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PASTOR’S CORNER: How to become a better person

Here’s the question for the day: do you want to be a better person? I hope you are not one of those perfect people who believe you cannot possibly be any better than you already are.

If you believe that, then there’s no room for you to grow in life. But, if you’re in tune with the real you, you are aware that there’s room for improvement. That’s our focus today: self- improvement.

For many of us, self-improvement translates into weight loss. Once we realize we have to suck it up to get into our clothes, and that we have somehow grown the infamous spare tire where our waist line once was, we then turn to several weight loss gurus and/or procedures, all the way from grapefruit diets to liposuction and gastric balloons.

Some of these strategies work for some people, but not for others. There’s no consistency in long-term success, no matter what the advertising claims. All of these methods have one thing in common which virtually guarantees failure.

Each involves the wrong starting point – the outside. True change and lasting change begins on the inside.

There’s only one place to find the way to true change; it’s not in television commercials, internet ads, magazine articles or the like. It’s in one book, and only one book; the one where the Word of God is featured, the Holy Bible. So, let’s look there to find out from the one who knows us best how to create the new you.

We begin in Ephesians 4:17-32. Space won’t allow a deep discussion of the passage, so I will paraphrase and summarize it as God shows us how to create the new you. Verses 17-19 describe the old you, one who was estranged from God and living an immoral, wanton life-style. The following five verses, 20-24, contain God’s instructions to create the new you.

In the first two verses, we learn that there must be an attitude change toward the teachings of Christ, a willingness to hear, be taught, internalize and apply his teachings to our daily lives. At this point, the text is clear that we are responsible for beginning this process, not God. We must accept Christ and his teachings before God will move on our behalf.

We have to continue the process as instructed in verses 22 and 23. As we are being taught by Christ, we must understand the corrupting influence of lust, guard against it, and strive to suppress all former fleshly desires. We can accomplish this through continuing attitude change, or as the text puts it, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

In verse 23, God makes his contribution to the process. If we follow the plan, then God creates the new you and blesses his creation with righteousness and true holiness. The final step in the process is up to us: we have to “put on the new man.”

As you can see, this is a joint venture between us and God, which up to now is a function of the mind and attitude change by us.

Now we switch our focus from the mental to the behavioral aspect of the process, which is described for us in the rest of the passage, verses 25-32. These verses focus on behavior, which is consistent with the will of God. We’ll summarize with God’s words to us in the final verse of the passage; “and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” The result? The New You!

Rev. O.L. Johnson

Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in Los Angeles. Pastor’s Corner is a monthly religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture to life today. The column appears on the first Thursday of each month in the Wave and its website, www.wavenewspapers.com.