*Scriptural References: John 5:24, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:4-6, 1 Peter 2:9-10, Revelation 5:10, Luke 19:17, Galatians 3:26, John 1:12-13, Hebrews 11:6, Galatians 2:20, 1 John 2:2, 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, and Romans 12:1-2.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17, NKJV).
At one point or another, everyone will disagree with someone they care about. Disagreements can often lead to hurt feelings and broken relationships, as both sides of an argument want their interests validated, and neither sees beyond their desires. In all its sinfulness, human nature is, above all, selfish. We seek to do things that make us feel good, and what we determine is true. In today’s worldly understanding, truth is subjective to a person’s experiences and desires. Others find their concept of subjective truth in their culture. In human selfishness, we often break relationships with those we care about and have little trouble placing our desires, wants, and needs above a stranger's. Where brokenness exists, reconciliation cries out for mending.
On a grander scale, we find the root of nearly every war in human history in the greed, power, and profit of a select few. This type of selfishness should not characterize a Christian but, sadly, does often. Christians must understand that we were once separated from God by our sins, selfish nature, and subjective truths. Frombirth, humanity inherited Adam’s sin (original sin). Because of our sinful nature (original sin), we choose to lie, cheat, steal, kill, commit sexual immorality, worship demons dressed as idols, gossip, practice witchcraft, and seek our own worldly interests (intentional sin). Original sin breeds intentional sin, and thus all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23-24). But God loved us enough to send His only begotten Son to be our sin sacrifice (John 3:16), so we can be reconciled to Him. When we repent, believe the Gospel, and choose to follow Jesus, we are reconciled to God through the blood of Christ. We have been freed from slavery to sin and made a new creation. As a new creation, Christian character and conduct are not to be conformed to habits of intentional sin but be transformed through continual sanctification into the image of Christ. In so doing, the old nature has passed away, and the new man is born.
We begin our journey as a new creation through faith that activates God’s grace. Our new birth is for the sake of good works, not for selfish gain or sinful behavior. This is one of the purposes of our salvation. It is more than eternal life when we die. That eternal life begins at salvation, as we become agents of heaven through our righteous thoughts, words, and deeds. By obedience to Christ’s commandment to love others, we become children of light in a dark world, pointing people to the radiance of Christ’s salvation. Just as the moon reflects the sun’s light, so must we reflect the light of the Son.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My words and believe in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24, NKJV).
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:8-9, NKJV).
The next step on the journey is found in water baptism. In water baptism, we are buried with Christ and raised out of the water to live a new life. Baptism is more than a symbolic act but is a part of the new creation process. It unites each believer in Christ’s death and resurrection and joins us in the Church. The division of race, culture, denomination, gender, and nationality are erased, and we all become one in Jesus. Have you been baptized in water? If not, I strongly encourage you to be baptized as soon as possible. This is in keeping with Christ’s example and conforms to the early church’s witness in the Book of Acts.
“Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so, we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also should be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” (Rom. 6:4-6, NKJV).
As new creatures, we should not face an identity crisis but walk confidently in who we are in Christ. The world’s Sinners change whom they are based on social agendas, cultural differences, and political structures. Christians do not have that problem. Peter shares who we are, and his words echo through the ages to us today.
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Pet. 2: 9-10, NKJV).
Peter contrasts the old man’s and the new man’s identity. God has chosen each of His children. We did not desire God at one point in our old selves. But His Spirit convicted us of sin, and we realized our need for a Savior. This took the intermediary of a man or woman of God sharing the Gospel message with us, either in word or deed, but more than likely both (Rom. 10:14). In that moment of Holy Spirit conviction, God chose us to be His child if we would have faith. We became chosen by God. What a powerful reality for us today! God chose each of us and has a specific purpose for our lives. When you feel like the world is against you and nobody seems to care, take comfort in knowing that God chooses you. He has not rejected you but chose you among all others to change the world for someone else. He has given us a specific anointing, calling, and mission unique to our individual gifts, talents, and abilities. What each of us does for God is only possible for us individually. Someone who is lost is waiting on you to speak out so they can come to Christ. You are chosen for that purpose. Begin to walk in it.
