Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).
That is the verse that I cling to on a daily basis. Make no mistake, I am a work in progress. There are days where I don’t feel like a new creation, the days where I’m not feeling especially friendly towards others. Sometimes I don’t want to extend grace to my clients because I’m frustrated with problems that I feel are no big deal, but are very big problems to them. There are days I yell at my kids because I’m short on patience and I forgot to ask God for His peace. I also have moments where I become upset at my husband because I expect him to read my mind, not realizing that while most of the time we are in tune with each others thoughts and feelings, that is not always the case. I have so many examples that I should be ashamed, but God continues to extend His grace to me when I don’t deserve it.
Just a few days ago, Kevin (my husband) and I were talking and he said something along the line of “Just because we are new creations does not mean that all of our thoughts are righteous thoughts, that’s why we have to continually take our thoughts captive”. Our conversation continued from there, but I knew that I wanted to write out my thoughts on that for this blog. I know that Kevin’s statement would have made a world of difference to me when I was newly saved, and it is still a good reminder for me. God does not expect us to no longer make mistakes, He does want us to repent and take the necessary steps to not repeat the same mistakes. Eventually we should get to the level of Christian maturity that we auto-correct our thoughts before they become our actions.
Let’s take this conversation to scripture. Becoming a new creation is not just a one-time event, it is a daily task. In Luke 9:23 (NIV) Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Every single day of your life you must deny your flesh and your will and choose to follow Jesus and strive to do the perfect will of your Father. Once you become born-again, the enemy’s attacks become more targeted and more frequent. Just know that these attacks are intended to make you feel unworthy of your calling in Christ Jesus. Jesus was tempted by Satan and gives the disciples wisdom on how to overcome temptation from the enemy. In Matthew 26:41 (NIV) Jesus says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”.If Jesus was tempted by Satan, know that we will be tempted as well. If Jesus had to pray to not succumb to temptation, you better believe that we do too!
Satan is not your only problem as a Christian, your flesh is problematic as well. Galatians 5:17 (NIV) says, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Galatians 5:19-21 goes on to name some of the things we battle within the flesh such as, sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, selfishness, and drunkenness to name a few. Just because we received the Holy Spirit when we were saved and became new creations does not mean that the flesh dissolved, in fact, it’s just as sinful as ever. But we have to be on guard and practice denying ourselves and accepting the Holy Spirit’s lead on all matters in our lives. The more we do that, the more disciplined we will become and the closer we get to being a true disciple. James 1:2-4 (NASB) states, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
So what can us Christians do daily to achieve our goal of denying the flesh and letting the Spirit lead? Well, I’m glad you asked! First, we need to realize thatwe have the mind of Christ, according to 1 Corinthians 2:16. Since we have the mind of Christ we can combat any attack that comes our way, whether the attack is from Satan or our flesh. Having the mind of Christ means that we can resist temptation, we can say no to sexual immorality, jealously, hate, judging others, and selfishness to live righteously. We have to renew our minds as it says in Romans 12:2 (NIV), “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” When situations arise that can easily lead us into an ungodly place, renew your mind that immediately. You have to be quicker than the flesh, that is why I always say stay on guard. Most bad decisions happen in a split second. That bad decision can be as simple as speaking negatively about another or lying to someone to stay out of trouble.
Being a Christian is not for that faint of heart, but the benefits of righteous living far outweigh anything that I had before I was saved. The joy alone is worth the journey. Knowing that I am living for God allows me to put away my selfish desires and do what I enjoy most, which is helping and empowering others. And having God work everything together for my good gives me a peace that truly helps to eliminate worries and fears. Add that to the fact that I’m going to Heaven, there is no greater goal that I have than being with my Father one day. Those are just some of the benefits that are impactful to me, you have to figure out what the benefits are to you. When you know how being a Christian is beneficial to you, then you can hold on to those benefits when times are hard and when things are falling apart but you don’t understand why.
I know that we have already looked at a lot of scripture today, but I want to leave you with two more to meditate on, in addition to the ones mentioned earlier, that you can recall when the enemy is attacking you or when your flesh and the Spirit has a battle.
Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”