Do you know who you are? This may sound like a strange question, but in reality many Christians don’t understand their true identity. As a result, they struggle to live godly lives and can’t understand why they feel so defeated. Temptations and sinful habits seem overwhelming and impossible to overcome. As they cycle in and out of failure, they’re left wondering, “Is this what the Christian life is supposed to be?”
Much of this confusion and defeat comes from an inaccurate understanding of who we are in Christ. So let’s consider what God’s Word says about us. Our salvation experience is an amazing event that changes everything in our lives even though we can’t always feel it. We’re no longer what we used to be and will never revert back to that old condition. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
This same concept of newness is found throughout the New Testament in phrases like the new covenant, a new and living way, new life, new self, and born again. This is not merely a remodel of our old life before Christ. God isn’t in the process of patching up the old so it’s better than before. Our old sin nature can never be reformed or renewed.
So what exactly has been made new? Obviously, it’s not our bodies. Each year we get older, and the signs of aging become more obvious with each birthday. Jesus told Nicodemus that one must be “born again” to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Then, in verse 6, He clarifies that this is a spiritual rebirth by saying, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Before our salvation, we were alive physically but dead spiritually. We had no ability to reach out to God or save ourselves. The problem started with Adam. When he sinned, the entire human race came into bondage to sin and death (Rom. 5:12). The only remedy for this dire condition is to be born again spiritually. And that’s exactly what happens at the moment of salvation.
Before our salvation, we were alive physically but dead spiritually.
We are made spiritually alive by the Holy Spirit who comes to indwell us. Our old self has been crucified with Christ, and its power over us is broken (Rom. 6:6). We are no longer slaves of sin because we have a new Master who, through His indwelling Spirit, empowers us to obey Him. We’ve been given a new self that is fashioned in the likeness of God and “has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:24).
What about our problem with sin? If we’re new creations with new natures, why do we still struggle with temptation and sin? Although our spirits were made alive at salvation, our bodies are still in their fallen condition. The apostle Paul said in Romans 7:18, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” He describes this struggle with sin as a war between our flesh and our mind (Rom. 7:22-23). So how are we to overcome sin and live according to our new life?
The victory comes through a renewed mind. Paul tells us to lay aside the old self, be renewed in the spirit of our mind, and put on the new self, which iscreated in God’s likeness (Eph. 4:22-24). We aren’t renewing our thinking in order to become new, but because we are new. Becoming a new creation was an instantaneous event that happened at the moment of salvation when we were forgiven and justified. But the renewal of our minds is a process of sanctification whereby we are increasingly transformed into Christlikeness.
Now we are called to dress according to our new identity in Christ. We must stop wearing the rotten, filthy garments of our former lifestyle because they are no longer fitting for the new self, whom God created in righteousness. In fact, we are told to consider ourselves dead to evil practices and attitudes such as immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, and all kinds of abusive speech (Col. 3:5-10).
Instead we are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14). We need to begin seeing ourselves as new creations clothed in Christ’s robes of righteousness, which display holiness, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, love, peace, and gratitude (Col. 3:12-16).
Since Christ lives within us, it’s only fitting to wear His clothes. If we cover ourselves in old, corrupted rags from our past lives, how will anyone be able to see Christ in us? Not only do we look no different from the world around us, but we dishonor our Lord and Savior.
It’s our responsibility as Christians to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us through His Word. Each time we read or hear the Scriptures, our minds are renewed in the ways of God and our spirits are refreshed to obey Him. When it seems like the world is bombarding us with temptations, let’s go back to the Word and once again clothe ourselves with Christ.
Charles F. Stanley