Those who are a new creation are a royal priesthood. As royal priests and priestesses, we are not reliant on a special clerical order to mediate between God and us. Rather, we are called to all be ministers and evangelists of the Lord in our families, businesses, and daily life. This is contrary to the institutional church’s separation of clergy and laity, which has defined Christianity for nearly 1500 years. More than just priests, we are made into royalty because we become sons and daughters of the maker of the universe.
“And have made us kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:10, NKJV).
We are learning to reign in righteousness while in our mortal flesh. When Christ returns to reign in Jerusalem for 1000 years, we will be placed in charge of certain parts of Christ’s kingdom according to His determination. Jesus makes this clear in the Parable of the Minas in Luke 19:1-27. Illustrating the point, we see verse 17, where Jesus states, “And he said to him, well done, good and faithful servant. Because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.” The stipulation is faithfulness. Therefore, the condition of our continued identity is based on our faithfulness to Him. Faithfulness is one of the defining characteristics of the new creation and the new life we have in Christ Jesus. We must be faithful to Jesus, even facing persecution, prison, and death.
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26, NKJV).
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13, NKJV).
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6, NKJV).
We are those who proclaim the praises of Christ Jesus. Praise is adoration and approval of God. When we praise, we affirm Christ’s lordship and rule. Praise demonstrates to the world that Christ lives in us, and we are His servants. We proclaim the praises of Christ because He has brought us out of darkness and into His light through our belief in the Gospel message. Therefore, proclaiming praise is also a declaration of the Gospel’s salvific effect in our lives, a testimony to the world of our allegiance to Christ, and an act of humility in our own inefficiency to atone for our sins apart from Him. This is not an act of lifting or clapping our hands, singing, or dancing during music exclusively, but a lifestyle of adoring and thankfully expressing the Gospel message, the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work, and the hope of salvation with those around us.
Our new life in Christ often conflicts with a dead man's desires. Our old man is put to death when we place our faith in Christ and are buried with Him in baptism. Paul states it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20, NKJV). It is no longer I that lives. Whom you see before you now teaching this lesson is not the same person that existed 25 years ago, just as the person you see staring back at you in the mirror is not the same person that existed before faith in Christ. Yet this conflict we face is a struggle between the fleshly desires of a dead man and the righteousness of Christ that must be manifested in our lives. In the struggle, we often miss the mark and fall to sin. But the Lord will forgive us of our sins if we ask Him and turn from sinful behavior (1 John 1:9). We can expect to battle the temptations of the flesh that lead us to sin. Just as a child learning to ride a bike will fall, the more practice they get riding, the less likely they are to fall. But the child must be committed to learning how to ride a bike without falling, just as a believer must live this life to the best of their ability without sinning. It is easy to get upset with ourselves or give into the devil’s lies that we are not good enough for Jesus. Satan will whisper lies into our minds that our sins are too great for Christ’s blood to atone, that we are useless failures who will never learn to live outside of sin, and that the habits of our old lives are too great to overcome. Yet the only insufficient sacrifice was that of animals before Christ. Jesus is the all-sufficient sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:1-10). Because Christ died for us, it becomes our reasonable service to present ourselves to God as holy. We must not conform to the world but be transformed by the Word of God so that our deeds reflect Christ.
“I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:1-2)
“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2, NKJV).
We are not capable of earning salvation through our works. This is one way that Christianity is distinguished from all other religions. Christ’s way is not through any effort of our own. God provided a sacrifice for Himself in Christ so that humanity need only believe for salvation. We must place our full trust in Christ’s sacrifice, for He is the propitiation for our sins. The term ‘propitiation’ means to regain God’s favor and goodwill. In the Old Covenant, the term was used to define the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant, where the lamb’s blood was poured during the Day of Atonement so that the sins of Israel would be forgiven. This is an appropriate term for Christ’s salvific work. His blood removes our sins, and as such, we regain God’s favor and goodwill.
“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:20-21, NKJV).
The New Year represents a new beginning and a fresh start. As we step into this new year, let us commit to one another to live as Christians should, not conformed to a prideful, selfish world but transformed by a renewed mind into the image of Christ. We are in this world as pilgrims journeying to our eternal reward. But while here, we are to reflect Christ’s righteousness in our words, thoughts, and deeds. We must become flames of fire, providing warmth and light in a dark, cold world. Let us be ignited with a renewed passion for Christ, righteousness, and ministry purpose. Let us shake off the chains of sin and embrace our freedom in Christ Jesus. For behold, all things are new!