The Bible says we are to be new creations of Christ, and we put on the new self, so how’s that possible?
The Old Self
Years ago, when I came to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, I was sick and tired of my old life, my old sins, and my old self. It was obviously the conviction of the Holy Spirit that brought me to a recognition that I was abiding in the wrath of God since I had yet not trusted in Christ (John 3:36b). I realized I would not be able to stand on my own on the Day of Judgment (Rev 20:12-15), but I also understood that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom10:9), and I did confess that; publically at baptism and publically among my friends and family. By the way, this new birth was not my own idea (John3:3-7; Eph 1). It was the Spirit of God Who taught me; the Son of God Who bought me; and the Father God Who sought me (John 6:44). All Three Persons of the Trinity were all actively involved in my conversion, so I thought, “Now what?”
The New Self
The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about the new and old, as in the new man and woman, and the old man and woman. He wrote, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col 3:1-2). Some of this came naturally. For example, I no longer desired to participate or watch sinful activities and I began to think about what Christ taught in His Word. I was drawn to the Gospel of John. My mind slowly began to shift from the things below to the things on high, but even this is to His glory, for none seeks after God (Rom 3:10-12) without the Spirit of God, so “those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Rom 8:5b) and not the things of the flesh…at least not as much as I did before regeneration. Only by the Spirit of God can we “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5). A new creation in Christ “must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Col 3:8). As we put those things away, we “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col 3:12-13). Those were all new to me, just as the others were now all old to me (Col 3:5). I still fall. We all do, but we get back up, repent of it, and confess it to God, and move on. The old self never even gave things like that a second thought. The new self now has disgust when those things come to the surface.
A New Creation
Once again, the Apostle Paul writes about the new man or woman, so to speak, although we recognize we can do nothing without Christ’s help (John 15:5), and anything of consequence that we do, is because Christ’s strengthening us (Phil 4:13). We can do all things, but only through Christ. Those things we do for Christ will obviously be God’s will, but we must also see that we can do absolutely nothing without Christ. Having understood this, Paul says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). The old things (Col 3:5) are slowly replaced by the new things (Col 3:12-13). There will never be a point of sinless-ness this side of the kingdom, but we should be sinning less over time. This “new creation” is not of human origin, but has its origin outside of ourselves. After we trust in Christ, the wrath of God has been lifted, and we are no longer condemned and can be at peace with God (Rom 5:1, 8:1), however, it was not by our works or effort, or for our sakes that God cleansed us (Eph 2:8-9), but rather, it was “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Without the righteousness of Christ, we cannot stand before God, even with the best of good works. Without Christ, our works are nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Those who are boasting about their works may be those that Christ rejects on the Day of Judgment, and it won’t be just a few; it will be many! The many verses the few (Matt 7:21-23). Naturally, a new creation in Christ will do works for Christ’s glory, but they will do them with the understanding that their works don’t save them. They are saved to do works (Eph 2:10), but not saved by works, however, if there are no works, then that presents a problem. The person might have a dead faith, which is no faith at all (James 2:14-26).
Works and Rewards
Jesus said that we should not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing (Matt 6:3), meaning we shouldn’t keep track of all we do for Christ. If we remember our good works, and don’t let others forget about them, then God may forget them, but if we forget them, God will remember them. We see this indicated in Matthew 25 where believers were so Christ-centered and mission-oriented, that they didn’t even realize all that they had done for Him (Matt 25:25-39), but Christ told them “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40). And that is in radical contrast for those who do nothing for Him (Matt 25:31-46). Will you hear, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34), or “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41).
If we are a new creation in Christ, we will do new things for Christ. We will do new things by the power of the Holy Spirit and the strengthening of Christ, but we will also stop the old things we used to do and stop feeding the flesh. Of course we’ll still sin, but we will sin less in our Christian life over time than when we were without Christ. We get a call from Copernicus, telling us we’re not the center of the universe. The Son is the center…the Son of God. As John the Baptist put is so well: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). I fine with that.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.