Summary: Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, we need to develop a lifestyle of connections that will enable us to be Jesus’ true disciples.
Each year around this time of year, 40 to 45% of American adults make one or more New Year’s resolutions. But only a week later, on average, we’ve already abandoned one-quarter of those resolutions and by the middle of the year, less than one-half are maintained. No wonder someone once described our New Year’s resolutions like this:
A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one Year and out the other.
Madeline Kane described the process of making New Year’s resolutions like this:
Every December, otherwise rational people make resolutions meant to transform them into organized, addiction-free souls with clean houses, healthy bodies, wholesome relationships, perfect children, and career paths soaring to the top - the same vows they made last year and the year before that.
So I’m not sure that making one or more New Year’s resolutions is really the most profitable thing that we can do this time of year. On the other hand, the end of the year is a good time to look back on the last year and make an honest and sober evaluation of our lives. I think that the Apostle Paul would certainly agree with that based on what he wrote in the book of Romans:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Romans 12:3 (ESV)
But we need to do more than just look back; we also need to look forward. Again Paul would agree:
…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13, 14
So rather than making some New Year’s resolutions, which are unlikely to produce any long-term benefit, I want to encourage us to focus on making something that will be profitable for eternity – connections.
If you’ve ever taken time to look at our church logo, you will see that our mission as a body of Christ-followers is to make connections – with God, with others and with our community. Although our logo was designed to be attractive and memorable, what is really important is that it reflects our mission as a church to make disciples, just as Jesus has commanded us to do. Those three aspects of making disciples are found frequently throughout the Bible, but perhaps they are best seen all together in this familiar passage from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus: Let’s read it out loud together:
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV)
As we get ready to enter a new year, I thought it would be helpful for all of us to be reminded of why we exist as a church and to bring our focus back to those connections that are absolutely essential if we are going to be effective in carrying out the Great Commission and making disciples. In this passage we can clearly see the three sequential steps that are necessary in the cycle of making fully mature disciples of Jesus:
THE PROCESS OF MAKING MATURE DISCIPLES
1. Connecting with God
The first step in the process of becoming a mature disciple is to connect with God by developing a relationship with Him. And the only way that we can begin that relationship is through faith in Jesus. So it’s no surprise that as we read through this passage that Jesus is right at the heart of every single verse. So that you can clearly see that for yourself, here’s what I want you to do. Read through the passage again and circle every reference to Jesus that you can find.
[Give people time to circle references to Jesus]
Depending on exactly how you count them, there are at least seven or eight references to Jesus in just these six verses. Jesus is at the very center and heart of this passage which deals with how to become mature disciples because everything starts with Him.