How to Think About 2014 (part 4)

The last few posts have considered Jesus’ exhortation to teachers in the new covenant community as recorded in Matthew 13:52: “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” Jesus was speaking during a time of major transition in which some would be tempted to leave behind virtually everything God had spoken and done in previous generations, while others, it was quite clear, were unwilling to embrace the new things Jesus was doing.

Even though our generation loves new things, and makes changes in virtually every area of life with shocking frequency, there are still many times and many areas in our lives in which embracing new things can be difficult.

Sometimes attachment to the past can keep us from pursuing the new things that God is doing in and around us.

The Old Testament prophet Samuel was the first prophet to anoint and install a king in Israel. It was a difficult process for Samuel. He knew that his people were in some sense rejecting him, and, more significantly, God. But the Lord told Samuel to follow the will of the people on this matter, and Samuel obeyed — Saul became Israel’s first king. Unfortunately, Saul’s insecurity and man-pleasing tendencies led to his disobedience to God, and ultimately to his rejection as king.

What an emotionally devastating journey this must have been for Samuel. Samuel held Israel in his heart. Kingship had just begun in Israel, during his tenure, and it was a disaster! What would this mean for God’s people? Couldn’t Saul’s rule somehow be repaired? Samuel was tempted to effectively shut down. But God visits Samuel.

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

1 Samuel 16:1

God tells Samuel to move on. It may seem brusque to us, but sometimes we need to hear these simple words without embellishment. Are you living in the past? Are previous disappointments defining your present? We should certainly learn from the past, and build on the past, and celebrate the victories of the past, but we must not live in the past.

Perhaps your identity is so bound up with painful memories that you need God to rename you. That’s what God did for Jacob, whose name in Hebrew is captured by the word “deceiver.” To the ancient Israelites, a new name was like a new destiny. When, through repentance and faith, our lives become intertwined with the life of Jesus Christ, it’s as if we’re receiving a new name. This is likely one of the reasons so many disciples in the New Testament were given nicknames. In 2014, God wants to help you move forward from unhealthy attachments to the past so you can fully embrace the new identity He’s given you in Christ. He has many things He wants to do in us and through us in the new year.

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