I AM A NEW CREATION
Who Am I? Seeing Our True Identity Through God’s Eyes ❧ Part 2
2 Corinthians 5:17 & Selected Texts
Most people want to be better than they are. Deep inside they know we are not who we should be or could be. Something is wrong. We need to change. I recently read about a sign in a country inn in England that captures both sides of our human dilemma. It read: “Please introduce yourself to your fellow guests since we’re one big happy family. Do not leave your valuables in your room.” We try to act like we’re okay, but we know we’re not. One thing is for certain: we want to be better than we are. In fact, we want to be someone new. We just don’t know how.
Last week we began a series of messages looking at our identity in Christ. In the first message we saw we are made in the image of God. Nothing in all the wonder of God’s creation shares this same distinct honor. This morning we’re going to look at what God says about becoming a new person. Here’s what the Bible says: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17). This verse tells us that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation, a new person. The old life is gone. A new life has begun. As a new person with a new life, you have a new identity. Whatever defined you in the past, whether your family, your race, your culture, your accomplishments, your failures, no longer applies. Because of your faith in Christ, you are a new person. Most believers accept this, they just don’t know how to put this truth to work in their lives. Our problem is two-fold: 1) We can’t seem to fully shake our past. It still haunts us. 2) We can’t seem to fully embrace our newfound identity in Christ. It eludes us. My prayer is that will change for you today.
I’m going to share with you three important biblical words you can confidently apply to your new life: 1) Justification, 2) Regeneration, 3) Glorification. Most of us are aware of these words. We’ve heard them many times. But we’ve never grasped their life-transforming power. Through justification God says I have made you outwardly new. Through regeneration God says I have made you inwardly new. And through glorification God says I have made you eternally new. The Bible says putting these truths to work in our lives is like putting on our clothes (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27). Just as we put on our physical clothing each day, we need to daily put on our spiritual clothing – our new identity in Christ. How Am I New in Christ
I. I am outwardly new: Justification. Many believers live in fear of God’s anger toward them. We know He is holy and we’re sinful. All of us have memories that serve as painful reminders of things we’ve done that have left us feeling ashamed, dirty, unworthy, unlovable. We know we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness or acceptance. Perhaps that’s you. Your past torments you of your unworthiness to be forgiven and your heart is filled with the fear of God’s anger. You need to know that in Christ you have already been justified. Read this verse with me: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). This verse says because of your faith in Christ, you are now justified and have peace with God.
What does it mean we’ve been justified by our faith in Christ? It means that through Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross God declared us righteous by taking away our sinful unrighteousness and, in its place, giving us His Son’s righteousness. (Theologians call this imputed righteousness). Justification doesn’t make us righteous; it declares us righteous. It is a work of God that took place outside of us through Christ. The moment you confessed your sin and trusted Christ, God declared you to right with Him through His Son’s work on the cross. Nor is justification something we earn by begin good enough. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:28). Many believers are desperately trying to do something that Christ has already done for them – appease God’s just anger toward them. Justification takes place the instant we confess our sin and trust Christ.
Justification refers to your legal standing before God. It means you are permanently forgiven by God. You’re not on probation. Probation says you’re still a criminal who is released on good conduct. If you mess up again, God will punish you. Justification means God no longer sees us as criminals, sinners, but as His children. He not only forgives our sins, He forgets our sins. God was in
Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). Through Christ the question of your sin was settled once and for all, past, present, and future. God no longer looks at you as a sinner. Sin is not a part of your identity anymore. Justification is the act where God declares the believing sinner to be right with Him because of his faith in Christ. Biblical justification is much like the 13th Amendment signed into law December 18, 1865 declaring the emancipation of slavery. Even though the slaves were now legally free, many continued to live as slaves because slavery was all they’d known and they would not believe they were actually free.
But justification reaches deeper than God declaring us righteous (imputed righteousness). On the cross Jesus took our unrighteousness and gave us His righteousness (imparted righteousness). He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). We become the righteousness of God in Him. Meaning God more than declares us righteous in His sight, but He empowers us with His righteousness to live for Him.
