We all like to think that as we start a New Year, everything will be different. We make resolutions, we resolve, in effect, to be “new men”. I think, however, that as we resolve to do things, that if we refuse to set, at the center of these wanted changes, a truly efficacious agent of change, we will fail – and fail miserably.

Let me explain. We make resolutions, right? What is to keep us resolved to carry through with them? Self-discipline? I can’t speak for everyone, but my measure of self-discipline is pitifully small, and not up to the task of keeping me resolved to the type of things we routinely set as goals for ourselves. Not on my own, at least. What else could keep us resolved? Fear of failure? Embarrassment? What else?

Here’s my solution, and see if this makes sense.

This morning, we studied Ephesians 4:17-24, which, in my Bible, is entitled “The New Man”. I think it may have some lessons for us in how to become, in reality, the “New Man” we are supposed to be as followers of Christ.

It reads:

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

What does that have to tell us about becoming, in truth, a New Man?

Verses 17-19 explains what we should not do. The example used is the “Gentile” – not the physical racial groups known as “Gentiles” (or Non-Jews, which are the vast majority of the people of the world), but the spiritual Gentiles – those who are excluded (alienated in the NKJV) from the life of God, as verse 18 says. In other words, we are to take as examples those who have chosen the path antithetical to our own – and to do otherwise.

First, Paul says very clearly that this is not his message. He says he affirms “together with the Lord”. This is clearly an apostolic (on his authority as an apostle) command, and is directly from God.

Second, it is a directive to REFRAIN from doing the things which following – and, if you are already doing them, to stop. “No longer” is what he says. Interesting, that. That tells me that he is fully aware that all of us, to some degree, are embroiled in the way this other lifestyle does things. He is fully cognizant of this, and directly confronting it.

Thirdly, he explains what lies *behind* this process. The mind. Their minds are futile (devoid of truth and appropriateness – used as “vanity” in 2 Peter 2:18) in their endeavors, because they are missing the knowledge that is critical to supply what is lacking in the pursuits that Solomon calls “Vanity” – meaning, and purpose. A knowledge of God.

Their understanding is darkened” – “darkened” is the word skotoo, which is a metaphor for a blinded mind.

alienated from the life of God” – alienated is the word apallotrioo, which means ” to be shut out from one’s fellowship and intimacy”. Life? This is the same word Christ uses when He promises a life more abundant. That sort of life. The very life of God. How unimaginably heartbreaking – not only that there are those who are apart from that life – but that we choose to imitate them!

the ignorance in them” – ignorance refers especially to ignorance of divine things, or moral blindness. So, they (and we who choose to imitate them) are not only intellectually blind, but morally so!

“hardness of their hearts” – the word means to become “calloused”, to have their perceptions blunted – to be stubborn or obdurant – to become obtuse. In other words – to become dull, and unused to discerning things clearly.

So, the passage goes on to say, that callous leads to a lack of sensitivity – a lack of discernment – which leads to a wanton slide into the practice of sin. Sound familiar, Christians? Or non-Christians, for that matter.

A lack of perception leads to a lack of moral discernment, and a lack of moral discernment leads to increasingly sinful behavior.

But, the passage says – we did learn Christ in this way! We didn’t! We know better. It is a willful ignorance, and a willful slide into this morass.

Paul goes on to tell us that we have been taught the truth – and that truth teaches us that we are to lay aside our former selves, which are being corrupted, and we are to be *renewed* in our minds. We are to put on *new* selves, in the likeness of God (sound familiar? A life of God, mentioned earlier?) which were created in righteousness, in holiness, and in truth.

This is what we are to do.

Romans 12, which was our Sunday School text today, says something very similar.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

New Year’s Resolutions? How about a New Man Resolution, to go with it? Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Of my mind. Of your neighbor’s mind.

So, on that note: Here are my resolutions.

1. I resolve, with the help and sufferance of God, to spend time, daily, in the Study of the Word, and in prayer before Him.

2. I resolve, with the help and sufferance of God, to use my gifts in His service, following His plan to strengthen His Church.

3. I resolve, with the help and sufferance of God, to strive to become the spiritual head of my newly-formed family, and to take seriously the role which God has placed before me.

4. I resolve, with the help and sufferance of God, to place the Glory of God in the place it deserves – the primary place – and to make this the aim of all my endeavors.

5. I resolve, with the help and sufferance of God, to stop neglecting my talents for music, design, and writing, but to use them to the best of my ability for the duration of this year.

That’s it – those are my resolutions for this year. I covet your prayers, your advice, and your accountability.