“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” – Ephesians 4:1
This time of year, I have three annual rituals to close out one season and begin another: I get into my closet and do my version of a clothing purge; set personal and professional goals for the coming year; and select one book of the Bible to read as an anchor for the coming 12 months. I call it my “reset.”
Actually, it’s more like a “recalibration.” I’m not sure how desirable it would be to start completely over every year!
These rituals aren’t simply boxes checked to start a new year – they truly set the tone and pace of how that new season will unfold. And packing up unworn clothing items for donating both symbolizes the discarding of excess baggage as well as the sharing of things others may need.
Yet the ritual I most cherish is the selection of a book from the Bible to ground me for what comes next. Actually, in some years it’s been a single passage or verse, but this year my choice was Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
God’s Reset Message
I’ve often considered Ephesians a kind of “reset button” God offers Believers. In six short but exceptionally rich chapters, Paul (writing to the church in Ephesus some 1,200 miles away from his Roman prison cell around 62 A.D.) lays out the framework for what God has done in guiding humanity back from the long wilderness we’ve strayed into since the Fall.
Explore the depth of Paul’s words yourself, first reminding the Ephesians how God has given us all new life through Christ (Chapters 1-3), and then how God wants us to live in the grace of that new life (Chapters 4-6).
It’s the second half of Ephesians, the application of love and renewal in resetting our lives, I find most compelling as the new year approaches.
Many of us start each year with fresh thinking, lofty goals, resolutions to change. We’re going to stop this, start that, go here but not go there, spend more time with some people and less time with others, lose weight, make new friends, save more money, do more to help the poor or less fortunate, call our parents (or our kids) more often, treat our significant others better … the lists can be endless.
By January 31, however, life seems to push back. Old habits return, nagging at us to forget about resets and focus instead on the tried and true, the clutter and yokes of yesterday. What we aspire to become gets entangled in those things to which we still stubbornly cling.
For some, it’s as though we fear letting go of the past, holding close those feelings and emotions that both helped and hindered us in the past. Like hoarders of things hiding in the corners of our closets, gradually crowding out room for anything new. We hoard heartbreak, broken relationships, disappointments, anger, past glories, addictions, suspicions and doubts … it often seems we hold onto anything preventing us from experiencing the new heart God gives all Believers.
Paul encourages the Ephesians to “walk worthy of the calling you have received.” He could be speaking to us today.
In accepting Christ into our lives, we become “new creations,” with old things passing away, replaced by fresh and new possibilities. And not just on January 1st but each and every day of the year. Because we’re united in faith, God charts a new course for us, a path made straight and clear, free of the emotional clutter and baggage of this world.
Put on a New Self
Yes, new courses are scary. They challenge us to rethink who we are, where we’ve been, where we’re going. A new job, moving from the comforting familiarity of home, leaving a toxic relationship to begin a new, uplifting one, forgiving someone who wronged us and allowing them to re-enter our life – all of these remind us of what God asks when we accept His call to turn our lives away from wrong choices and bad decisions. “Think about who you were,” He asks. “Did that really fulfill you?”
Paul echoes this, calling us to examine our old values, attitudes, and actions when we were at odds with God’s plan and compare that to who we are now, “renewed in the spirit” (Ephesians 4:23).
Before we can put on our “new self” we must discard our old self; stop following the ways we loved before we were saved. We must hit reset on our lives, making new choices in accordance with Christ’s character living in our hearts. Rather than submitting to fear and doubt, submit to God and each other in faith and hope.
This New Year’s Eve, as we celebrate with family and friends sharing hopes and dreams of the coming year, let’s not forget to get deep into the closets of our lives, cleaning out the old ways, the clutter and negative emotions chaining us to behaviors and thoughts we no longer need.
Try something new. Forgive someone. Take a chance on something that scares you. And don’t forget to bag up those old clothes, that “old self,” and give it away. It’s no longer you.