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A New Man
by David A. DePra
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor 5:17)
A Christian is a new creature in Jesus Christ. But notice the words: IN JESUS CHRIST. The only reason you and I have eternal life, and are new creatures, is because Christ is in us. Otherwise, we have NOTHING.
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Cor 13:5)
Hopefully, it is clear where the seat of our newness of life in Christ resides – in our spirit in oneness with the Spirit of God. God saves us from, "the inside out." Our bodies, our soulish dimension, and our brains, our NOT saved. Someday they will be, but for now, they are dimensions of our being which are to be brought under the dominion of CHRIST IN US. This will take a lifetime and describes obedience, and accounts for all of the struggles we have with sin and the flesh.
But none of our failures does away with the reality of Christ in us – with the fact that our NEW IDENTITY is that of a new creation in Christ Jesus. If we have passed from death to life, there is no in-between state. We are either in Christ or in Adam. All or nothing.
Our identity is determined by our birth. In this world, there are only two classifications of people: Those who are dead in Adam, and those who are alive in Christ. All who are born in Adam are born dead. All who are born again in Christ are alive. That which is born OF FLESH IS FLESH. And that which is born OF SPIRIT IS SPIRIT. We are either one or the other. This determines our identity.
Now, identity is one thing. Personality is another. That which is born of flesh can develop that flesh along different lines. Each of us have produced, through the effect of our environment, our upbringing, and our moral choices, a particular version of the flesh. For some of us, our version of the flesh may be nasty, ugly, and immoral. For others, our version of the flesh may be nice, agreeable, and in fact, quite RELIGIOUS. But if we are not born again, we do not have Christ in us. Thus, what we are is still OF THE FLESH.
Incidentally, this explains why there can be lots of nice people in this world, but who have no thought of coming to Christ. It explains why even atheists or those involved in cults can seem to be loving, religious, and hospitable. The flesh is quite capable of churning out that which is attractive. But it is all of the flesh, and IS what it IS because of a human agenda, a human understanding, and human pride. Indeed, there are many people in Christian churches today who are religious, and even act spiritual, but who are not saved. They don’t have Christ in them. They have simply learned, in their ignorance, how a Christian ought to act. And so they alter their conduct, and flesh, to act that way. But this is NOT regeneration. It is not Christ in them.
There is only one way to have a new identity – you have to be born again. You must first relinquish your old life in Adam by coming to the Cross through repentance. Then you will DIE in Christ. But you will be raised with Him to NEWNESS OF LIFE – you will be born again a new creation. You will have CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory.
The New Man
Often the Bible calls our new identity, "the new man." Or the, "inward man." This is referencing the fact that we are born again from the inside out, that is, Christ is IN US, and it is in our union with Him that we are new creations. This is often contrasted over and against the residual elements of our former Adam life – which the Bible sometimes calls, "the flesh," or, "old man."
Notice the contrast between the two which Paul gives us:
But you have not so learned Christ, if so be that you have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That you put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Eph 4:20-24)
When Paul talks about PUTTING ON, or about PUTTING OFF, he is talking about which realm we walk in harmony with. There is always the possibility that we can put on the OLD man, and walk in harmony with the flesh, and the natural. But he wants us to learn Christ – to learn to walk in harmony with Christ in us. This means to learn how to walk in the Truth that, "is in Jesus."
Again – this will take time and require suffering. It requires, not only that we see the Truth, but it requires that we unlearn error. It means that we will have to have everything about us reconstituted, and given a new, "motor." If we expect to walk in the kingdom of God, and follow Jesus as Lord, then we must expect that our kingdoms must fall, and that we must be knocked off of our throne. Easy to say, isn’t it? But living in our kingdom, and being blind to the Truth comes natural to us, and therefore, everything about our new birth will seem unnatural and quite costly to the flesh. To put on the new man, which is the same as, "walking according to the Spirit," means that our thinking will have to change, our minds will have to be renewed, and our entire motivation for living will have to change. This is all good news and quite a positive thing. But again – we start at a place that is quite contrary to everything about the new man. And it is going to take much before putting on the new man, and putting off the old, becomes habit.
