Are you a better person now, at the beginning of 2009 than you were a year ago, at the beginning of 2008? Are you happy with yourself as a follower of Jesus, as a spouse, a parent, a friend, an employee? Is there room for improvement in one or more of these areas? How about your fitness level, physically, mentally, spiritually? Have you fallen into a pattern of behavior that you know is not the best, is there a sin that you’ve gotten, shall we say, comfortable with? Something that you know should not be a part of your life?
I am not a person who makes New Year’s resolutions, but the beginning of a new year is a good time to take inventory, to do some introspection, get the magnifying glass out. The end of a year is like the period at the end of a sentence, and New Years Day is like the start of a new chapter. So let me ask you again: Are you a better person now, at the beginning of 2009 than you were a year ago, at the beginning of 2008?
Was there something that you had big plans to acheive in 2008 that didn’t get done? Did something happen during the year that threw you for a loop, that pushed you into a behavior that you would like to quit? Is there something new that you want to start in your life?
If you can think of something that you would like to accomplish or change this year, then I can think of no better time to start than now, and no better example of how to go about making it happen than Jesus.
Today, we’re going to look at the life of Jesus to see how he changed the world.
Seven Steps To Achieving Your Goals
1. SET A GOAL
First, know what it is you want to accomplish. or to put it other words set a goal: Know what you want to accomplish or change. I know, it seems obvious, but many of us just go through life from day to day without a plan, something to rev our engines about. And be specific so that you know when you have achieved it.
How do we know that Jesus had a specific goal? Because of what we see here:
John 12:27 “… it was for this very reason I came to this hour.”
What was Jesus’ goal? To bring salvation, or to make it possible for you and me, imperfect…flawed…sinful…, to have intimate, meaningful relationship with a perfect, holy, sinless God. To make it possible for there to be peace between man and God. Scripture tells us that as long as we fall short of what God requires, there can be no relationship with God and man, and that there is no possible way for man to close the gap because perfection is not in us. The only way to close the gap was for God Himself to become a man here on planet earth, live completely up to the standards required with absolutely no compromise, and pay for my failures by sacrificing his life. That’s pretty huge, but the basic goal is simple…to bring salvation to anyone who will receive it.
Notice something. You have to be specific with your goal. In the case of Jesus, his goal was not to save “the world” in a general sense, but to bring salvation individually to each person. That is specific. That’s me. It’s you.
John 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
So how did Jesus acheive his goal? And what can we learn from His method?
2. BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY WITH AN EVENT
Do something different that you can look back on and say, this is when I began. It’s like in an athletic event, there’s an opening kickoff, a jump ball, or a first pitch. This is where you put your stake in the ground to say the old ended here, and now I’m moving forward!
What event marked the beginning of Jesus’ ministry? It’s something that changed his life, and it was so important that we are commanded to do as believers. Jesus was baptized. On that day, his life changed. He had been a carpenter, and probably lived a fairly normal life, helping his widowed mother, socializing with friends and neighbors, going to synagogue, paying taxes. But the day he was baptized, his life took a completely different course.
From what scripture tells us that at the baptism…
Mark 1:11 …a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” 12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert,”
So what happened there? Of course we know that he spent forty days and nights there. Scripture says that during that time, he was tempted by Satan. Now this next part is conjecture, ok? I have an active imagination, and I can easily see that perhaps Jesus was not constantly tempted during this entire forty days.Maybe he was, but forty days is a long time, and from what we know of Jesus before and after this period of his life, I think he spent a large part of this time in prayer, communing with the Father. And it would not surprise me a bit if during this time, the Father spoke to him about the shape his ministry was to take, or the strategy to accomplish his goal.
3. DEVISE A STRATEGY
So what was Jesus’ goal? Of course it was to die on the cross, for my sins and for yours, but if He were to die, with no one knowing who He was or why He did it, an arguement can be made that we would not be talking about him today. His ministry might have died with him.
The strategy is the “how” of your goal. What does it take to achieve the goal. Break it down into steps. What are the tools? What are the actions. When do they need to be done?
Why do I think the Father spoke to Jesus about the strategy during His time in the wilderness? Because when He came back, he didn’t go back to his old life. We are never told that he did any carpentry after his baptism.
Mark 1:13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. 14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
So when he returned from the desert, he came back a man on a mission. Focused on the message. He knew his goal, and he began implementing the strategy to get it done.
4. GO PUBLIC
In Luke 4, we see the next thing that Jesus did after His forty days were completed…
Luke 4:14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.
17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,
21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus proclaimed His goal publicly at this point. By making this announcement here, in this place…the local synagogue…He was going to the place that would have the biggest impact. Jesus knew that the word would quickly spread. There was no going back.
When we make our goals known to others, it’s very hard to just forget about them, or give up on them. No one wants to look like a quitter, right? Who wants everyone to know that we lack discipline? Or that we didn’t have what it takes? Or on the positive side, once you tell the world, you’ll probably have some people who will encourage you!
5. BUILD A TEAM
Going back to Mark’s account, of this part of Jesus’ life gives us the next step we should take. Let’s see what Jesus did.
Mark 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
Build a team around your goal: people who will help you, people whom you trust, people that you can enlist. Help them be excited about your goal so they will continually support you. Keep them up to date on your progress. Jesus’ goal was to die on the cross, the lamb of God, the Messiah, the only One who could save the world from their sins. And we know that he spent a lot of time teaching them about His goal, encouraging them, even convincing them.
Mark 4: 35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
This entire event took place to convince them, to focus them on the goal. They had to believe that Jesus was who claimed to be, so that they would enthusiastically preach the message. We know from scripture that this was not the only time He had to do something big to convince them, which tells me that we will often need to touch bases with our team in order for them to help us to our goal. Let them know how you’re doing in relation to the goal. Your progress, challenges, failures, adjustments, victories.
6. MAKE TIME TO REST
Mark 6:31 “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
We need some time to just simply rest. Jesus knew the importance of rest. There are many examples in scripture of Jesus going off to be alone, to rest, to pray. It was important for Jesus to rest, how much more so for us?
God created the world in six days, then took the seventh to rest, instituting the Sabbath. Rest is good, it is important, it is healthy.
So now we see what happens when the goal is acheived.
Luke 15: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety?nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety?nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’
10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
So we see here that when Jesus’ goal is achieved, when one person responds to the love of God, there is a party in Heaven!
Who rejoices? What’s that? You say the angels rejoice? Is that what the scripture says there? Let’s look at it again:
“there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God”.
Now, the angels may indeed rejoice, but the focus is not on the angels here. The literal translation of that passage is
“there is joy BEFORE the angels of God”
Well, who or what is before, or in front of, the angels? GOD IS! God rejoices. We know that God the Father sits on his throne, with Jesus, or God the Son, sitting at his right hand! There is celebration when the goal is achieved, each time the goal is achieved!
It is good to rejoice, to celebrate, to revel in the good that comes from a job well done.
So again I ask: Are you a better person now, at the beginning of 2009 than you were a year ago, at the beginning of 2008? Will you be a better person at the end of 2009 than you are now? What will you do? What will you change? How will you do it? When?
Your comments are welcome.
There is a new Lifespring Media project coming this year! It’s the Lifespring Audio Bible, which you can find out about here.