Throughout the New Testament, the writers of the Scriptures emphasize the powerful message of newness in the gospel. That newness is not just theoretical or theological, it’s also eminently practical. The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians that part of Christ’s triumphal victory march following the resurrection involved giving His people gifts, signs of His conquering power and benevolent love. One of those gifts is teachers (4:11). As he goes on in chapters 4 and 5, Paul makes the distinction clearer and clearer between the unbelieving world and the new nature of God’s believers, and one of the key features is a growth to maturity and a training of the mind in newness of life. Part of growing up and being educated in the Lord means “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ” (4:14-15). Paul teaches us that this means a putting away of old, worldly conduct as we imitate and put on the true righteousness and holiness of God, including putting away lying, controlling our anger, working hard, being generous, and speaking no corrupt words but rather edifying ones that impart grace to the hearers. Every verse in the building argument adds more beauty and richness to the picture of the person made new by the Spirit of Christ, characterized by walking in love, “as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (5:2).
One of the most profound and striking contrasts between the old and new life comes in an incredibly simple antidote in 5:4. How do we fight the flesh and the life of sin? Not through trying harder to do the opposite, “but rather giving of thanks.” All the rest, the way of the world, amounts to “empty words” (5:7). We certainly live in a time when the folly of the world and its empty arguments are on full display, and it’s our job at CCA to help parents raise our children in a way that helps them in “finding out what is acceptable to the Lord” (5:10). And how will this new life be marked? By people filled with the Spirit, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God” (5:19-20). Yes, giving thanks is a most powerful weapon and way of life, indeed.
The best the world can do is recognize a problem and resolve to do better. We all know how New Year’s resolutions work out. Apart from the grace of God, all efforts at change are a striving in vain. But in Christ, through the gift of thanksgiving and the transforming power of His Spirit, through the grace of learning in the Lord, real newness of life awaits his people in a new year.