Living and transforming through Christ in the new year

Published 12:40 am Saturday, January 2, 2021

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Brad McKenzie

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:4-11 ESV

During the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and now New Years, I have found myself seeing in my mind the many faces of wonderful people I know and love! Some I have not seen in a long time and some I saw just yesterday. Some live far away, some live down the street, and some have passed on to eternity. With these memories comes great gratitude, and at times some tears because of time, distance, or death! Even so, I can’t help but be filled with tremendous joy for the blessing of God in the people I have been privileged to know!

The Apostle Paul beautifully describes his own feelings of joy, remembrance, and prayer as he writes to the church in Philippi. He is especially joyous and thankful for the way the church there had partnered with him and each other to be the intentional presence of Christ in the world! In verse seven, he speaks one of the most encouraging phrases in any of his letters, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul is convinced not only in the power of Christ’s gospel, but also of the human transformation found in following Jesus!

I love his statement of “partakes of grace with me!” This amazing idea of not just a partnership in the gospel, but also of living and experiencing the grace of God in real life! Paul understood very well both the highs and lows of life. The successes and the sufferings. For Paul, all of life was for the sake of the Gospel, and he was extremely thankful for those folks who gave up everything with him, to proclaim Christ!

So, my mind going through the rolodex of faces has served as some grief as well. Some of the faces are ones who I’m certain are not believers in Christ and do not know him as their savior and Lord! The grief is not just for the risk of an eternity in hell, but as well the present life void of true hope, love and purpose. Oh what I would give to be able to help more people come to know the power of the love and salvation of Christ. To see more people understand the lie and death of sin, and truth and life of knowing Jesus!

“May your love abound more and more!” This desire of Paul comes straight from the heart of Christ and the heart of the gospel. Friends, life has purpose only when life is filled with and centered on God’s love! What we always have to remember about God’s love is it is Holy and always transformative. It does not desire to leave us the way we are or tolerate behavior because we “can’t help it!” God’s love drives us to love God and others so the world can see Jesus! How will you live in the coming year?

All of life comes down to knowing Christ and making Him known! That is Good News!

Rev. Brad McKenzie is Lead Pastor at Orange First Church of the Nazarene, 3810 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Orange.