Could you please explain the idea of being a new creation while still living inside our sinful nature? I believe we get renewed daily, growing in Christ-likeness yet never achieving perfection till the after-life. I understand it in my heart, but it’s hard to put it in words: how can I be new yet still be old?
“New creation” is one of those christianese phrases that church people sometimes say without defining, as if it were self explanatory. It is not, though you definitely are on the right track. You are dead on with your description of growing to become more like Jesus daily. The theological term for that process is “sanctification.” That process starts when you accept Christ, which is also when you become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The important thing about that phrase is what you point out- you become a new creation, not a perfect creation. Before, your sinful nature was running the show uncontested. When you begin a relationship with Jesus and the Spirit of God comes to live inside you, that is something totally new.
The frustrating thing is that a lot of times we don’t feel very new. We may have the same old behaviors, the same old negative thoughts, the same old issues; so how can you be new? You are new because your relationship to God, the most deepest thing about you, has totally changed.
2 Corinthians 5:17 is the oft quoted verse that says “If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation.” The next verse, verse 18 talks about how that happens through God’s “ministry of reconciliation.” In Romans 5:10-11, Paul talks about how that ministry of reconciliation means that we used to be God’s enemies, but now through the death of Jesus, we are now His family.
That is something totally new. We used to be separated from God and now we are connected to Him like a vine to a branch. That new relationship at the core of who we are is what leads to the changes in our life. It starts on such a deep level, that it may be tough to notice at first. But, at some point, the old behaviors lose their appeal, the old negative thoughts are being talked back to, the old issues don’t define us anymore. Something new, the kingship of Jesus in our life, has taken precedence over them. Once they are drained of their power, they will start to fade away.
It may not always seem like it, but if you have a relationship with Jesus, you are something totally new. As continue to walk with Him, and look back over your life, that will become more and more apparent. It is a process, but it is happening, and it is for real.
-Matt from The Bridge