The New Has Come

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 ESV

4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4 ESV

22 …put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV

Paul emphatically claims that those who are in Christ are new creations. Their old way of life, what Paul refers to as the life “according to the flesh” is gone, having been crucified with Christ on the cross. And, according to Paul, this former life of the flesh was marked by a focus on self, but the new life, made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection, is to be focused on His glory.

But what does all this really mean? What’s the practical reality of all this talk of new creations, new life, and the new self? Because as good as it sounds, the fact is, every Christian still wrestles daily with the very real presence of their old self. Paul even commands us to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life” (Ephesians 4:22 ESV). Yet, he told the Corinthian believers that “the old has passed away” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). Which is it? Is the old self gone or do I have to put it off? If my old self died with Christ on the cross, why does it seem so very much alive and active in my life?

We tend to read passages like this with a black-and-white, either-or mindset. We hear Paul saying we are new creations and we expect to be able to live like it. When he tells us that the old is gone, we take him at his word and then wonder why it doesn’t seem to be true in our own lives. Which leads us to either question the reliability of Paul’s words or the veracity of our own salvation.

But there’s an important distinction that Paul makes in his letter to the Corinthians. In verse 16 he states, “we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16 NLT). The Net Bible translates that verse this way: “from now on we acknowledge no one from an outward human point of view.”

Much of what Paul is saying in these verses has to do with our perspective, the way we view things. As Christians, we are to view life through a different lens than we did before. We have a new, Spirit-enabled way of looking at life, because we have had our spiritual eyes opened to the truth. Prior to coming to faith in Christ, each of us suffered from spiritual blindness, and were incapable of seeing things from a spiritual perspective. Back in chapter four, Paul described the sad state of those outside of Christ.

Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT

Not only are they unable to see the glorious light of the Good News, they can’t see the reality of their own spiritual darkness. They are stuck on a physical plane where all their attention becomes focused on what they can see with their physical eyes. They are relegated to judging life and one another by external criteria alone. But when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the life of the believer, it’s as if he or she receives the spiritual equivalent of Lasik surgery. Paul describes this spiritual eye surgery this way:

…people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. – 1 Corinthians 2:14 NLT

The Spirit of God allows us to see life the way God does, and God sees us as new creations, because we have been born again. This is the gist of the conversation that took place between Jesus and Nicodemus, a Pharisee. Jesus dropped the somewhat cryptic bombshell on Nicodemus: “unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NLT). And when Nicodemus expressed his confusion over Jesus’s words, Jesus responded, “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:6-7 NLT).

Being born again is another way of expressing the new life to which Paul refers. With the new birth comes a new nature that allows a Christ-follower to see life with eyes wide open. No more blindness. No spiritual cataracts blurring our vision and giving us a distorted view of ourselves and the world around us. The Spirit of God gives us new eyes and a capacity to see things the way God does. That is why Paul says, “from now on we acknowledge no one from an outward human point of view.” We aren’t deceived or distracted by the outer manifestations of religious behavior or self-manufactured displays of righteousness – in ourselves or others. We aren’t impressed by the superficial signs of religious achievement that are really nothing more than dirty rags in the eyes of God. Instead, we see ourselves as God does: As new creatures. Like Paul, we are able to say, “The old has passed away—look, what is new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NET).

That doesn’t mean our old nature is dead and gone. But it does mean that it no longer holds sway over us. We are no longer slaves to our old way of living. And we are no longer blind to worthless nature of that old nature. It has no value. It brings nothing good to the table. And Paul is stressing that by focusing on our new nature – who we are in Christ – we’re able to treat our old nature with the disdain it deserves.

We’re able to recognize and believe that walking in newness of life is not only possible, but unavoidable. But we have to constantly remind ourselves that we are new creatures. We have new natures. We have a new power within us that makes a new way of living possible for us. Paul encourages us to remember that our new self has been “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness{ (Ephesians 4:24 ESV). That is the essence of our new nature. 

You are not a slightly new-and-improved version of the old you. Becoming a believer wasn’t a case of God whitewashing over your old sinful nature. No, He put that old nature to death on the cross. And Paul describes that unbelievable reality in very powerful terms.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatains 2:20 NLT

A big part of understanding what Paul is saying comes with a change in our perspective. We have been trained to think of ourselves as works in process. We are always viewing ourselves as unfinished and incomplete. Most of us have grown up on a steady diet of achievement-based messaging. We’re never good enough, smart enough, thin enough, athletic enough, rich enough, popular enough, or even spiritual enough. So, we do more. We study harder. We exercise more often. We eat less. We attend more Bible studies.

