As I was reading Ephesians 4, I came across what seemed to be a New Year’s Resolution list.
Paul was writing to the church of Ephesus while he was in prison. In Chapters 1-3, Paul is explaining to the people of Ephesus that they were ALWAYS a part of God’s plan. He is telling them that they belong.
After establishing a sense of belonging within them, Paul takes Chapter 4 to give practical advice. I’m calling it New Year’s Resolutions, but really they are New LIFE Resolutions.
Paul’s New Year’s Resolutions
1. Be Honest and Vulnerable (Ephesians 4:25)–
Firstly, the church of Ephesus had to stop thinking of themselves as Gentiles (v. 17-24), and starting recognizing their salvation.
When we decide to follow Christ, we have to start being honest about everything with ourselves and others. This is hard! But it is important, because our character, not our appearance is to reflect Christ (v. 1-3)
God knew that we couldn’t do it alone which is why we have a body of Christ and helpmates that lead us. (v. 11-14) However they can’t help if we aren’t honest and vulnerable about our flaws.
2. Limit Anger (Ephesians 4:26-27)–
Paul was careful here to separate anger from sin; the sins are revenge and grudges.
This resolution is much like meditation. You accept all of your feelings and worries, then you let them go. Let Them GO!
We almost always feel better when we let something go, yet we refuse to let go what Johnny did to us in second grade. Holding on is only making it easier for evil thoughts about that person or thing come to your mind. (v.27)
We can only combat evil thoughts for so long before they become evil actions. LET IT GO!
3. Stop Negative Habits, and REPLACE them with Positive Habits (Ephesians 4:28)–
Paul uses the example of a thief turning to “honest work” or getting a job.
As we grow in life we pick up positive and negative habits. Paul was saying to repent from the negative habits, and counteract them with the opposite positive habit.
It is not enough to leave the bad habit behind, because we will return to it if not replaced.
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4. Be Kind and Encouraging (Ephesians 4:29)–
Stop talking about people. Whether we are perceived to be “ahead” or “behind” in life, we shouldn’t be talking about where other people are in their lives.
Everyone needs kindness and encouragement in all parts of our life journey.
5. Keep Your Dear Holy Spirit Happy (Ephesians 4:30)–
Admittedly this is my teaching experience poking its head. In the Whole Brain Teaching program, rule five is to “Keep Your Dear Teacher Happy!”; it meant that even if it isn’t expressly stated in previous rules, you know what you should be doing.
In the same way, Paul encouraged the church of Ephesus to keep the Holy Spirit happy, because he is the teacher or guide in this scenario.
We know right and wrong, but if there is a gray area, call the Holy Spirit. Acquiring a constant guide for life is an eternal gift that we should never take for granted. It should be cherished.
This chapter ends nicely with a reminder to let go of all negative things (v. 31), and accept positivity (v.32) into our lives through forgiveness.
All of Paul’s New LIFE Resolutions include an element of forgiveness for ourselves or others. We will not be perfect, but forgiveness needs to happen so we can start anew.
Ephesians 4:32 ESV Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.