The bible says, “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…” (2Cor. 5:17-18)
But how is it that I am a new creature? I know that when I accepted Christ some things changed. But how is it that I am completely new. I may feel different and see some things differently but I am still me. And how is it that old things are passed away? There are still a lot of old things that I have. I still have old thoughts, feelings, emotional and physical problems. And how is it that all things are of God? That just doesn’t seem possible. I still have a lot of things that are not of God in my life. Just what is this scripture talking about, and just how can it be true?
Well, Paul is talking about our spirit. You see, the bible teaches that man is made up of three separate parts; spirit, soul, and body, and when you accept Christ as your savior, it is your spirit that is so radically changed. Your soul, (which is “who” you are; and comprises your mind, will and emotions) and your body, (which is your physical body) may be affected to some degree, but it is your spirit that is made new, and made like God. And because your spirit is your nature, (the very essence of “what” you are), Paul can say “if any man be in Christ, “he” is a new creature… (See 1Thess. 5:23)
Before we accepted Jesus as our savior, (becoming “born again,”) our spirit was “dead” in sin. It is not that our spirit did not exist; but because of sin, it was simply separated from the “life” of God. But when we accepted Christ, our sins were forgiven, the life of God was birthed once again into our spirit, the characteristics of our old spirit (and old life) passed away, and our spirit became changed and new; spiritually alive, connected to God and as righteous as he is. “That’s” how we are new creatures in Christ. It is our spirit within us that is made new. How else can we be holy and perfect enough for heaven? It certainly it is not from the outside, from what we “see” of ourselves. It is our spirit that is “a new creation.” It is our spirit that is made righteous and Christ-like and holy and complete and qualified for heaven, not our flesh. (2Cor. 5:21)
But most Christian’s don’t look at themselves as they are in the spirit, which is new and Christ-like. Rather, they look at themselves as they are in their natural lives and in their behavior; with faults, weaknesses and sin. They live according to the flesh instead of according to the spirit. They do not understand what it means to “walk in the spirit,” and they live by works instead of faith, trying to be in good standing with God and trying to change themselves, and trying to be good enough and trying to add up. They “try” to be good Christians and pleasing to God rather than “believing” they are already pleasing to him. But you can never please God in the flesh. It is only by faith that you can please God and be in right standing with him, and it is only by faith that real outer change can be made in our lives. Now, I am not saying that we should not “try” to be good Christians. We have a “natural” life and should do the best we can in it, but it is not in the natural that we will gain or maintain a right standing with God. Nor is it by trying harder that we will bring any real transformation in our lives. It ALL must come by faith. (Rom. 7:18, Heb. 11:6)
The point I am making is that “living” our lives as Christians is no different than how we became Christians. It is by faith. It does not come by doing the best we can. To those who understand salvation and gaining eternal life, you know that being good enough will never attain eternal life for us. Being good enough is never good enough; it can never bring about forgiveness and the change in our spirit that is necessary. That has to come from God. And it is only through faith in what Jesus has done for us that God is able to “save” us. And it is the same after we are saved. Trying to please God and maintain our right standing with him or trying to bring “change” in our lives by doing the best we can is just not possible. We simply do not have the power within ourselves to do either. It too has to be done by faith. (Rom. 7:18, 2Cor. 5:7, Eph. 2:8-9)
Now let’s address another misconception which is connected to all of this. I had said that a man or a woman’s spirit is their very nature. It is the essence of what they are. And because of sin; before we are born again, our spirit (and thus the very essence of our being) is the nature of sin. But once we are born again, our spirit becomes the nature of righteousness and of God. None-the-less, because of the struggle we have with sin and sinful desires after we have accepted the Lord, many Christians believe that we have two natures; one that is the nature of God, and the other the nature of sin. But that is impossible. Let’s consider a simple illustration. Think for a moment of your neighbor’s pet dog. It has only one nature and that is the nature of a dog. That is because that is the very essence of its being. That is what it is. It cannot have a nature of a dog and a nature of a cat. It can only have one nature, not two. It is the same with Christians. They cannot have two natures. They cannot have a righteous nature AND a sin nature. They can have only one nature, and that is the nature of God. “That” is the very essence of their being. The struggle we have with sin and sinful desires does not come from a sinful nature. It comes from our flesh. Paul clearly explains this in the book of Romans when he says that the reason he cannot do good even though he wants to is because of sin in his flesh. It is not because he has a sin nature. He said clearly that his sin nature was dead and gone. (Rom. 6:6-7, 7:17-20)
Now the reason that we still have sin in our flesh is because our flesh is not yet redeemed. It is not yet changed like our spirit is. We are waiting for the redemption of our bodies which will take place at the resurrection. It is then that all those who during their lives had accepted Christ as their savior will receive new and immortal bodies, like the one Jesus received when “he” was resurrected. Until then we must deal with bodies that are corruptible, susceptible to sickness, suffering and death. (Rom. 8:21-23, 1Cor. 15:51-54)
But we are not helpless or bound to a life of sickness, and suffering, and struggling with sin. God has made it so that our soul can be a “bridge” to our new spirit and through our soul we can gain a “transformation” in our bodies and in our behavior. What I mean is this. Instead of believing that we are like we see in the flesh we can choose to believe that we are like we are in our new spirit. And that kind of faith will, over the course of time, transform us on the outside into what we are already on the inside. (Rom. 12:1-2) Paul calls this “walking in the spirit.” This is the only way a Christian can have peace with God and confidence in their salvation. And it is the only way they can have victory over sin. Paul said, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” (Gal. 3:16-17, 2Cor. 5:7)
It takes a while for this concept to sink in. It is not natural. It is spiritual. It is living by faith and not by sight. And simply put, that means to believe what God’s word says about you (or anything else) even if it is different than what you see in this world. Your faith will then change what you see. It will be done unto you according to your faith. So, if you begin to think of yourself strictly as God says your new spirit is, a transformation will begin. The power of God’s word will begin to transform you into exactly what it says your spirit is, empowering you to live a Christ-like life in every way. If you believe that you are a saint, and perfect in Christ, you will be able to live righteously, healthfully, wisely, and powerfully. Your faith will be a bridge to your new spirit. However, if you believe you are a sinner and incomplete and imperfect, seeing yourself as you are in the natural; you will be bound by the very things you believe. You will have used your faith as a bridge to your flesh.
Believing is the course of the day since Jesus instituted the New Testament. The Old Testament was about what man was required to do. And that proved impossible. The New Testament is what man is required to believe. It is faith that will attain for us forgiveness and eternal life, it is faith that will bring peace and rest in God, and it is faith that will free us from problems we experience, enabling us to grow and develop and walk the Christian life.
You don’t need to become a better Christian. You need to believe that you are the best Christian you need to be. You don’t need to become more loving and forgiving. You need to believe that you are already loving and forgiving. You don’t need to try to get healed. You need to believe that you are healed already. And all of this faith will be based on the truth of what your new spirit is.
Jesus said this, “It is the spirit that quickeneth, (or gives life) the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (Jn. 6:63) It is in believing the word of God that brings life and results. Trying harder does not. We are called to believe, not work. It is God’s word that will work. In the book of Isaiah, God said this about his word. “…it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing that I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11)
It is up us to believe and to live by faith and it is up to the word of God to accomplish that which it says; and if we believe God’s word that is exactly what it will do…! Like it says in the book of Zechariah, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit (that is my word) saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zech. 4:6, parenthesis mine)
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: www. jbagati.com