I was blogging last week about how being “in Christ” can so completely transform our hearts and lives so as to set us free from any of the old fleshly habits and addictions which would also include wrong feelings and ideas about our sexual identity. Paul knows something about being transformed completely by the Lord Jesus Christ. He writes to the Corinthians these verses, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!( 2 Cor.5:16,17 NIV). In the 16th verse Paul talks about our need to disregard a worldly point of view. Remember that before Paul was Paul he was Saul. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees, zealous to persecute the church of Jesus Christ. He looked on Jesus Christ from purely a physical frame of reference. He judged Jesus from a fleshly point of view which resulted in him believing that he was serving God when he was persecuting Christians. But as a result of Saul’s conversion he no longer evaluated people on the basis of externals. At one time this was how Saul viewed Jesus Christ. The world that we live in has no idea how the Lord Jesus Christ can transform so completely one’s attitudes and actions. Saul had estimated that Jesus was purely a man much like himself, but once Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus his opinion was completely transformed and so were his actions. Mere information about Jesus cannot transform a person from a self-centered, selfish life to a selfless life of service for Christ. Only conversion by placing one’s trust in Jesus Christ can transform one’s view of the significance and power and importance of Jesus Christ. As an unconverted Jewish Rabbi Saul looked upon Christ after the flesh, but when he saw the risen Savior Saul was transformed into Paul. His point of view was completely changed as was his name. We are not to look at life from purely a physical point of view if we have a faith point of reference. Many Christians today have allowed a very secular mindset to influence how we see and understand the work of Jesus Christ. Some think that Jesus is someone you just add to your list of responsibilities or priorities. But in reality Jesus is the one who can so transform our responsibilities and our priorities. We are not to look at the world enslaved in sin from purely a fleshly point of view. We must evaluate things based on the Word of God, not on our cultural teaching or political rhetoric. Our world would tell us that people can’t change, that that’s just the way they are, that their oriented in a certain direction. But Saul is a perfect example of someone who’s life was completely changed when he met the Lord Jesus Christ.
That is the background to the word “therefore” in verse 17. It’s profoundly important that we understand the background for which Paul is then making the statements about experiencing the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. When people are governed totally by their fleshly impulses and their distorted personal images they are walking after the flesh and after the cultural definition of their behavior. But Paul says “therefore” as a result of not looking at things any longer from a purely fleshly point of view, we are to now have a view that is entirely different. If anyone is “in Christ” their frame of reference should be completely transformed. But if being “in Christ” is the condition of our acceptance, what does it then mean to be “in Christ”? To be in Christ speaks of having a spiritual union with Jesus by placing one’s faith in Christ. It is trusting in His life, death and resurrection solely and entirely as the basis of our salvation. No person can re-create himself. One of our favorite family traditions at Christmas is watching the movie, “The Christmas Carol”. While I love the movie, the movie ends with Ebenezer Scrooge having completely transformed his life from what it was. But no one can do that after the flesh. Paul constantly uses the phrase “in Christ” in his epistles as a means of communicating the need to trust the message of the gospel and to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ by faith in His finished work. Because of what he had been previously been Paul could never get over what it meant to be “in Christ”. The word “new” here in the Greek language implies something quite new in nature and different from anything that previously existed. It is not the concept of most recent version but something completely different. That’s what God begins in the heart and lives of those who truly trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christian growth is a lifetime experience but it begins in a moment in time when we yield our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. This new character clearly is not in the physical sense. It could be illustrated by the life of Zacchaeus (Luke 19) whose life was radically changed over lunch with the Lord Jesus Christ. Because all things are “new” we also have a new view of the people around us. We see them as sinners for whom Christ died, regardless of their race or national background. These new attitudes and new actions should issue forth in a new spirit of ministry and cooperation and a new song in our hearts and lives. When Jesus Christ truly comes into our hearts and lives He begins a new work of grace. The old fleshly and carnal views of our lives and our culture are put away and a desire to honor God and serve the Lord Jesus Christ replaces these old things. The greatest transformation is in our attitude towards sin which in the past we may have viewed as a mistake or misfortune, now we have come to recognize sin as a crime against a holy God and the reason that Christ hung on the cross. What an awesome thing it is to be “in Christ” and to experience His transforming power. There is no attitude or sin that cannot be transformed by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ and made completely new. I hope you have found your identity “in Christ”. If you have this new birth “in Christ” know that as you grow and walk in His grace He can set you free from the most powerful addictions and wrong thinking, just as he did for the apostle Paul.
Pastor Rich Sivo