One of the best illustrations of justification I’ve found is the true story of a man in England who bought a Rolls-Royce and decided to travel across Europe. While driving around, his car broke down leaving him stranded. He contacted the people he’d purchased the Rolls-Royce from in England asking them what he should do. The people of Rolls-Royce flew a mechanic over and repaired the stranded vehicle allowing the man to continue his journey. The man must have wondered how much sending a mechanic over form England was going to cost him. When he got back to England, he wrote the company asking them how much he owed them. He received a letter that read: Dear Sir: There is no record anywhere in our files that anything ever went wrong with a Rolls-Royce (Wiersbe, Key Words in The Christian Life, p.16). That is justification.
II. I am inwardly new: Regeneration. Through justification God declare us new, but in regeneration He makes us new. Paul says it this way in Titus 3, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5-7). Paul says God, according to His mercy, gave us His Holy Spirit by the washing of regeneration. The word regeneration (παλιγγενεσία – palingensia) means to experience a complete change of one’s life to what it should be (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains). Peter adds by our faith in Christ we have become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). In the verse before this, Peter says, By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life (2 Peter 1:3, NLT). When you trusted Christ, God completely changed you as you were meant to be. Your whole identity was radically, permanently, unalterably changed because God placed His Holy Spirit in you. Let me share with you at least five ways this complete change works in our lives.
A. New Birth. (Jesus)Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Jesus said you have to “born again” (literally “born from above” or “born of God”) to make it to Heaven. Being born again places us in the family of God. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Your identity is revealed by your birth; you’re one of God’s children. Before you trusted Christ you were physically alive but spiritually dead. To become God’s child, you needed to be born again, that is spiritually born. Being one of God’s children radically and permanently changes both your identity and your destiny. The same applies to our girls. Because they were born into our family, their birth settles the issue of their identity. They didn’t become a part our family by working. In the same way, as a Christian you don’t have to work to become someone you already are. If you are a believer stop trying to be someone you already are – a child of God. You are either born again or your not.
B. New Father. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6). This is a sensitive area for many. Fatherlessness is an epidemic in our country. Far too many children grow up in homes today where the father is either emotionally or physically abusive, or he isn’t there at all. Maybe you grew up in a home like that. Let me assure you God is a Father who more than makes up for the difference. Take my word on this. Psalm 68:5 says God is a father to the fatherless. He will fill the gaps. As our Father, God answers the deep longing in all of us to be fully accepted, to belong. When the Bible says we can call God “Abba” (literally Aramaic for “Daddy”) it means God wants to be that secure, safe, approving, loving father you’ve always needed.
C. New Family. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are (1 John 3:1). Having a new Father means we suddenly find ourselves a part of new family. The Bible says, God makes a home for the lonely (Psalm 68:6). I mentioned a moment ago if you did not have a good father, God makes up for it. The same goes with family. Being a part of God’s family means that you are just as forgiven, just as loved, and just as accepted as every other believer. One of Satan’s lies to deceive believers into thinking God accepts others, but not them. I read a survey once of more than 1,725 professing Christian high schoolers. Seventy-four percent believed Christianity works for others but not them. Many people say they have family, then they have their Church family. We all share the same Father, the same identity and the same destiny.
D. New Desires. our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7). Before coming to Christ, we sinned because we had a sin nature. We inherited it from Adam (Rom. 5:12). But when we became believers, we were given a new nature as a child of God (2 Pt.1:4). With this new nature comes new desires; a new appetite to know God and do His will. We see, feel, and think differently. We see sin more clearly and are repulsed by sins that didn’t use to bother us. If you are a child of God, you won’t be able to live the old life of sin and not be bothered. You’ll be miserable! Before we came to Christ, we lived independent from God. Jesus Christ meant very little, if anything. But when we came to Christ, He means everything.
Not long ago I spoke with a man who had just given his life to the Lord. He told me, “Everything looks different.” He has a new hunger for God and wants to serve the Lord with his life. Where did this transformation come from? From God who is at work in giving him new desires.
E. New Life. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17). What does becoming a new creation with a new life mean? It means when God sees you, you are justified; your sin past, present, and future was taken away through Christ’s substitutionary death and was replaced by Christ’s permanent righteousness. By doing this, God declared you new. Becoming a new creation also means God made you new. You are regenerated. At the moment you trusted Christ, God placed His Holy Spirit in you making you His child (Eph. 1:13). You’re now God’s child. You now have a new birth right. You have a new and perfect Father. You have a new family. You have new desires. You are completely, permanently, and unalterably new. One commentator said, “Living according to your old identity is like hanging around at the cemetery long after the funeral is over.” (Evans, Free At Last, p. 33). When God looks at you, He does not sees you according to your past. He sees His child who is completely forgiven, accepted, and loved. The more you see your true identity in God’s eyes the more your life will reflect being the new creation God has made you.
