By Jim Walsh
Paul wrote, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). He also wrote that when one is baptized into Christ’s death, he is resurrected to a new life (Rom. 6:4). Think about what it’s like to get something new — something that doesn’t wear out anytime soon. Having something that’s new makes us feel good. There is even an emotional change. The problem with new things is that they never stay new. All too soon they become old and begin to decay, as does all life. Peter helps us with this problem by reminding the Christian that this new life is to be a changing life. In 1 Peter 4:1-4, he wrote that several things need to happen if this change is to be permanent. (1) Our new life has to be a life that changes in thought by following the mind of Christ (4:1). (2) Our new life must be a life that changes in desire, by obeying the will of God (4:2). (3) Our new life must be a life that changes in activities, by refusing to lust after the flesh 4:3). (4) Our new life must also change in direction, by no longer walking after the world (4:4). Beginning The Changed Life
First, we must understand what new means: it means a new beginning. When we obey the gospel, we start with a clean slate; our sins are forgiven. God promises to remove our sins and our iniquities and “. . . remember them no more” (Heb. 8:12). This means that our forgiveness is complete and absolute. God is not holding on to any of our sins. He has removed them and treats us as if they never existed. We need to have the same attitude toward past sins. We need to forget them and not carry the chains of guilt over past sins. Christ died and shed his blood so that we might have the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14). Do we believe in the power of Christ’s blood to do as he promised? If so, then we need to realize that when we become Christians, God removes all of our sins.
Also, we need to see our new relationship with God as an ongoing one. In his first epistle, John mentions that our relationship can continue with God, so long as we continue to do his will. John wrote, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Our relationship with God is conditional upon our remaining obedient to him. God has given us our start in this new life by removing our sins. We must do our part by keeping away from sin. In so doing, we maintain our fellowship with God, Christ, and other Christians. If we sin, we must repent in order for God to remove our sin and keep us in this new life (1 John 1:9). God’s promise then is that faithfulness and repentance from sin maintain this new relationship.
In addition, we need to appreciate that this is a new relationship only if it is “in Christ.” This means that there is no relationship outside of Christ because there is no forgiveness outside of Christ. When we become Christians by baptism, we are placed “into Christ” (Rom. 6:3). Before being in Christ, we are separated from God. We are placed into Christ by baptism. In this act of obedience, our old life is “crucified” and “buried” (Rom. 6:4). Why resurrect the old and dead when Christ gives me the new and living? It is only “in Christ” that we can have freedom from the condemnation that was the consequence of sin (Rom. 8:1). Therefore, God equates our being in Christ with being alive. We are truly new creatures because God has created us anew, and put us in a place where he say that everything is good. That place is in Christ.
Maintaining the Changed Life
Change will not be complete if we are not committed to that change. We will not experience the full appreciation of the freedom that is in Christ if we keep trying to leave him and go back to the old way of sins. What are some ways we might fail to realize a complete change?
1. When one does not continue to purify himself with God’s word. Peter instructs us to “. . . purify your souls . . . not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God” (1 Pet. 1:22, 23). Too often, people do not treat God’s word as the purifying agent it is. He provided it to guard and preserve us. Those who embrace the changed life are to depend fully upon God’s word to maintain their new life. There is nothing else that can instruct man in how to purify one’s soul because there is nothing else in this world that is free from decay and corruption. God’s word comes from him. It comes from him who is everlasting. It is ever- lasting. As Peter wrote, it “. . . liveth and abideth forever” (1 Pet. 1:23). We can only remain free from corruption by continuing to purify ourselves with God’s word.
2. When one does not appreciate the process of removal and replacement. When we turn from the old, we must discard it to make room for the new. Paul instructed the Philippians to “. . . put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the Spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteous- ness and true holiness” (Phil. 4:22-24). Paul said to put off that old man, to get rid of him. Too often we hold onto the old man. We treat the old man of sin like the mad doctors treated vampires in old horror movies; they kept digging them up! God instructs us to be holy as he is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). God considered those under the Old Covenant as unclean if they came in contact with the dead (Num. 19:11). Why go back to the old man and become unholy by coming in contact with that which is dead? God removed the old man when we were baptized into Christ (Rom. 6: 4). Leave the dead alone and live in Christ as a new man.
3. The changed life requires regular self-examination. Paul reminds us that we must examine ourselves to make sure we are staying in Christ (2 Cor. 13:5). We are to examine ourselves against the standard of God’s word. If we are not measuring up to what God would have us to be, then we need to complete the change we began. Failure to continue to examine ourselves, and to grow and change to comply with God’s word, will cause us to fall (2 Pet. 1:3-12).
This is where Peter’s admonition in 1 Peter 4:1-4 applies. We must compare ourselves to Christ in thought, desire, activity, and direction. We must have the same mind as Christ. We must have the same desires as Christ in obeying the Father’s will. We must have the same activity as Christ, living according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. Finally, we must set the same course as the Captain of our salvation: the course for Heaven.
A new life has been made available to us in Jesus Christ. We begin this new life without sin being held against us. God recreates us as if we are brand new. He has given us his incorruptible word to help guide us beyond this corruptible world. His plan of redemption places us in his Son, Jesus Christ, so that we can continue to be renewed. He has provided everything. All we need to do is follow him. What a loving Father, and what a wonderful Savior!