Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year, New Man

 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Since we are on the verge of the new year 2016, and 2015 is about to pass away, this seemed like an appropriate passage for New Year's Eve. This verse also happens to be a favorite of mine. One reason is because it is one of those verses that has shown itself to be so helpful. In a world plagued by false conversions and false professions of faith, it is one of those foundational verses which help us discern not only the truth of other people's faith, but even more importantly, our own.

Of course you might ask, what exactly does it mean for a person to be "in Christ" as the verse phrases it. Perhaps the best answer is found in John chapter 15. Jesus, speaking to his disciples, said this.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:1-5) 

This metaphor compares us to branches on a vine that is Jesus Christ. The branches depend upon the vine for sustenance, just as a Christian depends on God's word. The branches of a vine are the means by which the vine bears its fruit, just as the Christian is Jesus' chosen way of building his kingdom. In other words, the person who is abiding in the vine, or in Christ, is the genuine believer.

Of course 2 Corinthians 5:17 is not the only place we find that speaks of one who is "in Christ" as being a new creature.

In Ephesians 4 we read this:

But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning your former manner of life the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24)

Now, since the Christian is commanded to put off the old man and put on the new, it may lead one to believe that this becoming a new creature, is an act of your own will. That is true at least on one level, for from our point of view it is a matter of deciding to do, and then to do it. However, the other side of that coin can be found in Paul's letter to the Philippians where he says this: For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)

In other words, it is God who works in you to change your will so that you want to do what pleases him. God doesn't force you, the Christian, to do things you don't want to, but in his grace and mercy he gently and imperceptibly changes your will, so that it conforms to his will. The results of this change in your will, which we might call the new creature, is found in numerous places in scripture, among them Ephesians 4 where we just left off a moment ago.

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:25-32)

The bottom line is that for the true Christian, at some point in their life there will have been a change. They will have become a new creature. Their old way of life will have passed away. Everything will have become new including their desires. They will desire to please God rather than fulfill the lusts of the flesh. If you have never experienced such a change and the concept is foreign to you, it should be a matter of grave concern. In Paul's letter to the church of Corinth he urges them: Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

We began with this text: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

Have you examined yourself in light of this scripture?

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