III. I am eternally new: Glorification. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified (Romans 8:29-30). Paul says we are glorified, past tense. In other words, he is saying God is so sure of our eternal destination – Heaven, He speaks as though we’re already there! God is so sure of your justification and regeneration; He says your glorification is as good as done. Your destiny is certain.
This is a good place to answer the question: “If I’m a new creation in Christ, then why am I still controlled by my old way of life? Why do I still do the things I know I shouldn’t?” One of two answers applies: 1) Either you are not a believer. You’ve never personally confessed your sin to God and asked Christ to be your Savior and Lord. Or, 2) You are a believer, a child of God, but you are still confused about who you are. You’re struggling with an identity crisis. One put it this way, The devil wants sinners to think they are saints and saints to think they are sinners. You may have unrepentant sin in your life. You need to confess it and see your true identity through God’s eyes. It’s not about trying harder, its about thinking different. Changing your old habits begins with changing your old thinking.
Let me close with this illustration from Neil Anderson’s book: Victory Over The Darkness. A typical course in US history will tell you slavery was abolished on December 18,1865, by the 13th Amendment. Anderson writes: How many slaves were there on December 19th? There should have been none. But many still lived like slaves. Many did because they never learned the truth, others knew and even believed that they were free but chose to live as they’d been taught.
Several of the plantation owners were devastated by the proclamation of emancipation. “We’re ruined! Slavery has been abolished. We’ve lost the battle to keep our slaves.” But their chief spokesman slyly responded, “Not necessarily, as long as these people think they’re still slaves, the proclamation of emancipation will have no practical effect. We don’t have the legal right over them anymore, but many of them don’t know it. Keep your slaves from learning the truth, and your control over them will not even be challenged.”
“But what if the news spreads?” “Don’t panic. We have another card to play. We may not be able to keep them from hearing the news, but we can still keep them from understanding it. They don’t call me father of lies for nothing. We still have the potential to deceive the whole world. Just tell them that they misunderstood the 13th Amendment. Tell them that they are going to be free, not that they are free already. The truth they heard is just positional truth, not actual truth. Someday they may receive benefits, but not now.”
“But they would expect me to say that. They won’t believe me.” “Then pick out a few persuasive ones who are convinced that they’re still slaves and let them do the talking for you. Remember, most of these people were born slaves and have lived like slaves. All we have to do is deceive them that they must still be slaves. As long as they continue to do what slaves do, it will not be hard to convince them that they must still be slaves. They will maintain their slave identity because of the things they do. The moment they try to profess that they are no longer slaves, just whisper in their ear, “How can you even think you are no longer a slave when you are still doing the things slaves do?” After all, we have the capacity to accuse the brethren day and night.”
Years later, many still have not heard the wonderful news that they have been freed, son naturally they continue to live the way they have always lived. Some have heard the good news but evaluated it by what they are presently doing and feeling. The reason, “I’m still living in bondage, doing the same things I’ve always done. My experience tells me that I must not be free. I’m feeling the same way before the proclamation, so it must not be true. After all, your feelings always tell you the truth.” So they continue to live according to how they feel, not wanting to be hypocrites!
One former slave hears the good news and receives it with great joy. He checks out the validity of the proclamation and finds out that the highest of all authorities has originated the decree. Not only that, but it personally cost the authority a tremendous price which He willingly paid, so that he could be free. His life is transformed. He correctly reasons that it would be hypocritical to believe his feeling, and not believe the truth. Determined to live by what he knows to be true; his experiences begin to change rather dramatically. He realizes that his old master has no authority over him and does not need to be obeyed. He gladly serves the one who set him free (Anderson, Pp. 86-88).
How are you new in Christ? You are outwardly new – justified; God has declared you new. You are inwardly new – regeneration; God has made you new. He has also made eternally new – glorification. Your destiny is certain.
Putting these truths to work in our lives is like putting your clothes on. Just as you dress yourself physically every day, so you need to dress yourself spiritually every day with what God says is true about you.