The word “new” is a vibrant word and has attractions in many ways. People desire a new car, a new house, or a new wardrobe. Some of the underlying reasons are that “new” represents trouble-free motoring, clean, substantial housing, and moth-free durable clothing. In comparison, the “new life” is trouble-free, clean, and substantial living is its strong trait, and the garment of righteousness is durable and mothproof. Webster defines “free” as “renovated or recreated.” Let us press this thought further and see the value and responsibility of the new.
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). This is but one of the many statements found in the writings of the apostles and in the teaching of Christ, indicating that becoming a Christian and following Christ is much more than a matter of “joining a church,” subscribing to its doctrines, and supporting its activities. Elsewhere Paul expresses it thus:
- “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:2).
- “Lie not one to another seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man” (Colossians 3:9, 10).
- And again, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
Jesus perhaps put the thought in the strongest words when he said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The terms “crucified” “put off the old” “born again,” “transformed,” “a new creature,” all suggest that a complete transformation must occur in the heart, life, and status of one who truly becomes a follower of Christ.
In the first place, in becoming a Christian, one has attained an entirely new status. Before, he was “without Christ, having no hope and without God in the world; but now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:12, 13). Before that, he, like all the rest of the world, was guilty before God. Now he is in Christ.
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace”(Ephesians 1:7). He had been the servant of sin, but “ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:16, 17). Having now died “to sin,” and been “buried with him in baptism into his death” he has been raised with Christ “to walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:2-4). Having washed his robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb he is now clothed with “the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
In Christ, one has achieved a new relationship to God and to his Son. Having been born again, he has become a child of God.
- “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name, who were born, not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13).
- “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put or Christ” (Galatians 3:26, 27).
- “And if children then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).
- Heirs of what? Of “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4).
- “In my Father’s house are many mansions: I go to prepare a place for you,” said Jesus (John 14:12).
Belief in this promise, confirmed by his resurrection and ascension, gave the disciples new hope in life and sustained them in all their later trials. Life was no longer circumscribed by the limitations of time and the flesh. Life is eternal! With this thought in mind, the child of God will “set his mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” He will seek first “the kingdom of God and His righteousness” rather than giving first place to the pursuit of material things.
In every human being, there are two conflicting forces, each seeking to control our activities and to determine our attitude toward life. One is called the flesh, the carnal man; the other the spirit, or inner man. The flesh is essentially selfish, seeking satisfaction by gratifying carnal desires, appetites, and lusts. Unrestrained it leads to all manner of excess, greed, malice, and hatred, all characteristic of the flesh. Frustration of fleshly desires often leads to acts of violence, sometimes to self-destruction. Paul teaches us that “they that are in the flesh (under the control of the flesh) cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). The inner man aspires to higher things. Its satisfaction is found in acts of kindness and love, in unselfish service to humanity, in bringing comfort and cheer to human hearts, in promoting peace and goodwill among men, in bringing under control the fleshly nature so it will serve the ends for which it was created. But the conflict between these forces never ceases.
The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (Galatians 5:17).
Depressed by this incessant struggle, Paul once asked,
O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Later he gives a forceful answer to his own question:
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify (control) the deeds of the body ye shall live (Romans 8:13).
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you…and if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin: but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:9,10).
Here, we have three expressions, all having the same application. “The Spirit of God dwells in you…have the Spirit of Christ…Christ be in you.” We may ask, how does Christ, his Spirit, and God’s Spirit dwell in us? Hear the inspired answer: “For this cause, I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant unto you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:14-16). How will His Spirit dwell in our hearts by faith?
We answer through his word, for “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17).
Jesus said, “If any man love me, he will keep my commandments; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).
God through Jeremiah foretold the giving of the New Covenant of Christ: “I will put my law in their minds, and write them in their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). This was not true of the old covenant, which they came under by fleshly birth. The laws were written on stones, not on the hearts. Men come under the New Covenant by being “born again”, hearing the word, believing in Christ, and receiving him into our hearts. They were “born, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (I Peter 1:23). Thus Christ dwells in the heart by faith, and enables one to overcome life’s manifold temptations. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4).
When a person becomes a new creature by believing the testimony regarding Christ repents of his sins, confesses Christ before men, and is then baptized into Christ for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38) he definitely has new responsibilities, and a new relationship. He has a new Father-God instead of Satan, he has a new day, the Lord’s day. Mans’ spiritual condition can generally be determined by what he does on the Lord’s day. The early disciples assembled on that day for worship (Acts 20:7). Let us imitate the apostolic pattern! If you are a new creature, you will give that day to God. It is time to awaken to spiritual realities lest we live as animals, not knowing one day from another.