But Paul would have us think before we act. He would encourage us to see ourselves as God sees us. We are new creations. As Paul told the believers in Ephesus:

…we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10 NLT

This is not about us doing everything in our power to become what God desires for us to be. It is about us accepting the reality of who He has already made us in Christ. He has already created us anew. We are already new creations. We are not flawed creatures trying to improve ourselves so God will accept us. We are children of God, fully acceptable to God because of what Jesus Christ had done for us. He “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves” (2 Corinthians 5:15 ESV).

His death made our new life possible. We live new lives, not so we can be accepted by God, but because we have been accepted by God. As Paul put it, the life we live, we live by faith in the Son of God. Living according to our new nature begins with believing that we really do have new natures. It is resting in the knowledge that newness of life is not some kind of unachievable goal to be pursued, but a status to be embraced and believed.

That is why Paul so strongly emphasizes our relationship with Christ. It is not about us and all that we have to do. It is about Him and all that He has done on our behalf.

…just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. – Romans 6:4 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

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Accomplishing the Impossible.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

These two verses contain two of the most stunning and intimidating admonitions to be found in the entire Scriptures. Paul begins this chapter with the word, “Therefore.” It would be like saying, “With all that in mind…” He was referring back to his earlier call to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1 ESV). He was also taking into account all that he had just said about putting off the old self and putting on the new self, which is “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24 ESV). He has called his readers to a life of transformation, made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Their attitudes and actions should be radically different. Their interactions with one another should be marked by gentleness, kindness, patience, selflessness, and love. He concluded chapter four by saying, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).

Now he gives them two simple steps to seeing that their behavior matches what they say they believe: First, imitate God. Second, love like Christ. If we stop long enough to consider what Paul is really saying, our response should be one of incredulity. Are you kidding me, Paul? Have you lost your mind? You want me to imitate God? You expect me to love like Christ loved me? Do you have any idea what you are saying? You are asking the impossible. And in a certain sense, Paul is asking the impossible. There is no man or woman alive who can accomplish these two things on their own. But those to whom Paul was writing were not ordinary men and women. They were children of God, called and gifted by Him, filled with His Holy Spirit and recipients of a new nature. They were free to what they had never been able to do before: live godly lives that please and honor God. And as children of God, it would only be natural for them to imitate their heavenly Father. It would be normal and expected for them to see what He does and do likewise. God is gracious and merciful. So should they be. God is loving and patient. They should be as well. God hates sin. So should they. God is holy. And they were expected to be as well. The apostle Peter wrote, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy” (1 Peter 1:15 NLT). But he wasn’t the first to say this. He had heard similar words from Jesus Himself. “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NLT). And Jesus was basically quoting from Leviticus 19:2, where God said to the people of Israel, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” God was not asking for perfection. Neither was Jesus or Peter. What they were encouraging was a life of set-apartness or distinctiveness, a life that emulated the character and heart of God, not of this world. 

When God calls us, He sets us apart as His own. We become His possession. We are adopted into His family and become His children. As such, we are to live according to His terms and to obey His will for our lives. Paul told the believers in Corinth, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV). We glorify God when we live out our lives in obedience to His will and in imitation of His own character. When we extend mercy and grace to those who don’t deserve it, we are imitating God. When we show kindness to those in need, we are imitating God. When we love the unlovely and unlovable, we are imitating God. When we despise sin so much that we refuse to participate in it, we are imitating God.

Not long before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples about the coming day of judgment, when God would call all those who had come to faith during the great tribulation. They would come to stand before the Lord and He would say to them:

Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

Then these righteous ones will reply, “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?”

And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” – Matthew 25:34-40 NLT

These men and women who will come to faith in Christ during the most horrific period in human history, will do the unthinkable and improbable. They will risk their lives to show the love and mercy of God to those who are suffering alongside them during the tribulation. And their actions will be in imitation of God and an expression of love to His Son.

Which leads us to the second part of Paul’s admonition. Love like Christ. Actually, Paul says, “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ” (Ephesians 5:2 NLT). Our lives are to be characterized by the love of Christ. His love was selfless and sacrificial. His love led Him to give His life. Jesus said that there was no greater expression of love than for someone to lay down their life for another (John 15:13). The apostle John takes this thought one step further by writing, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16 NLT). The amazing thing about this is that God does not require us to actually die. He simply asks us to die to self, to give up our rights. He calls us to “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NLT). He expects us to “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10 ESV). He desires for us to exhibit “tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12 NLT).

