|By: Rev. Sam Harris; ©2004|
|A viewer comments on 2 Corinthians 5:17, “I know I’ve been born again, but I cannot honestly say that ‘the old things have passed away.’ Help me to understand all of this.” Rev. Sam Harris tackles that task.|
Question: Old Things Have Passed Away
I have been a Christian for about a year, have joined an evangelical church, and recently started attending Sunday School. The teacher encouraged us to begin daily devotionals, and I have started reading the Bible and using a daily devotional guide. Today’s devotion was centered on 2 Corinthians 5:17, which reads: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” I know that I have been born again and now have a new relationship with Jesus, but I cannot honestly say that “the old things have passed away.” Help me to understand all of this.
You ask a very insightful and honest question that more should be asking! Countless Christians would agree with your frustrations. When we are born again, we do receive a new nature in Jesus Christ, but the old nature simply doesn’t pass away. Actually, the spiritual battle between the two natures is just beginning and becomes a great struggle for all Christians. That’s why Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 that we are to put on the whole armor of God. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (vs. 12).
Our old nature is natural—that which you were born with, and the new nature is supernatural, a gift from God. The old nature cannot please God and the new nature cannot displease God. As we confess our sins and invite Jesus into our hearts, we are born again or re-created in the image of God. As we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives, we become more and more like Christ. We want to consider the question on the WWJD bracelets: “What Would Jesus Do?” We must realize that this is a lifetime process. It doesn’t happen over night.
Paul had his own struggles as found in Romans 7:14-25. He knows what he is supposed to do, he desires to do what is right, but often fails because of the sin in his (and our) life. In verse 24, Paul asks a question: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?” Verse 25: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Then read on through Chapter 8; for you will see that Jesus delivers us from the bondage of sin, and our victory comes through Jesus Christ. Read especially verses 37-39: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him Who loved us….”
I am reminded of an old Indian fable I read in Our Daily Bread a number of years ago. It was a story about a mouse who was afraid of cats. A wizard (remember its just a fable, I don’t believe in wizards!) felt sorry for him and offered to help him lose his fear. So with the mouse’s approval, he turned him into a cat. The cat, however, was afraid of dogs, so the wizard turned him into a dog. But the dog was afraid of tigers, and the wizard turned him into a tiger. The wizard discovered that the tiger was afraid of hunters. “You’re hopeless. What you need is a change of heart! And that I cannot give you,” said the wizard.
We, too, need a new heart. We cannot be merely fixed up on the outside, but must becompletely changed on the inside. This inner change occurs when we admit our sinfulness and place our trust in Christ for salvation. By God’s Spirit we are born again, and we become a new creation in Christ. Our perspective on life and the things of this world are transformed. As the writer in Our Daily Bread said: “We are at peace with God, and as we live our lives in obedience to Him we experience the peace of God and are given the desire and the power to live a victorious life.”