“Now you must also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:8-11)
If you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, something wondrously new has happened; something you likely did not expect. Through faith in the Lord, something whole and new has been grafted into your life. The “old” nature still exists but there is a “new” as well, and I don’t know where you are in all this, but I do know I am pretty sick of the old me. If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve made mistakes, discovered belatedly that you’ve hurt the feelings of others, and in general, made a nuisance of yourself… even when you tried to be “good.” Blessedly, the Lord views us with more kindness than we view ourselves—it’s called the “grace,” the unmerited favor of God.
Here’s a question: What if you were never born? Would the world be different if you didn’t exist? When we truly start to understrand and begin to believe God's Word we call the "Bible," it comes through that each one of us is here because of God’s conscious and careful decision to create us. You are not a gnat, a snail or guppy because God has chosen you to be a human being with the potential to become a child of God. And it’s not about how good you think you are.
As you would expect, a child grows larger, stronger and hopefully wiser as time goes on. The child of God finds a similar process to the human experience, but the emphasis in growth is not the same. Instead of merely becoming physically and mentally more proficient, the new child of God gradually learns to recognize the immense power and infinite love of God. This One, the Holy God who is without limits of any kind, utterly loves us and is determined to help you and me.
Our growth is in Him. When today’s Scripture encourages us to “put off the old man,” with all our mistakes in the past and the extreme likelihood that we will do it again, it is not something we accomplish alone. And the secret of the phrase, “put on the new man,” is revealed in places like Romans 13:14—We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Instead of always merely DOING something, which has been our habit in the past, we now look to Him… we ask Him to show us the need and then we ask Him to do it, to fulfill the need. It’s called “prayer”—we are to become men and women who look to the Lord to do what we can't.
The past year is gone and you are unable to go back and do it differently. It is dead. As we learn in Colossians 3:3, “You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” One of my professors in college, a man I learned to deeply respect, did this in a class one day: Illustrating this verse, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a coin, a quarter. He placed the quarter into his other hand and closed those fingers around it. Then he took the other hand and closed it around the first, as he looked at us and said, “That’s what it means that “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” We are doubly safe and alive in our Lord.
As the chapter in Colossians continues in Verses 12-14, we find that we are essentially called to do the impossible: “Put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” The problem is that when we look at our lives, we find that today, just like it was in the past, we can’t fully do it. Partly—yes, but fully—no.
C. S. Lewis had much to say about our struggle, and he should be listened to, because he was humbly open about his own condition; having the same problem we do. Here’s a quote from his book, “The Business of Heaven”—“A merciful man aims at his neighbor’s good and so does God’s will; consciously co-operating with ‘the simple good.’ A cruel man oppresses his neighbor and so does simple evil. But in doing such evil, he is used by God, without his own knowledge or consent, to produce the complex good—so that the first man serves God as a son, and the second as a tool. For you will certainly carry out God’s purposes however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.” Judas tried to manipulate God into doing what he thought God should do, whereas John was growing in faith that the Lord would do what God intended. Whatever it was, John did not truly know; he just had a growing faith that the Lord would bring it to pass.
God has allowed the “old nature” to continue on in our lives, or as it is termed in some translations, like in ours today, the “old man.” In this schoolroom we call “human life,” we make choices all the time. I clearly remember in college, making a choice on a key test, a final exam. I was confronted with four choices, indicated by A, B, C or D. I was surprised by the question, and looking back on it, I should have known the answer. I did not at the time and so I guessed wrongly as it turned out. We often guess when we should pray, or perhaps I should speak for myself: I too often have guessed when I should have prayed. You’ll have to speak for yourself.
Let’s look again at Colossians 3:3—“You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” When Jesus died, you died. He was crucified, paying the price for your sins and mine. Your death will not pay the price because you are guilty and the sentence upon you is death. But Jesus was not guilty, and in His innocence, death has no hold on Him. He entered the tomb, and you did, too. Then, in a flash of amazing glory, He was brought back to life, and here’s where your part enters in—you have one of those choices, the most important one of all… You can either choose to believe in Him and what He has done—or not. You either burst out of the tomb with Him, forever safe “with Christ in God,” or you can stay in a tomb-like state, confined with your sins—forever.
You will, like the rest of us, face God someday. Since time only exists here in this physical universe and He is outside of time and space as we know it, you and I may well be already facing Him right now. He will look at you and either see the “new man,” which is Christ in you, or He will see you only as the “old man” who tried to do it, tried to be good (or not) on your own. If you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ within the schoolroom of this life, you will be welcomed into eternity, where “Christ is all and in all.” And amazingly, the “old man” which you and I have dragged around with us like some kind of corpse all our lives, will instantly drop away; gone forever.
If you or I were running things, we might do it differently, but blessedly, we’re not in charge. God is. “As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will”—that’s John 5:21. Only faith in the Son of God will enable us to exist in the eternal glory of God. Our good works, done in the name of some philosophy, science or religion, are not good enough. He, the Son, our Lord, IS good enough, and we live forever through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you “new” today—do you want to be?—let’s pray.
Father, I am so tired from trying to do the right thing and then discovering that it wasn’t good enough. I don’t even know what’s right anymore. I’m just tired and know that I need help; I need You. Please forgive me, help me and heal my life. Give me this “new man” I hear about. Forgive me and save me, Lord. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.