The New You

Ephesians 4:17-32 / Matthew 5:3-10

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

This year I’m going to do it. This year I’m not a quitter. In fact, I’m so confident in my success that I’m going to share with you all my plans so that you might keep me to task. This year I’m going to keep my New Year’s resolutions.

Goal #1 No more soda

Goal #2 a 20 minute walk daily

Goal #3 No cell phone use except for talking on the phone after 7:00 pm.

There you have it. My three goals for the new year. Not overly aggressive but all very important. Now, I have been advised to have a cheat day so I’ll pick Monday’s. I’ll still try and get it done on Mondays but if I need a day just to be indulgent, then Mondays it is.

There you have it. I have no excuses because they’re all very doable. It will take a new attitude, a change in lifestyle. But, with God’s help (and a little bit of yours) I’ll be able to pull it off.

Now, you’re probably wondering what my spiritual goals are. Well, I have those too. They include extended prayer time, better patience and better values. God already knows about these and He’ll keep me to task.

These goals are between me and God and we talk about them every morning and every evening and several times during the day. They’re harder to explain because its all about growth so they’ll change as I grow. Each day I look for a little more transformation into a new self, more motivated for Christ and more dedicated to my calling.

In our New testament lesson for this morning, we are reminded of the steps we must take to achieve this new life in Christ. It calls us to a new way of living, a change of attitude and a replacement of the old self which had walked in the ways of sinners and unbelievers.

If we are to achieve the spiritual goals for the new year that God is calling us to, first it will require a new way of thinking.  Proverbs 23:6-7 says, “Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.”  In other words, A man is whatever is in his heart.

If your heart is cold and bitter so will be your attitude. If your greatest heartfelt desire is to serve your neighbor, then it will be shown in all you do. The first step to a transformed life is in your thinking and your thinking is shaped by the condition of your heart. Paul is saying that we need to let go of the old self with its worldly values and embrace a new set of thoughts and values based on our walk with Christ.

Everywhere you go, people are trying to change your thoughts. If you drink this beer then you’ll be like the most important man in the world. If you wear this cologne, then no woman will be able to resist you. If you eat this chocolate then all your stress will melt away like the chocolate in your mouth. Worldly sources are trying to change you everyday into a more worldly being. They promote worldly beliefs and worldly values so you might be more inline with worldly acceptance. They want to change your train of thought to match more closely whatever their trying to sell you.

Well, so is God. Through Word and Sacrament, he is trying to change you from a person who thinks of himself in worldly terms to one who’s thoughts are based on righteousness and holiness. Unfortunately, most people are fed with much more worldly advice then Godly advice because its everywhere we are. We’ll spend 6 hours a day watching television but were lucky to give God half an hour studying His Word. We come to church for a little more than an hour but live our worldly life the rest of the time.

It’s because our thinking is out of whack. If our thoughts were on godly things then it would be seen by what we say and do. If our mind were on worldly things, then we’d be more apt to take the wider path to destruction.

Keeping your thoughts on Christ and his goals for you isn’t easy. It means you need to battle all the stimulus the world gives you. But if you want to make the transformation God is expecting from you, then you must change your thinking to match His by using the tools He has given you.

The second step to transformation is to turn our thinking into action. I remember as a child trying to literally walk in my father’s shoes. I’d imagine I wasn’t very successful because his shoes were much to big for me.  I remember our own children playing grown up. Emily would try putting on her mom’s makeup, the boys would put on my coat that was many sizes too big. They wanted to be grown up, if only for an instant.

Well, the transformation into a life based on godly values can seem a lot like this. At first, the clothes seem too big for us. We’ve lived so long trying to be accepted by the world that the change to a more godly life seems enormous. Its hard to walk in the shoes of Christ because they are many sizes too large at first. We want to wear the armor of God but we feel like David trying to put on Saul’s armor before his battle with Goliath. The clothes don’t fit because we haven’t yet grown into them.

But with each step with Christ, the clothes seem more comfortable, the armor doesn’t seem so heavy. The shoes are easier to walk in.

Paul tells the Ephesians, “Put off the old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

This is a transformation that takes time, but eventually the clothes will fit. Yet it takes living life in those clothes to make it happen. It takes other people seeing the change in you. It takes discipline and commitment to see it through your initial change into clothes that seem too big to wear to a new self where the clothes are tailored by God Himself.

We are called to exchange the worldly clothes, our habits, our worldliness, our longing for sensual satisfaction and put on love, grace, mercy, and truth. The clothes of Christ. First comes the decision, and then comes the action.

And finally, we round out this transformation into a new self with faith. Of course, it takes faith to start the process and to carry it out, but it takes an even greater measure of faith to stay the course because Satan will continue to try and lure you into his web by promoting the false benefits of worldliness.

Like any goal, the starting is easy. The difficulty comes in the consistency. Day one seems like no effort at all but temptations and stinking thinking make each new day harder than the last.

“You know, I was so comfortable in my worldly life I could just discard these godly clothes and I’d be much more comfortable in an instant. There’s always more time to put on the clothes of Christ, I’ll just do it later, when the clothes fit better.”

But then that day never comes because your faith in God to transform you never grows strong enough to see it thru. To make the transformation to a new self you must always keep your eyes on Christ, you must believe in His goals for you. You must look onward toward the promise of a better life then the world could ever give you.

Faith is key in all aspects of life because, especially in your Christian walk, it draws you into relationship. If you put all of your faith in the world, then it will be seen in the relationship you have with the world. But, if you put all of your faith in Christ, then His light will shine because His relationship with you and in you will be strong.

Once you have made the decision to change from the old into the new, you have to make the decision on who will guide you to the right path. Will it be the easier path of faith in the world or the more challenging path of faith in God. More challenging because the devil will fight your every step.

So these are the steps towards a godly transformation, proper thinking, decisive action, and faithful walking. I’m reminding you of something you already know. But now is your chance to start again. Tomorrow, start a new life in Christ. Take off the old clothes and put on the new, even if they do fit a little big at first.

And with every step you take towards righteousness and holiness, the Lord will be with you to help you overcome the world. He has promised you great things if you will only trust in Him. Things like forgiveness, mercy, strength, and everlasting life.

And He is your greatest example. Even knowing His fate, He refused to change the clothes of God for worldly rags. Despite the hardships when all of us would have failed miserably, He was true to His calling as the very Son of God.

He didn’t do this for His own benefit. He did it for yours. Because he was willing to take your place, we now have the great opportunity to walk in His shoes, to wear his righteousness and holiness as our very own.

His invitation will always be open and the sooner you accept it, the sooner the clothes will fit. Don’t wait another day. Let 2018 be the year you decided to wear Christ. Amen.

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