Imitate God. Love like Christ. They sound impossible, but they’re not. Peter reminds us, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT). Paul knew it was possible, which is why he told the Philippian church, “Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philipiians 2:15 NLT). As impossible and improbably as it may sound, we can live like God and love like Christ.

Transformed.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:25-32 ESV

What does it look like to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1 ESV)? And what would it mean to “no longer walk as the Gentiles do” (Ephesians 4:17 ESV)? Paul doesn’t leave anything up to our imaginations. While at one time, before coming to know Christ, we had futile minds and a darkened understanding, all that has changed. We used to be alienated from God and were ignorant of godly things because we had hardened hearts. We were callous, sensual by nature and greedy for more and more impurity. That was our old self. But when we came to know Christ, we were given a new nature, a new self, with the capacity to renew and redeem our entire way of thinking. And the way we think has a tremendous impact on the way we live. Which is why Paul encouraged his readers to “put on thew new self, created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24 ESV). Then he described what that should look like in real life.

One of the first characteristics of our new life should be truth. Everything about our life outside of Christ was marked by falsehood and based on lies. Our view of God, if we had one, was false. Our perspective on sin and any need for salvation was flawed and influenced by the lies of Satan. We probably didn’t think we were that bad. Our view of our own sinfulness was relative, allowing us to see ourselves as somewhat better than others. But when we came to know Christ, we were suddenly exposed to the truth regarding our sin and the condemnation we deserved. We realized for the first time that any hope we had for restoration to a right relationship with God was possible only through Christ. We became aware that we were sinners in need of a Savior. We came to grips with the reality of God’s unapproachable holiness and our own unrighteousness. The magnitude of God’s incredible love as revealed through the death of His Son on the cross dawned on our darkened minds and opened our blind eyes to the truth of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

As believers we are to put away falsehood and deceit. We have to constantly eliminate the false ideas and faulty precepts on which we formerly based our lives. Instead, we are to “speak the truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25 ESV). While lying was a natural part of our former lives, it is uncharacteristic and unacceptable in our new status as members of God’s family. We are to exhibit holiness and righteousness. For us, honesty isn’t just the best policy, it is the only one. While anger was a normal part of our pre-conversion experience, now we should view it as dangerous and destructive. While we can’t completely eliminate anger from our lives, we can learn to control it. Which is why Paul wrote (quoting from Psalm 4:4), “‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV). Our old nature will try and justify our anger. It will want to defend it by labeling it as “righteous indignation.” But anger simply provides an entry point for the enemy. As believers, love is to be the primary characteristic of our lives. 

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus told those listening to His message:

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:44-48 ESV

Salvation is not just about having our sins forgiven and our eternity secured. It is about life change. It includes our ongoing transformation through God’s divine process of sanctification. God doesn’t just free us from the penalty of sin, He liberates us from the power of sin in our lives, allowing us to live radically different lives right here, right now. As a result, the thief who comes to faith in Christ, is to no longer steal. He is to work. And rather than take from others, he is to share what he earns with those in need. His whole mindset about life is to change. As believers, our speech should reflect our new nature. Paul writes, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT). Again, notice the change in perspective. It is other-oriented, rather than me-centered. Our words are to build up, not tear down.

As believers, our conduct can grieve the Holy Spirit. When we live like we used to live, according to our old nature, we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to direct our lives, and this brings Him great sorrow. When bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander mark our lives, it is evidence that we are not living in the power of the Holy Spirit. These things are evidences of our old nature. But when we exhibit kindness, tenderness and forgiveness to one another, it is proof that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, producing His fruit through us. We are walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called. We are living in unity. We are being renewed and putting on our new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Called to Stand Out.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV

Futile minds. Darkened understandings. Alienated from God. Ignorant. Hardened hearts. Callous. Slaves to sensuality. Greedy for more impurity.

Paul doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture of the condition of those outside of Christ. But his purpose seems to be less about exposing the sinful nature of the lost, than about reminding the Ephesian believers of their pre-conversion state. Prior to coming to faith in Christ, they had been in the same condition: Lost and alienated from God. Verse 17 is directly linked to verse one of this same chapter. Paul opened up the chapter by telling them, “I…urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Now he is telling them how not to walk. As we have seen before, the Greek word translated “walk” is περιπατέω (peripateō) and it meant “to make one’s way, progress” and was most often used by Paul to refer to living life. Paul was encouraging the believers in the church of Ephesus to live their lives differently, because they had been called by God. Rather than living selfish, self-gratifying lives like they did before, they were to conduct themselves in such a way that it honored the One who had called them and restore them to a right relationship with Himself.

