The year 2020 will be a good one

A new year brings new reasons for gladness. Will 2020 be an “acceptable year”? Yes—because grace means we are permitted to experience fellowship with Jesus Christ. And there is always so much grace with Him—enough for everyone.

What will the new year bring? More or less all people ask themselves that question. The Christian response to it is relatively simple and robust: the new year will once again bring us “fellowship with Jesus Christ”—which is also the main theme of the Sunday divine services in the congregations of the New Apostolic Church in the month of January. This simple statement describes one of the most important aspects of why a Christian life is worthwhile! Those who follow Christ will have fellowship with their Sender, Lord, and Master.

How can this fellowship be experienced?

1. Fellowship in our encounter with authority

Meeting someone who has authority creates security. When Christians believe that Jesus Christ acted in authority, and that His Apostles today likewise act by His authority, this creates a tremendous amount of security in the ups and downs of life. At the time, devout Jews shuddered when they heard Jesus preach: “And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1: 22). Jesus’ teaching was different, new, unusual, rich in values, comforting, future-oriented, and addressed to the people on their level. However, He did not merely preach with pleasant words—He also had authority. ‘Authority’ is a legal term. One who is ‘authorised’ has the right to say or do certain things. Authorisation comes into being by transmission, or the act of ‘authorisation’. The New Testament makes it clear that the preaching of Jesus possesses divine authority.

2. Fellowship in our encounter with the kingdom of God

Will 2020 be an “acceptable year”? Perhaps there are Christians who ask themselves this question at the start of a new year, especially if the past year was a difficult one for them, if cares and grief took the upper hand and there was hardly any escape to be found. The notion that the kingdom of God is present can be of help to Christians in suffering. Jesus Christ is present—today, in the here and now. He is not only going to return one day, but is already today the Helper of His flock, a faithful shepherd. The kingdom of God—in which divine righteousness would prevail—was also a very familiar subject of preaching for the Jews of antiquity. The Jews of that time envisioned this purely as a future kingdom, however. And then along came Jesus, who made it clear through His preaching that the kingdom of God has both a present and a future dimension. This is why He was able to reference a term from the book of Isaiah—namely that of the “acceptable year of the Lord”—in His preaching. In the synagogue of Nazareth, He cited Isaiah and thereby described His mission: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4: 18—19). He is the representative of the kingdom of God, which surrounds all Christians. What a comfort for all the poor, all the captives, all the blind, and all the oppressed!

3. Fellowship in a life aligned with the gospel

The gospel is the glad tidings of the resurrection of Jesus, of His sacrificial deed, His ascension, and His return. The divine service on the last Sunday of January points out that “fellowship with Jesus Christ” goes hand in hand with a lively, intimate relationship to the gospel. Spiritual life—that is, a life in the Spirit of God—is an expression for the individual faith of every believer. All those who feel they belong to Jesus have the task of proclaiming the gospel in word and deed. It is an especially great responsibility to consistently bring the fundamental contents of the gospel to expression in our own families, with our own children or grandchildren. In this respect, every Christian has an educational mission to fulfil! “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3: 16). Concerning this, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider has the following to say in the Divine Service Guide for January: “We speak with our children about God, just as Jesus spoke of His Father. We do not portray God as a severe or demanding judge, but rather want to allow His kindness and love to come to expression. Let us teach our children to love God and show Him their love through their obedience. Let us pay attention to the manner in which we talk about our brethren and our ministers.”

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Peter Johanning
Divine service