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Part 2 – New Creations in Christ

Christians are supposed to be new creations

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” For most Christians 2 Corinthians 5:17 is a well known verse, but according to most surveys there is little difference between the behavior of Christians and non-Christians. That is a either a sad commentary for Christians or a flattering commentary for non-Christians. The truth is many Christians may not even know what this new creation is. Others who understand they are supposed to be new creations have not taken this principle to heart. I am going to contend at this point in the study that if a person claiming to be a Christian has not taken this principle to heart, they are either an immature Christian or not really a Christian at all. Let’s examine what other biblical scriptures say about what a Christian is supposed to be.

Jesus told his disciples in John 15:19, “you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” When Jesus prayed for his disciples he said to the Father, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” The Apostle Peter wrote in his first letter “live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” Peter explains Christians are to live that way because they were redeemed by the blood of Christ and their “faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:17-21) Peter told these believers that to live as “strangers in the world” they needed “to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that… they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:11-12)

Some suggested discussion questions:
Do you feel like a stranger in the world because of your Christian beliefs?
A Christian takeoff of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You know you’re a redneck if …” could be “You know you’re a Christian if someone thinks you belong on another planet because of your Christian beliefs?
It would be fun in a Christian discussion group to come up with other “You know you’re a Christian If” sentences.
Can you relate to Peter’s acknowledgement that Christians have sinful desires that war against their souls?

If Christians become a new creation that is a stranger in the world they’ve lived in since birth, what do they become? The Apostle Paul answered this question clearly in Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there … who … will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Paul told Christians that they become citizens of heaven by following Jesus, and he told us how this happens in several of his letters. Chapter 6 of Paul’s letter to the Romans is one example and the whole chapter should be read to grasp the principle that “our old self was crucified with him [Jesus} so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin … Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Romans 6:6-8)

Christian become citizens of heaven by doing nothing extraordinary in human terms, the grace of God is what makes Christians citizens of heaven. “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace thou have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4) What Christians do to obtain God’s grace is humble themselves before God, repent of their sins, believe that Jesus’ sacrifice atoned for their sins, and submit to God’s will by following Jesus, which entails a personal relationship through faith, study, prayer, and actions. A Christian’s actions are a measure of his/her faith. The Apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter verses 11 and 12 of his letter to Titus, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

Some suggested discussion questions:
Roman citizenship was very valuable, American citizenship is valuable, what do feel is the value of a Christian’s citizenship to heaven?
How is citizenship to heaven obtained?
What responsibilities come with citizenship to heaven?

The Apostle John told Christians that “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did … Do not love the world or anything in the world … For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:6, 15-16) James’ letter makes these simple but astounding statements, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. … Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:7, 10) Clearly James, John, Paul, and Peter believed that Christians are to be new creations that resist the temptation to engage in sinful behavior. As for Jesus’ expectations of his followers, in his Sermon on the Mount he told the people to, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

This miraculous transformation in Christians comes about with the help of the Holy Spirit that Jesus asks the Father to send to his followers (see John 14:15-18). Romans 8:5-17 is great discourse to introduce how the changed life of a Christian is supposed to take place. A basic philosophical tenet of the Christian faith is that mankind has a sinful nature, which is a result of his self-centered desires for self-fulfillment and pleasure. This tenet is in direct opposition with many worldly philosophies that claim mankind has a basically good nature. In this clash of philosophies there are many differences of what good and bad behaviors are. The Christian is not to live by his sinful nature, but by the Spirit that comes from God. “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. … if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:9, 13b) The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:16-17, “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

Some suggested discussion questions:
Do you think it is possible for Christians to not sin anymore?
As Christians overcome past sinful behavior, are they apt to notice other sinful behavior they do?
Can the key to resisting temptation be as simple as James’ instruction to “flee”?
When Christians humble themselves how does God lift them up?
Do you see humans as having a predominantly good or sinful nature?
Is self-centeredness the base of our sinful nature?
Romans 8:7 reads “the sinful mind (or the mind set on the flesh) is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” Obeying is submitting. Is submitting to God living by the Spirit?

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