. We became best buddies. Gary was the class president of our high school's graduating class. He was the president of our class. Very popular. Gary was not a believer when I met him. And beginning of the seventh grade and going through high school, I would try to talk to Gary about Jesus. He wasn't having it. He was not interested. He was too intellectual, he was too smart, too this, too that. He wouldn't have it, but later in his life, Gary came to know Christ as his Lord and as a savior.

And so today, when I go to do his service, I'm not doing a funeral. I'm gonna do the same thing I did for John Vincent. I'm gonna do a celebration service because Gary knew Christ and he wanted to make Christ known. Paul said, "The one thing I want to do everyday, I want to know Jesus and I want to make him known". He said, "I want to know the person of Jesus. I want to know the power of Jesus. I want to know the passion of Jesus. I want to know the purpose of Jesus and I want you to know him too". So if every day you would say, "Man, can I have a happy new me every single day"?

Yeah, I'll tell you how to do it. Whether you're at work, whether you're at play, whether you're in the office or you're in the gymnasium, you make it your one goal, your one goal every day. Lord, give me the chance to say something. Give me the chance to do something to point people to Jesus, and to inspire them to live the cross-shaped life by knowing Jesus better, growing in Jesus stronger and showing Jesus more clearly. Paul said, "Look, I want a happy new you. I'm gonna be a happy new me. I'm gonna leave the past. I'm forgetting what is behind. I'm gonna live in the present. I'm gonna press on toward this one goal. I want to know Christ and I want to make him known to others".

Now watch what happens. Once you leave the past, this is so practical. I mean, I ought to be a therapist. I want to get paid big bucks for what I'm doing right now. Once you leave the past and once you live in the present, then you can look to the future. Then you can look to the future. Now this is so good, watch what Paul does. The truth is yesterday prepares you for today, right? Yesterday prepares you for today. However, today is meant to prepare you for tomorrow. And as you look to the future, Paul repeats a phrase twice in this passage. He says in verse 12 and verse 14, "Listen, I press on. I press on".

Now listen carefully. You leave the past for sure. You live in the present for sure. You must live, listen to this, you must live as if tomorrow will never come. You ought to live today as if it's your last day you'll ever live. You must live as if tomorrow never comes. Everybody heard that. You heard that, raise your hand real high. Okay. Wave at me. Good, no, you're awake, all right. So you live in the present. You live as if tomorrow will never come, got it? However, you should also live in such a way that you're ready for tomorrow if it does come. That's good. I'm just gonna tell you, well, that's good stuff right there. You live as if tomorrow will never come, but you also live in such a way that you're ready if it does come.

By the way, you ain't gonna pick this up, but Paul is reminding us that no matter how dark tomorrow may look, no matter how dire my circumstances may be, no matter how discouraging things may appear, we must press on. Paul's actually talking about a race. He's actually describing someone that runs a race. And what Paul is saying is this. It doesn't matter how bad things look. It doesn't matter if the vaccine works or not. It doesn't matter if we gotta live with COVID for another year. It doesn't really matter whatever happens to the stock market, to the economy or to the election or anything else.

Paul says, "There's one thing you gotta do. You gotta keep running". Any runner knows that when you start to run a race, there's one thing you can't do, you can't quit. So you start to run your race. You got to say to yourself, "You know what? Today, I won't be deterred. Today, I won't be detoured. Today, I won't be distracted". So he says this. "I press on toward the goal to win the prize". He's talking about the prize at the end of the race. "To win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus". When every runner begins a race, he always knows where one thing is.

You know what that one thing is? The finish line. He knows where that finish line is. He knows exactly where it is and what it looks like. And he knows there's one thing he cannot, if he ever quits doing one thing, there's no way he wins. He can't quit running. No matter how hard the pavement may get, no matter how hot the weather may be, no matter how thirsty his body may be. He knows he can't quit running. That's why I've said this before, and I'll say it again. And I say this with all respect to some of you out there. I do not find retirement in the Bible. If you find it, show it to me. I don't find retirement in the Bible.

Now I'm not saying it's wrong to retire from a job that you've had in the past. What I am saying is, though, as long as you've got a breath in you, God's got a job for you to do in the future. You're not to quit running until God takes you away. Every day of your life, you are running, and there's one line of work you ought to never get out of ever, and that's working in God's church and working with God's people and working for God's glory. So now here's a practical question I have for all of us who are listening this morning. Very practical.

So what would it mean for you in 2021, what would it mean for you this year, if you really began to press on toward the goal to win the prize that God has called you to, what would that mean for you? If you don't mind, may I just make four suggestions and you can maybe pick one or maybe pick two or three or maybe pick them all? For example, maybe for some of you, this is what a happy new you would mean for you. Maybe it would mean for the first time in your life, you would pick up that copy of that reading through the Bible plan. And maybe for you, it would mean you're gonna read your Bible through this year for the first time. You're gonna read it on a daily basis.

And then maybe it would mean for you you're gonna commit yourself every week, at least once a week, to come and fellowship with God's people and study God's Word together. By the way, we call that worship. So maybe that's the happy new you. I'm gonna read this book through this year and I'm gonna make a new commitment together with God's people to worship God's Word and worship God and study God's Word together. We call that worship. But maybe for some of you, it would mean this. Maybe it will mean for some of you, you know, I need to find a place to serve God's church. I need to find a place to serve God's people. I need to find a way to serve other people. We call that serving.

