“…be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23-24)
We have been talking about the new you – the transformed person you ARE now that you have given your heart (and your life) to Jesus. When we “put on the new self,” we are putting on what has been “created to be like God!”
I know that seems so very hard for us to believe. It just seems too good to be true. Where’s the struggle? Where’s the hard work? Where are the years and years of fixing us so that we can finally be what God wants us to be?
The message of the New Covenant is that it is so good it has to be true. God is in it. He has done something so incredibly awesome that none of us could ever earn it… let alone deserve it. So the only way we can receive such an amazing thing is if He simply gave it to us.
That’s exactly what He did. Salvation is a free gift from God (Rom. 6:23). It was so costly that He had to give it away for free (none of us could have ever afforded it!).
But why is it so hard for us to truly accept that we ARE new creations in Christ Jesus? Why do we struggle so much to see ourselves as transformed… as truly the righteousness and holiness of God?
It’s largely because we have been trained to think in accord with “the patterns of this world.” (see Romans 12:2)
We usually take that term to mean: all the wicked ways in which this world tries to get us involved. But the “patterns of this world” really means the way this world thinks and gains things. At the heart of it is human effort… lots of human effort. “If it is to be… it is up to me.” “If you want something done right… you have to do it yourself.” This world finds pleasure not only in accomplishment but in the pride of being able to sing along with Sinatra… “I did it my way!”
But at the heart of the gospel is this fact… in salvation, there is nothing we can do. Jesus did it all. Human effort only gums up the works. God is not asking us to try harder or do better – He is asking us to simply receive what He is offering to us… freely.
And what He is offering is a whole new kind of life – as a whole new kind of creation. A creation that is “like God” from the very start. A creation that WAS created by the work of Jesus – and fully applies to our lives when we receive it.
As long as we think we are a work in progress, we cannot BE the new creations we were created to be. As long as we think in terms of all the stuff that has to be done to make us into the people God wants us to be, we will always struggle to live in what He has already made us to be.
To live in the kingdom of God… we have to think like someone who lives IN the Kingdom of God. Kingdom dwellers think in accord with the pattern of heaven. That God is in the business of making something complete out of completely nothing.
In the gospel, we discover that we who have been made in God’s image are wholly remade in His image through the completed work of Christ.