As another year draws to a close, I would like to send my warmest greetings to our worldwide Seventh-day Adventist church family, and take a few moments to reflect on this unique moment in time—a time when we leave the old year behind and step into the new.
Certainly, we have all seen that life on this earth often brings a mixture of the good, and the not so good, of joy and of sorrow, of triumph, and sometimes, of tragedy. As those who love the Lord and follow Him, however, we have the wonderful promise of His continual presence through it all, as He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Furthermore, He has given us the blessed hope of His soon return and an eternity with Him filled only with joy and happiness (see Rev. 21:4).
Nevertheless, as the old year ends, it is healthy to reflect upon the good times, to remember lessons learned from the more difficult times, to clear up any misunderstandings with others, offering and receiving forgiveness freely, then setting the old year into the past as we move into the future. The Bible puts it this way:
“. . . I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).
More good counsel on this point is found in Hebrews 12:1, 2:
“ . . . let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
These Bible passages are rich with meaning as we head into the new year of 2018. Notice how both texts point us to Jesus—the author and finisher of our faith. It is by looking to Him that we are able to set aside every weight, leave the past behind, and move ahead with confidence and endurance.
And nothing illustrates this more clearly than the beautiful sanctuary service outlined so clearly for us in the book of Hebrews, where Christ is portrayed as our “High Priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands . . . and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:11-14, NASB).
The sanctuary message is so central to understanding our relationship with the Lord. It reminds us of how we owe everything to Christ. He is our sacrifice, He is our priest, He is our coming Redeemer.
The sanctuary points us to God’s saving power and reminds us of what Christ has done for us in the past and what He is doing for us now. Repentance, forgiveness, revival, a new start, outreach, mission—all of this is found in the sanctuary service, and by studying it we can gain valuable insights.
Through inspiration we are urged to study this very important truth. In The Great Controversy, p. 488, we read:
“The precious hours instead of being given to pleasure, to display, or to gain seeking, should be devoted to an earnest, prayerful study of the word of truth. The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill. . . . The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men.”
As we enter the new year, it is so important to gain a fresh picture of who we are and at what stage in history we are living. Looking back at 2017, we have seen multiple areas of change throughout the world, and striking fulfillments of Bible prophecy. What an expectation we have as we head into 2018, leaning on the Lord completely and allowing His faithful power to control our thoughts and actions, guiding our outreach to others in this momentous time.
May the Lord bless, strengthen, and encourage you as we begin this new year with Him. Maranatha!
Ted N.C. Wilson is president of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. Additional articles and commentaries are available from the president’s office on Twitter: @pastortedwilson and on Facebook: @PastorTed Wilson.