new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

January’s Verse

Happy New Year!

As in other years the Baptist church and ourselves have teamed up to give out a calendar around parts of the town. Each year the calendar takes a theme; this year the theme is ‘God’s gift’. Each month’s verse deals with this radical idea that separates Christianity from religion.

Now perhaps you may feel I’m playing with words a little—isn’t Christianity a religion? Yes in one sense it is, yet this whole idea of ‘gift’ places it in a different category from all the other religions. This ‘gift’ idea produces a thoroughly different outlook—it changes how we relate to God, how we see ourselves, how we see our future, how we see others, how we see what we deserve or don’t deserve—but more of that in months to come.

Each month I plan to give a brief explanation of that month’s verse. If you haven’t got a calendar and would like one—please get in touch. January kicks off the calendar with a verse from Isaiah:

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6)

Now if we are being honest with ourselves we know that meeting God is perhaps the last thing we want, for we’re not ready. There is much in our lives that would not impress him. So why start off the year with this call to seek God out? Surely it would be much better to call people to tidy themselves up and to straighten out their lives a bit before calling them to look for God?

That’s where one of the differences between religion and Christianity comes in. This idea of ‘gift’ challenges our natural patterns of thought.

One of the things about verses in the Bible is that they have a context—a home, with family who live alongside as it were, they belong to a place. We can’t simply rip them out of their home and look at them in a disconnected way; we need to see them in their natural environment. The natural habitat of this verse is a rich beautiful invitation from God to come to a feast, to come and enjoy what we cannot afford.

Listen to it:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”

Then we are told to seek him and search him out. What Isaiah is saying is this: There is a feast available with God (as opposed to the judgment we deserve), but we can’t afford it, but God himself offers to provide what we can’t afford. And what would cost us everything, he offers to pay. It’s a picture of the salvation that God offers, we couldn’t ever afford it, or earn it by being good enough, but instead he offers to pay—and that’s what happened at the Cross—God paid so that we could enjoy his gift.

That’s why we are to search him and come to him while he extends this offer, for like some of the new-year sale bargains this offer is time limited. As the verse says, “call on him while he is near” – there will be a time when he is not near. And so it is the right verse to put at the start of the year.