Even Paul himself testified to this struggle:
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Rom 7:22-25)
The INWARD MAN is Christ in us united with our spirit. And Paul clearly states that there is nothing about the OLD MAN that is going to be in harmony with the NEW MAN. And yet, by faith in Christ, and by obedience to the faith, eventually the inward man will prove that the victory of Christ is real. Much of the Christian life is a matter of CHRIST IN US coming to slowly reign as our personal Lord – over all of our inner dimensions, as well as our outer conduct.
But it is good to know, isn’t it, that struggles and failures are NORMAL? So many Christians expect that after they are saved, struggle with sin and unbelief ought to cease. But rather than cease, the battle has just begun. You can expect that there are going to be times in your Christian life when you seem to be getter worse, and not better. We will discuss much about this in later chapters. But this is because of what CHRIST IN US means. CHRIST IN US does not mean we become spiritual giants, void of all problems. Rather, Christ in us means that we – our old man -- must be crucified and set aside, so that Christ may emerge THROUGH US. Then, rather than become spiritual giants, we will be more like little children. Failure to understand this – that we must become weak so that He might be strong in us – accounts for much misunderstanding in our spiritual walk. And yet it is part of what Christianity is, and what Christ in us MEANS.
Paul continually spoke of this struggle and this process:
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:15-18)
Can we see that Christianity is NOT a matter of us becoming better people? Or a matter of us doing what Christ would do? Or a matter of us following the teachings of Jesus? Of course, ALL of these things are involved, but NONE of them is not what Christianity IS. Christianity is CHRIST IN US – and the Christian life that Paul is describing is a matter of Christ living THROUGH US. God has us in a process – not where we learn to act like Christ – but where CHRIST IN US begins to emerge THROUGH us.
It is one thing to live like Jesus would live. Good luck. You will fail. But it is another for Christ to live through you. And yet the means by which this can happen often escapes us. The only way in which Christ can come to live through us is if our outer man perishes – that is, if we come under the power of the Cross. All that hinders Christ from being seen in us must be crucified out of the way. Then Christ will be seen.
This make OUR responsibility clear. We cannot live the Christian life. Only Christ can live the Christian life. But what we can do is continually carry our Cross – relinquish our old life; our old outward man. Then a death process will occur upon that old man of the flesh, so that the life also of Jesus Christ must progressively emerge.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:7-12)
If Christianity is CHRIST IN US, then the Christian life is Christ living through us. But not without, or to the disregard of us. No. Christ cannot live through us without us coming under the government of His life within. We must believe. We must obey. We must carry our Cross. We must, "work out our salvation with fear and trembling." God works INTO US the very life of Christ Himself. But we must work it out – primarily by surrendering ourselves to God through faith and obedience. Then our true identity IN CHRIST eventually emerges, and is made manifest.
Complete in Christ
I am going to make a statement at this point which may startle you. But I do believe that it is a true statement. I also believe that seeing this Truth is basic to real freedom in Christ.
That statement is this: Almost nothing you think about yourself is the Truth. Indeed, everything you think about yourself is a product OF yourself, and is jaded THROUGH yourself.
Have we yet recognized that there is NO Truth in us? So how can we produce the Truth about ourselves? Only if we see ourselves through the eyes of Christ can we see any Truth about ourselves. I hope we see the point.
Almost nothing we think about ourselves is the Truth! Does that startle you? We all have a self-image. We think of ourselves in a certain way, and it is that person we present to God. For some, our self-image is not too good, and this makes us afraid of God. For others, well, we think our value to God is high, and so we enter into His presence on that basis. But BOTH possibilities are wrong. If you want to get started down the right path on this matter you are going to have to come to terms with the fact that you have NO IDEA who you really are, or what you really look like to God. You are going to have to come to terms with the fact that HOWEVER you view yourself – it is not close to the person God really sees you to be.
Do we realize that central to what is wrong with us is that we have all developed a self-image to compensate for being void of the LIFE OF GOD? This is so much a part of the terrible condition of man since the sin of Adam. It is characteristic of the KIND of creature we have become.
Remember the story of Adam in the garden? Before his sin, he was naked but unashamed. He was one with God and complete in Him. There were no masks, man-made coverings, and no games. Adam was free to be completely transparent before God. He was free to leave himself alone. He was not yet obsessed with trying to FIX himself; cover himself; hide himself.
