Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A New Creature

Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ... (2 Cor. 5:17)

To me, this is one of the bible's most significant scriptures for the body of Christ. This scripture reveals what actually happened to us in the new birth and is a key to our Christian walk and development.

When I first recognized the meaning of this scripture, I had been a Christian for about 10 years. And for all of those ten years, I had spent every waking, (and probably sleeping) hour trying to be the best Christian that I could be. It was my utmost intention to be as Christ-like as I could possibly be, and to put to death the "old" sinful me.

It may sound funny, but when I caught the meaning of this scripture, my first thought was this, "Man, I've been trying to kill someone who is already dead." "And I have been trying to change someone who is already changed." Now, how futile can that be?

But what baffled me for a while was that if this scripture were true, then why did I find myself still sinful. Well, I think that the best way to answer that is to explain that the change this scripture is talking about is an inner change, and a spiritual one. So, in order to experience the reality of the change, the aim will have to be to get what is on the inside, (and what is spiritual) to the outside and what is in the natural.

Let's first take a look at what this change is and what God has made us when we accepted his Son. Then we will talk a little about making it practical and active in our lives.

First of all, the bible says that this new creature within us is a new man, (or woman) and started from a seed, just like every natural child starts as a seed in the womb of their mother. Peter said this about being born again and becoming a new creature,

"Being born again, not by corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." (1 Pet. 1:23)

This scripture brings a lot of insight into what happened to us when we were "born again," but I think the most important point is that we were born of the seed of God. And the seed of God, being incorruptible, is why we can live forever and also why we are Christ-like already. (See also Jn. 1:12-13)

Remember, our opening scripture said that, "...old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God..." There are no shortcomings or imperfections or inconsistencies in God, and because we are born of God and of his seed, there are no shortcomings or imperfections or inconsistencies in the new man within us.

I know that when we look at ourselves we may find that hard to believe. We may not see or feel that kind of remarkable change in our lives, but if you follow along with me, I will explain why we may not and how we can.

God's power is not released without our faith. For example, without our personal faith in Jesus, the new birth would not have taken place. And the same principle will continue in our Christian development as well. Without our personal faith; God's power and life, (though it is already resident within us), will not be released to affect our outer man... And here is how we can do that.

We are called as Christians to live by faith, not by sight, to walk according to the spirit, not according to the flesh. We are to believe of ourselves as the new inner man that Jesus made us to be, NOT as we see ourselves in the natural. (2 Cor. 5:7, Rom. 8:1-9) Paul the apostle said of himself,

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20)

Paul believed that his "old man," the sinful man that he once was, was crucified and died with Christ and that his "new man" rose with Jesus and now partakes in Christ's life and is made to be just like him. And Paul did this by faith. And it was Paul's faith that would enable him to live such a supernaturally powerful and productive life.

"For as he thinketh in his heart, (about him or herself) so is he." (Pr. 23:7 parenthesis mine)

Paul did not "try" to be Christ-like, for as we will see; that is futile. Instead, Paul believed that he was Christ-like "already" by virtue of the new birth. He chose to live by faith and not by sight, according to what God said about him, not what he saw in himself. And it is this same kind of faith that will transform you and I on the outside into what we already are on the inside. It is a process, and will take time, but it will work. (Rom. 12:1-2)

Our fight is a fight of faith, not of works; of believing not doing. If we try in our own strength to "do" we will fail. Paul said,

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." (Rom. 7:18-19)

Paul wanted to do well, but because of sin in his flesh found no power to perform it.

The bible says that, "The strength of sin is the law," (1 Cor. 15:56) so the more demands we put on ourselves, the more we stengthen our problems. The harder we "try" to be like Christ, to modify our lives to be more like his, the harder it will be to be like him.

Trying harder is like making New Year's resolutions. It just doesn't work. Even the strongest of people have to continually work at resolutions to keep them. And once they stop working at them, the resolution stops. Consider also reformed alcoholics. Even the most successful have to struggle every day to stay free. They even claim to still be alcoholics even if they are controlling the problem. But God wants us totally free, and really transformed, so that our struggle ends and wholesome behavior becomes natural. And it is faith in God's word that will being real transformation, just like it brought real change when we believed in Jesus. And the more we develop our faith in our new man and in what God's word says about us, the more we will change on the outside.

Trying to be the best Christians we can be won't work, but believing that we are already the best Christians we need to be will work.

Our development as Christians is just like our salvation and the new birth, where faith alone will bring a transformation that we cannot bring ourselves. It is a new way of living and thinking, but faith in God's word is the way God gave humanity to tap into his life and supernatural power, (and into the new creature within us). (Eph. 2:8-9)

Submitted by John B. Agati
Author of "Suffering (God's Will?)"

More information about this and an upcoming book, "Suffering, Unanswered Prayer, (And How to Fix the Whole Thing)," along with a short bio may be found at: http://www.jbagati.com/

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