Paul’s emphasis on his readers’ previous lost condition was intended to emphasize their supernatural calling by God. In their lost state, their minds were a big part of the problem. Without Christ, their minds were futile, which in the Greek meant “devoid of truth and appropriateness.” Their understanding was darkened. In other words, their thoughts, feelings and desires were “covered with darkness.” That is why the apostle John opened his gospel with the words, “In Him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5 NASB). Without God’s help, men were incapable of seeing the Light. They were covered in and blinded by darkness. Like a person trapped in a dark room who suddenly finds himself exposed to the daylight, their eyes are incapable of seeing clearly and distinctly. Their eyes are so accustomed to darkness that the light is painful to them. John goes on to say, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:8-9 NASB).

Paul went on to say that his readers were at one time “alienated from the life of God.” The Greek word Paul used means to “shut out from one’s fellowship and intimacy” (“G526 – apallotrioō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).”” Blue Letter Bible). They had not concept of what it meant to know God or have a relationship with Him. It was King David who wrote:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
    there is none who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
    to see if there are any who understand,
    who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
    there is none who does good,
    not even one. – Psalm 14:1-3 ESV

No one was truly seeking God. They might have been searching for their particular version of God, but they were incapable of seeing or comprehending the one true God. That is why, as Paul writes in Romans, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:22-23 ESV). And Paul makes it clear to the Ephesians that their former alienation from God had been the result of their own ignorance and hardness of heart. The ignorance Paul speaks of is not just a lack of knowledge, but a moral blindness. And that, coupled with their hardened hearts, rendered them incapable of knowing God or His truth. Their perceptions had been dulled and their minds, blunted. As a result, they found themselves addicted to sensuality and insatiably drawn to more and more impurity. 

And Paul’s point seems to be that no one who finds themselves in that condition chooses to seek after God or has the mental wherewithal to choose Christ. No one with a darkened, hardened, futile mind would naturally seek what God has offered to them in Christ. It would make no sense. Which is why Paul told the Corinthian believers, “when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense” (1 Corinthians 1:23 NLT). Paul told the Ephesians, “that is not the way you learned Christ!” In other words, they had not come to a knowledge of Jesus through their own human thinking. They learned Jesus through what Paul called “the foolishness of preaching.”

God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. – 1 Corinthians 1:21 NLT

It had been the proclamation of the Word of God and the regenerating power of the Spirit of God that had made the message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ comprehensible to them. Paul reminded them that “the truth is in Jesus.” And that truth called for them to “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God — truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NLT). Their old natures were corrupt and deceived. Their new natures, provided to them by the indwelling Holy Spirit were capable of new thoughts, attitudes and actions. They were to walk in a manner worthy of their calling – holy, set apart, distinctively different, empowered by the Spirit and in keeping with the will of God. Change is non-optional for believers. Spiritual transformation is not up to us to choose or reject – at least, and not truly be a child of God. Our new natures should crave and desire the things of God. We should want what He wants for us: holiness and righteousness. And our new natures, lived within the context of the body of Christ, should produce a new community that is unlike anything the world has ever seen. Called and committed believers, powered by the Spirit of God and living as brothers and sisters in Christ, should form “a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21 ESV). Our lives, lived together in unity, should prove to the world that the gospel is true and that reconciliation with God brings reconciliation with others. 

 

 


Good Fruit.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. – Galatians 5:22-26 ESV

When we live according to or under the control of the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to worry about producing the works of the flesh. His power can only produce good fruit, those characteristics and manifestations that align with God’s will and reflect godliness. Living dependent upon and in obedience to the Holy Spirit never results in legalism and license, the two dangers facing the believers in Galatia.  And yet, like them, we can find it so easy to live according to our own sinful nature and end up trying to work our way into God’s good graces or taking advantage of His grace by living in sin and expecting Him to simply forgive and forget.

When we live according to our sinful nature, the outcome is always destructive, not constructive. Driven by selfishness and pride, we make ourselves the highest priority and end up using and at times, abusing others. We tend view others as competition. We struggle with envy and jealousy, anger and distrust. People become tools to get what we want and to satisfy our own self-centered agendas. Our sinful flesh has no love for God or others. It only loves self. Unknowingly, we become our own god, expecting the world to revolve around our wants, needs and desires.

