Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj | New Year Bible Devotion
Jesus used the word “Year” twice during his earthly ministry.
In a synagogue in Nazareth, he read from the scroll of the book of Isaiah this: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). He particularly chose this passage to read from the Scroll (Luke 4:17).
What was Jesus’ point? During his first coming, he came to announce the period of God’s favor; at that time, everyone has the opportunity to turn from sin and trust him as Savior. But when he comes back the second time, he will come as a judge. The writer to the Hebrews explains this further. She writes (I think it is Pricilla): So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Heb. 9:28). While Jesus would bring Salvation to those who are waiting for him, he will also bring judgment resulting in Hell for those who spurn ‘the year of God’s Favor’ – the time between his first coming and second coming!
So, let us use the New Year that God has graciously added to our lives to proclaim the year of God’s Favor! How do we do that? We do that by proclaiming Jesus through our life and lips to as many as possible! We do that by building God’s Kingdom using our time, talent and treasures! We must also clearly mention that this ‘year of God’s favor’ can come to an end the second Jesus returns to the earth. And the New Testament is clear that Jesus can return any time. It is there in Matthew’s Gospel: ‘So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him’ (Matt. 24:44). This truth is so important that it is repeated. See Matthew 25:13: ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour’. The ‘thief in the night’ imagery is used by both Paul, Peter and John to underscore this truth yet again (I Thess. 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev. 16:15).
We must also take time to mention that the year of God’s Favor will come to an end if someone dies outside of an ongoing relationship with Jesus. This is so, because there is no salvation after one’s death. After death, there is only judgment to look forward to (Heb. 9:27). Also after death and after the commencement of eternal punishment in the hell there is no change to cross-over from hell to heaven. Jesus himself mentions this in an incident he narrates in Luke’s gospel where we read, ‘And besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that even those who wish cannot cross from here to you, nor can anyone cross from there to us’ (Luke 16:26, the words of heaven-dwelling Abraham to hell-dwelling Rich Man).
So, this understanding – that the year of the Lord’s favor can end any second – should motivate us to race to the lost with the Gospel this year!
So, make it a point to join your local church’s evangelistic outreaches! Join hands with a para-church organisation involved in direct evangelism activities like gospel tract distribution! That’s one ministry we in Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission (G4 Mission) do each month – the ministry of tracts distribution. We welcome you to join us if you happen to live in Chennai. If you live other cities, please reach out to us and we can supply with gospel tracts which will appeal to the Indian English reader which we have published.
During your many travels this year, share the Gospel with the person sitting next to you. I do that by showing the ESV phone app on my smart phone. I read Psalm 119:165 to the person sitting next to me in the flight, train or bus. And finish off with these words, “When I read this book – God’s Word in human words – I have ‘great peace’ which this verse talks about. While others pointed out the way to peace, the Bible proclaims that Jesus himself will be our peace. Jesus and the peace He offers is unique and you must experience it!”
So, let this be a YEAR of FAVOR-PROCLAMATION.
There was yet another time, that Jesus used the word “Year” as he went about his earthly ministry. He did after talking about two disasters that took place during his time: an building crash that kill 18 people and the butchering done by an evil ruler who sought to mix human blood with his religious sacrifices (Luke 13:1-5). Jesus told this to the people who heard him this: “Just because that building did not fall on you, it does not mean you are better than those it fell on to take their lives! Just because the evil ruler did not kill you and mix your blood in the sacrifice he wanted to offer, it does not mean you are better than his targets. No way! Unless you repent, you too will perish!” (my paraphrase keeping the context in mind).
Let the Voice version of the Bible take over to explain to you what happened after this:
(following up with this parable) A man has a fig tree planted in his vineyard. One day he comes out looking for fruit on it, but there are no figs. He says to the vineyard keeper, “Look at this tree. For three years, I’ve come hoping to find some fresh figs, but what do I find? Nothing. So just go ahead and cut it down. Why waste the space with a fruitless tree?” The vineyard keeper replies, “Give it another chance, sir. Give me one more year working with it. I’ll cultivate the soil and heap on some manure to fertilize it. If it surprises us and bears fruit next year, that will be great, but if not, then we’ll cut it down.” (Luke 13:6-9, The Voice).
So, there you have it, the second time Jesus used the word ‘year’ from his mouth! He does so in the context of giving those of us still alive a fresh opportunity to make up for the times who have goofed up and blow away opportunities to bear fruit for him! So, the new year should be a time of FRUIT-BEARING, and not just FAVOR-PROCLAMATION.
How do we bear Fruit?
For that we need to send our roots far down below in Christ. Apostle Paul writes, ‘Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude’ (Col. 2:6-7).
We send our roots deeper into Christ by increasing our times of intimacy with him evidenced through prayer and Bible meditation this new year – thanks to our ever-growing love for him.
Recently, I discovered that the Bible can be divided into ten parts: Genesis through Deuteronomy are the Law Books. From Joshua till 2 Kings are the pre-exilic History books of the Bible. From 2 Chronicles to Esther are the post-exilic History Books of the Bible. From Job till Song of Songs are the Poetry Books of the Bible. From Isaiah to Daniel are the major prophetic books of the Bible. From Hosea to Malachi are the minor prophetic books of the Bible. From Matthew to Luke are the Gospels – we know that. The book of Acts is the lone New Testament History book. From Romans to Jude, constitute the Letters or Epistles. And the book of Revelation is the lone Prophetic book of the Bible. Why not try and read one chapter each from each of these 10 different sections of the Bible? This way you Bible meditation time will have a 10-fold flavour and boredom will be blown away! We must read from every section of the Bible regularly because “ALL” Scripture is God-breathed and is useful (2 Tim. 3:16).
So, have a blessed New Year of Favour-Proclamation and Fruit-Bearing!
(This article was published in Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Aim magazine edition of January 2022. Duke, the author of this article, is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, the G4 Mission. Find out more about this reader-supported Indian ministry at www.dukev.org)