Digging in Deeper: 2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”‬‬ (CSB – Read the chapter

Have you ever watched a caterpillar come out of its chrysalis as a butterfly? It’s a pretty remarkable thing to see. Actually, remarkable doesn’t quite cover it. It’s absolutely amazing. What goes into that cocoon is not the same thing that comes out of it. I can’t think of another creature that undergoes such a complete and total physical transformation as that. I can think of another creature, however, that experiences an equally dramatic transformation: Us. 

Before Christ, we are defined by sin. It characterizes everything we do. We are not as bad as we could be by God’s Grace, but we are thoroughly corrupted at every point. This sin even affects the good we try and do. That’s something about sin some folks don’t understand. Being totally depraved, to use the theological phrase for it, doesn’t mean we don’t do anything good. It means that even when we do something good, it is tainted by sin. When we set out to do something good, sin will be the final statement on the matter. Genuine altruism is constantly just out of our grasp.

But in Christ, we are something new. We are a new creation. As Paul writes here, the old person is gone and a new person has come in his place. There may not be a physical component of this transformation, but at a spiritual level it is total. Our thinking and reasoning processes are completely reformed in Christ. We don’t value the same things anymore. Our driving force has shifted from something of this world to someone who is above it. Everything is different. 

The reason for this is hinted at in the second-to-last phrase here. The old has “passed away.” In Christ, our old self dies. That’s what Paul wrote just a couple of verses earlier. We are convinced that if one died for all, then all died. When we place ourselves in Christ, we spiritually participate in His death and resurrection. What was has died and gone and something new has risen in its place. It is as unlike the old as a butterfly is different from a caterpillar. 

The challenge here, though, is that this death and resurrection are primarily spiritual now, not physical. That means we can’t necessarily see it. We can feel it for sure, but we don’t look any different. To simply look at a person, you can’t tell if they are regenerate or not. Well, as long as we are in this life, we are somewhat limited by what we can see. And, since we can’t see the change, and since we still feel the pressure of the self that died in Christ, we sometimes struggle with living the change. 

Yet we must live it. We must live it because to do otherwise is grotesquely inappropriate. Imagine a butterfly trying to munch on leaves. It’s system isn’t designed for that anymore and they will kill it. If you are in Christ, to try and live out of the old person who died is like doing a bit of spiritual necromancy. A follower of Jesus who engages in the sinful practices of the old life in whatever form those might happen to take is like a zombie. He is dead, but walking around like he’s alive. Zombies are monsters. Don’t be a monster.

If you are in Christ, you are new. Your old self is gone entirely. There’s no use trying to bring it back. It’s not something worth missing. It was death on feet and you have put an end to it. Now you have the opportunity to experience life in all its wonderful glory. Remain in Christ. Abide in Him. Let His resurrection life flow through you in abundance so the world might see what life looks like. Trust me on this one: you’ll be glad you did.

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