But when we live in willful submission to the Spirit of God, we find ourselves with a supernatural capacity to live in love with God and in harmony with others. We suddenly want what He wants. We see others as more important than ourselves. We look for opportunities to extend grace and express love. The fruit produced in our lives becomes other-oriented instead of self-centered. It becomes uplifting and edifying, meeting the needs of others rather than feeding the insatiable appetite of self. What the Holy Spirit produces in us and through us is fully pleasing to God and there is no law prohibiting its presence in our lives. Yet the works of the flesh, the bad fruit our sin nature produces, are all in contradiction to the will of God and are specifically prohibited by the law of God. When we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are free from the law, because our lives produce fruit that is free from condemnation. Paul elaborated on this very thought in his letter to the Romans:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:1-4 ESV

Paul encouraged the Galatians to live by the Spirit – to live under His control. They could either live according to, under the influence of, their old sin nature or the Spirit. And he wanted them to remember that those “who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there” (Galatians 5:24 ESV). Those sinful passions and desires, while not gone, no longer have to control us. We have an alternative resource – the Holy Spirit. Again, Paul told the Romans, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6 ESV). If we try to live according to the law, we are depending upon the flesh again. If we assume that we can practice license, doing whatever we want, because we are guaranteed eternal life, then we are allowing the flesh to control our lives. And the end result of both legalism and license is death. Our lives will be characterized by rotten fruit that does no one any good. But if we set our mind on the Spirit and His will for us, our lives will be characterized by life and peace, fruitfulness and selflessness, and a love for God that finds expression in our love for others.

Paul gives the Galatians an important insight into living according to the Spirit. “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:25 ESV). No compartmentalization. No hidden areas. The Holy Spirit wants to influence and infiltrate every area of our lives. He wants to control every aspect of our character, eliminating the vestiges of our old nature and replacing it with the nature of Christ. And it will show up in the form of fruit that is God-produced and edifying to everyone around us: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do – He has provided a way for sinful men and women to live lives characterized the fruit of righteousness. His Spirit within us is the key to seeing His righteousness flow out of us. The Spirit of God is the means by which we live as children of God.

Stirred Up To Grow Up.

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. – 2 Peter 1:12-18 ESV

Peter wrote with a sense of urgency. He somehow knew that his days were numbered, so he wanted to make sure his audience got his message loud and clear. Essentially, Peter was going to use every moment he had to “stir up” those to whom he was writing. The Greek word Peter used is διεγείρω (diegeirō) and it means “to wake up, awaken, arouse (from sleep)” (“G1326 – diegeirō (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon.” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). It could also be used metaphorically to refer to arousing or stirring up the mind. He wanted them to think about and constantly consider the qualities he had just mentioned: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. He wanted them to “practice these qualities” so that they would not fall (2 Peter 1:10). Peter knew that they were going to face difficult times. He was well aware that, after his departure, they would be on their own. His letter was intended to be a lasting reminder and source of constant encouragement for them to persevere. He wanted them to be able to “recall these things” long after he was gone, so that they would not become “ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8 ESV). He knew that “whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:9 ESV). Failing to think about and to supplement these qualities to one’s faith would eventually lead to spiritual apathy and regression rather than transformation.

So as long as Peter had life and breath, he was going to harp on the need for his brothers and sisters in Christ to live their lives in such a way that the “divine power” granted to them by God would show up in these ever-increasing qualities. He fully expected them to “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV). And what he had been writing to them was not something he had made up. They were not the teachings of a man, but the divinely inspired words of God. One of Peter’s greatest concerns for his audience was that there were already those who were teaching them “destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1 ESV). They were claiming to be prophets of God and teachers sent from God. So it was essential that Peter establish his credentials and defend his credibility. He had been a disciple of Jesus Christ. He had been an eye-witness to His miracles, a partner in His ministry, and a recipient of Christ’s great commission. Not only that, Peter had been given a personal directive from Jesus Himself to “Feed my sheep” (John 21:18 ESV). Peter reminded his readers that it was he, James and John who had been “eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16 ESV). The three of them had been with Jesus on the mountain top when He underwent His transfiguration.