And then maybe for some of you, in fact, I do believe for a lot of you, here's what it would mean. For a lot of you, it would mean, you know what? The old me is not gonna be the new me. Here's what a happy new me means for me. I'm going to quit practicing lone ranger Christianity. I'm gonna get into the same thing that Jesus did when he was on this earth. I'm gonna get into a small group. I've told you this before. Jesus could have spent three years of his life doing anything he wanted to do. What did he spend the majority of his time doing? Participating in a small group with 12 men.

If Jesus needed a small group, you need a small group. Everybody needs a small group. So maybe this year it would mean, you know what? I'm gonna get into a community group, a life group, a small group. I'm gonna grow in my knowledge of Jesus together. I need to be encouraged and I need to give encouragement. And I'm gonna find a group in our church I can be a part of, or I'll start a group. We'll help you start one. Because we want to do life together. We call that discipleship. But then maybe for some of you, here's what it would mean. I do want God to lay on my heart one person. I want to have one this year, one person. And I want to ask God to use me to help that person see that they too can be a new you in Jesus. We call that being sent. And I can't think of a better way to have a new you this year than to worship and to serve and to be discipled and to be sent.

So let me close with this. I read the other day about a sharpshooter that lived in the hills of Tennessee, and he got this reputation. He was known as the best sharpshooter in the whole state. As a matter of fact, his reputation grew so rapidly that the Nashville Banner newspaper sent a reporter to go find this man and see what this man was all about. And so, you know, he was like the modern day Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone. I mean, everybody was talking about this guy.

So this reporter goes out to the village where this man lived, and he was amazed as he was driving into town, there were these targets everywhere. They were on bars and poles and trees, the sides of buildings, and dead in the center of every circle target was a single bullet hole. I mean, a perfect shot every time. And he's saying to himself, "My Lord. This is Davy Crockett reincarnated. This is Daniel Boone. This is unbelievable". So he went down to the watering hole where most of the people gathered and find where this guy lived. He said, "Hey, I'm looking for this sharpshooter". And one man said, "Oh yeah, you're looking for Lester". He said, "Yeah, can you tell me where is he"? He said, "Oh yeah, he lives west of town". He gave him directions, here's where he lives. He said, "But be careful, 'cause that guy shoots all the time. He shoots at everything".

So sure enough, the reporter began to, you know, he was driving down the road, he got close to the man's house and he hears these shots ring out, and all of a sudden, he's face to face with this man. He's an old man, he's grizzled, got a weather-beaten face, got a long beard, and he's dressed in overalls and a flannel shirt, and he's got this rifle in his hand and a pouch of bullets on his side. And the reporter got out and he says, "Are you Lester"? He said, "Yeah, I am". And he said, "I understand you're the best shot in Tennessee". He said, "Yeah, I am". He said, "You never miss".

He said, "Nope, never do". Reporter said, "One shot, dead center every target"? He said, "Yep". He said, "That's amazing". He said, "I'm from the Nashville Banner, and we're gonna put you on the front page of the paper and I'm here to do a story on you". He said, "Wow, that's pretty cool". And he said, "Well, how do you do it? How is every shot dead center? How do you do that"? "Oh," he said, "Man, it's easy". He said, "I shoot first and then draw the circle later".

Now that may work in some make-believe area far away, but it doesn't work in real life. God, listen, God did not put you here to run the rat race. He put you here to run the real race. There's a prize out there. The prize of Christ and the bullseye is not the gold of this world, it is the glory of God. So here's what I'm gonna ask you to do today. Draw a circle in your life. Put Jesus dead in the center of it. Aim for Jesus every single day. And every time you look in the mirror, you'll see a happy new you.

Would you pray with me right now with heads bowed, with eyes closed? If you do not know Jesus Christ today, I want you to hear me clearly, you not only will not ever hit the bullseye, you won't even hit the target. You were put here for one purpose, one purpose, one purpose, one purpose, one purpose. To know Jesus and to make him known, period. Not to build a 401k, not to buy the boat, not to buy the condo, not to buy the house, not to have the jewelry, not to have the clothes, not to have the money, not to have the fame, not to have the fortune.

Nothing wrong with any of those things. That's not why you are here. Not at all. You were put here to know Jesus and to make him known. And if you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior today, let me just say again. Jesus Christ came to this earth, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life and died on a cross and paid for our sins and came back from the dead so that he could turn all of us into a happy new you. That can be you today. If you would just simply pray this prayer right now.

Lord Jesus, you didn't put me on this earth to be an old me. You put me here to be a new me and only you can make me new. So Lord Jesus, right now, I'm trusting you as my savior. I'm surrendering my life to you as my Lord. I'm a sinner. I need a savior. You are that savior. So today I repent of my sin. I turn away from my sin. I give all that I am to all that you are. Thank you for saving me today and now help me. Help me, Lord Jesus, with your power and strength to live the cross-shaped life. I'm gonna give my life to worship, to serving, to being discipled, to being sent. I'm gonna point people to Jesus and inspire them to live the cross-shaped life. And Lord, now I know you and I'm gonna make you known.

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