But not so after the sin. After the sin, Adam was obsessed with trying to make himself presentable – obsessed with trying to fill the void left when his fellowship with God was severed. Indeed, if there was one thing Adam did not do after the sin, it was leave himself alone. He was still naked, but now fully conscious and ashamed. He tried to cover his nakedness with fig leaves – trying to substitute for God with some contraption. It didn’t work. It never works. Man without God is truly INCOMPLETE. And there is absolutely NOTHING that is going to fix this except God – except CHRIST IN US.
Every human being who has ever lived has come out of the womb with a pension for sewing fig leaves together – obsessed with trying to make themselves complete. Every one of us. We don’t need to know what we are doing – we are going to do this one way or another. Some of us even use religion. But the only solution is to stand there naked before God and confess our lack. This is precisely the place where God must bring us if we are to embrace Jesus Christ.
Do we realize that when God looks at us, He looks behind our words, attitude, and attempts to put up a front? He sees what frauds we are. Sure. For Pete’s sake, we even take pride in our humility! We are practically incapable of being truly transparent before God about anything! Why do we think Adam tried to cover his nakedness in the garden? God is showing us who we are naturally. We are frauds and fakes – even if we don’t mean to be. We are simply incapable of anything else.
And so I say it again: Whatever we think of ourselves – good or bad – is not even close to the Truth. We are completely OTHER than the way we think of ourselves. And without Christ, I’m afraid that what we are is terribly bad – worse than we can imagine.
Paul says, "Examine yourself." But why? To see if you are holding to the FAITH. In short, to see if you value Christ, and are trusting HIM, rather than yourself. The Holy Spirit has not come to show us our value to Christ. The Spirit has come to show us Christ’s value to us. It is this that we ought to examine.
Let’s ask: Do you really WANT to be the person who imagine yourself to be? I mean, even if you think you are a pretty good specimen, is that what you want to be? I would suggest NOT. Better to drop the façade, the masks, and stand naked before God. Do that, and you will start seeing Jesus. Do that, and you will start getting free.
The good news is that we don’t need to see ourselves the way we really are. God has never told us we need to do that – because it is impossible for us to do that. If you think you have really seen yourself as you are, you are deluded. Your assumption is nothing more than part of the same mask that you need to discard. What we really need is to SEE JESUS. If we see Jesus, God may show us some things about ourselves. But because we see Him, it will be ok. We will be seeing the solution, and our redemption.
I do realize that there are going to be times when God shows us bits and pieces of Truth about ourselves, so that we might repent, or adjust. But that is hardly a full vision of who we are. Not close. Indeed, God does not want us to know too much about ourselves. Why? Because if Christ is in us, the goal is for us to LEAVE OURSELVES ALONE – and focus upon HIM.
You and I have no clue as to what it really means to LEAVE OURSELVES ALONE. The only time we have ever done that is when we have either given up on ourselves in disgust and failure, or when we have become so convinced we are beyond improvement that we no longer think about it. But none of this is what God means by leaving myself alone. To truly leave myself alone is the result of being taken out of myself in Christ Jesus. My focus is HIM, and therefore, it is not on myself.
By the way, to, "leave yourself alone," does not mean to SIN – and not care about it. I am not talking about leaving GOD alone. In fact, the only way in which a human being can ever come to leaving himself alone is precisely IF they become caught up in Jesus Christ. We don’t leave ourselves alone, as a thing unto itself. No. We lose ourselves because we have found Him.
Very little of our self-image is the Truth. I’m glad. For HE is the Truth, not us. And realizing this is basic to freedom. We can then focus upon Christ. Our true identity is found only in Jesus Christ, and only as we grow to know Him, to we find our true identity. But the fullness of this is yet to come, in the eternal ages:
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Cor 13:12)
Our true identity is found only if Christ is in us, and we are in Christ. For how can we so much as HAVE a real identity unless we are COMPLETE IN HIM? We can’t. True identity and individuality is the result of being complete in Christ – and that is something that in this age we simply BEGIN to discover. It starts when we become ONE with Him by being planted into His death and resurrection – by becoming ONE with Him through the new birth. Christ is IN US. The fullness of what this means will be realized in the ages yet to come.
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