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. – Matthew 17:1-3 ESV

It was at that time when God spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5 ESV). Peter says, “we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:18 ESV). He wasn’t some self-appointed prophet spouting his personal opinions. He was a hand-picked disciple of Jesus Christ who had been received the following commission from Him after His resurrection: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV). And that is exactly what Peter had been doing. He had been teaching them what he had learned from Jesus. He had been passing on what he had received from his three years with the Savior. He wanted his readers to enjoy the abundant life Jesus had promised (John 10:10). He desired for them to experience the rest Jesus had offered (Matthew 11:28 ESV). He so wanted them to know the fullness of joy Jesus had talked about (John 15:11) and the powerful presence of the Spirit Jesus had told them about (John 14:26). 

Peter’s call to add to their faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love was not some kind of motivational talk designed to bolster his readers’ flagging faith. It was a divinely inspired word of God. Peter knew that saving faith was transformative in nature. God has “called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 ESV). He has “granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV). Our salvation is intended to result in our sanctification. We have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV), so we should live like it. Our lives should reflect our new nature. Our character should be increasingly more like that of Christ. What Paul told the believers in Corinth should also be true of us. “And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). There is no place for complacency in the life of a follower of Christ.

Resurrection Life.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. – Romans 8:8-11 ESV

Paul has made it clear that we are to live according to the Spirit of God who lives within us, not according to our old sinful nature. But as he so honestly confessed in chapter seven, there will be times when we find ourselves giving in to that old nature, doing the very things we do not want to do. Our minds, while well-intentioned, will give in to our sin nature – if we attempt to live holy lives apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit. That is why Paul opens up verse nine with the statement: “You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” In other words, those who had placed their faith in Christ had died along with Him on the cross. And because they died with Him, their spiritual natures had been set free the control of their earthly bodies. Christ “condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4 ESV). To walk according to the Spirit simply means to live in submission to His will and in dependence upon His power. When Paul says, “you, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,” he is not saying our sin nature is gone and all fleshly desires are done away with. He is saying that we have a new way of living provided for us by God. It is the law of the Spirit of life that has set us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

And Paul makes it clear that if anyone has placed their faith in Christ, they have the Spirit of God living within them. NOT to have the Spirit is to be unsaved and unjustified before God. “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9 ESV). The Spirit is given by God to every believer at their conversion. Paul told the believers in Ephesus, “when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV). It is the indwelling presence of the Spirit that provides proof of our justification before God. He places His Spirit within us, signifying our new status as His children and providing us with a new capacity to live holy lives that is no longer externally, but internally driven. And while we still live in these earthly bodies that are destined to die because of sin, the Spirit provides us with life because we are now righteous before God. We have the guarantee of eternal life, never-ending fellowship with God, but also abundant life here and now. Jesus said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT). Satan, our enemy, wants to rob us of life. He wants us to live according to our old sin-enslaved nature, which is driven by the passions of our earthly bodies. But Jesus died so that we might have life, and the Spirit provides us with the power to enjoy that life, right here, right now. Zane Hodges nailed it when he wrote, “. . . whenever you see a Christian living the Christian life, you are witnessing a resurrection miracle!” (“The Death/Life Option,” Grace Evangelical Society News). Because we have been made right with God through the death of Christ and have received the Spirit of God as proof of that newly restored relationship, we can walk in newness of life. We can live differently. We can actually live holy lives, not based on our feeble human effort, but because we have within us the very Spirit of God. And as Paul reminds us, the Spirit who lives within us is the very same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. And, Paul tells us, “he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 ESV). 

There is a day coming when we will be given new, resurrected bodies. We will no longer struggle with sin, sickness and pain. Death will no longer be a looming reality hanging over our heads like a sword. The apostle John tells us, “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). But while we wait for that day to come, we can still walk in newness of life. We can enjoy abundant, rich and satisfying life on this earth, even while saddled with these earthly bodies and our old sin natures. Why? Because we have resurrection power living within us in the form of the Holy Spirit. He is not dormant or biding His time until the Lord returns. He is alive and active in every believer, providing guidance, encouragement, and death-to-life kind of power that makes our transformation into the likeness of Christ possible.

Instruments for Righteousness.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. – Romans 6:12-14 ESV

It seems quite obvious that Paul knew the power and reality of indwelling sin. He would not have told his readers “let now sin therefore reign in your mortal body” if the possibility for it to happen had not existed. In verse 16 he writes, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16 ESV). Each and every day, Christ-followers have the choice to give in to and be enslaved yet again by sin or to live in obedience to their God-given, Spirit-empowered new nature. The temptation to give in to sin is an ever-present reality. That’s why Paul warned his readers, “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desire” (Romans 6:12 NLT). There is a conscious choice to be made. We can present our bodies to sin as instruments for unrighteousness or to God as instruments for righteousness. We can allow our sin nature to dictate the behavior of our bodies and determine our actions, or we can, through the power of the Holy Spirit, use our bodies as instruments or tools for God’s will. These physical bodies in which we live are the means by which we can accomplish God’s work in this world. With these bodies we can love one another or we can lust after one another. We can use these bodies to accomplish God’s will or to selfishly fulfill our own. The natural inclination of our sinful nature is to produce some very damaging and destructive fruit. Paul describes the outcome of a life in which sin is allowed to reign. “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these” (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT). If you allow sin to reign in your physical body, you will end up obeying its passions and desires. That’s why Paul said, “I discipline my body and keep it under control” ( 1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV).

Paul wants us to know that, as believers in Jesus Christ, we have died to sin. It was as if we were crucified alongside Christ. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there” (Galatians 5:24 NLT). Those things are no longer to have control over us. And yet, our physical bodies are constantly tempting us to satisfy its passions and desires. We have to fight constant cravings and desires that are opposed to God’s will for us. Paul puts it this way: “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other” (Galatians 5:17 NLT). But Paul also gives us the key to resisting the urges of our flesh: “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16 NLT). We can choose to live under the control and influence of the Spirit or we can allow our sin nature, working through our physical bodies, to dictate our behavior. That is why Paul so strongly encourages us to “put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world” (Colossians 3:5 NLT). He warns us, “Run from sexual sin!” (1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT). He encourages us to “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NLT).

We belong to God. We have been purchased by the blood of His Son. And while these earthly bodies are temporary and will one day be replaced with new, redeemed bodies, we are obligated to use them for God’s service as long as we live on this earth. At one time, Paul had used his earthly body to persecute Christians, throwing them into prison and attempting to eliminate them altogether. But once he was redeemed from his old way of life by faith in Jesus Christ, he did everything in his power to make his body his slave and to use it for the glory of God and the good of His Kingdom. Rather than live as a captive to his body’s desires, he made his body his slave, using it to accomplish God’s will. His sin-prone flesh became an instrument for righteousness. And that is God’s call to us. He has not yet redeemed our bodies. But He wants to use them for our good and His glory. Paul describes our current condition in these terms: “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT). Sin’s dominion or control over us takes place primarily through our physical bodies. It is with our bodies that we fulfill our sinful passions. We use our tongues to lie and deceive. We use our eyes to lust and covet. We use our entire bodies to commit acts of immorality. We use our hands to steal. We use our feet to take us places that are against God’s will for us. We use our brains to think inappropriate thoughts and plan unrighteous acts. But because of Christ, we have the capacity to use these fallen bodies as instruments of righteousness. We can use our hands to serve others. We can use our eyes to see needs and meet them. We can use our bodies to accomplish God’s will. We can use our tongues to encourage. We can use our feet to take the gospel across the street and around the world.

 

New Birth = New Life.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. – I John  5:1 ESV

1 John 5:1-5

His status as a child of God was extremely important to John, and he wanted his readers to understand and appreciate just how significant their position as God’s children was as well. He did not want them to take it for granted. He also did not want them to assume that this was a condition for which they were responsible. Their spiritual rebirth, like his, was a work of God – from start to finish. They had been “born of God.” The Greek word John used is gennaō and it can mean “to be born or begotten,” but it can also be used in a metaphorical sense, “in a Jewish sense, of one who brings others over to his way of life, to convert someone.” Of course, Jesus most certainly had the first meaning in mind when He used the very same word in His conversation with the Pharisee, Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV). But Jesus also made it clear to Nicodemus that this new birth was a spiritual, not a human event. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6 ESV). All men and women experience a natural birth. They are born of water. They are born of the flesh. But Jesus said that unless you are born of water AND the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. There is a second birth required and that birth is spiritual in nature and completely the work of God.

But it is interesting to think about that second definition for the word, gennaō. It refers to one who brings others over to his way of life, converting and changing them. With the new birth, we become children of God. We are given new natures and a new way of living. No longer simply flesh-based, we are spiritual creatures with the very Spirit of God living within us. Paul puts it this way: “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul puts it even more bluntly. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29 ESV). To the believers in Ephesus he wrote, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:4-6 ESV). God has chosen us. He has, through the death of His own Son, provided a means by which we could be brought over to His way of life, converting and changing us. It is NOT our faith that changes us. It is Jesus. He is the one who has provided us with new life. Paul put it so well when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV). It is our faith IN Jesus that provides us with new life. Paul describes how that happened. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4 ESV). He goes on to say, “we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6 ESV). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ have been been born of God. But even that capacity to believe has been given to us by God. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been save” (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV). God made us alive (syzōopoieō) together with Christ. We were dead in our sins, incapable of doing anything good or right, but God “quickened” us, putting the capacity within us to open our spiritually blinded eyes and see the truth of His gracious gift of new life in Christ. God regenerated us. Yes, we chose Christ. We placed our faith in Him. But even that choice had to be made possible by the grace and mercy of God. We who are children of God have truly been born of God. He chose to adopt us, not the other way around. He has made us His sons and daughters. And as a result of that new birth, we have been given new life. And the life we now live in the flesh, we live by faith in the Son of God. Same old bodies. Same old world. But new life, new nature, new power, new hope, new relationship with God, new future.

Seek and Destroy.

Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Jesus is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed: to destroy the works of the devil. – 1 John 3:7-8 NET

Sin is an ever-present reality for every human being – including Christians. Ever since Adam and Eve listened to the lies of Satan in the garden, and put their own self-interests ahead of God’s will, mankind has been enslaved to the enemy’s wishes, acting according to his rebellious, anti-God agenda. And yet, John would have us remember that the reason Jesus came into the world, lived a sinless life, died on the cross in man’s place, and rose again from the grave, was to put an end to Satan’s rebellion and sin’s dominion in our lives once and for all. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8 ESV). Then why do we still struggle with sin? Why do we, as believers, still have to put up with our old sin nature that makes life so difficult and living righteously so seemingly impossible? The answer lies in the now-not-yet nature of our current status. John makes it clear that we are “called children of God, and so we are” (1 John 3:1 ESV). Just in case we didn’t get his point, he repeats it. “Beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 John 3:2 ESV). We have been born of God and have His seed abiding in us (1 John 3:9 ESV). According to John, this is a present reality. We are God’s children right here, right now. It is not something that is reserved for us at some future date. But there is a “not yet” nature to our status as God’s children. We are citizens of heaven living in a strange place. We are not where we belong. We are strangers and aliens living in a place that is foreign and hostile to us. John even tells us, “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1 ESV). Not only does the world not know us, it hates us. Because it is under the dominion and control of Satan, the world despises anything and anyone who represents God’s Kingdom. So he has us in his sights and constantly seeks to attack us and defeat us. And to make matters worse, we still have our old natures, what Paul refers to as the flesh, living within us and causing us all kinds of problems. We have our new righteous nature, provided for us by Christ. And we have our old sinful nature, inherited from Adam. But John wants us to remember that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8 ESV). Part of the process in which we find ourselves is the ongoing mortification or putting to death of our old nature. This will continue until the Lord returns and we receive our glorified, sinless bodies. “But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 ESV). There is a day coming when we shall be completely sinless just as He is sinless. But in the meantime, we must do battle with our old natures. and “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13 ESV). God has given us His Spirit to make it all possible. We have the strength to resist the enemy, and do what is right and righteous.

What we need to constantly realize is that Jesus, through the Spirit of God, is constantly seeking out those areas of our lives that remain in rebellion against the Kingdom of God. He is out to seek and destroy the vestiges of our rebellions sin nature and put them to death. Through exposure to the Word of God and with the help of the Spirit of God, we can have the remaining darkness in our lives exposed by the light. We can have the falsehood and lies that still linger in our hearts destroyed by the truth of God’s Word. The presence of sin should not surprise us. But John would warn us that a Christian who sins is still living in subjection to the enemy. He has been set free, but is willingly allowing himself to be enslaved again. As Christians, when we sin, we are not living in the reality of who we are. We are hiding our true nature. “A sinning Christian conceals his true character when he sins and reveals it only through holiness. On the other hand, a child of Satan reveals his true character by sin” (Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John). Christians can and do sin. But it is NOT our nature. It is not who we are. Our capacity to live righteously is what shows that we are His children. Claiming to be a child of God, but living like a slave of Satan, hides our true character. But because we know who we are and what we will one day be, we purity ourselves as He is pure. We seek to be like Him who died so that we might live. John knows we will sin. Which is why he reminded us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). Sin is inevitable, but it is not irresistible. We can say no to sin. We can live righteously, even in this life. And when we do, it proves the reality of who we are. It gives evidence to the world that we are children of God and that Jesus Christ is still actively destroying the works of the devil, in our lives and in this world.

 

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