Peter says that God’s elect are given a NEW BIRTH, redeemed and given an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Paul’s words to Christians in Corinth are, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW CREATION; the old is gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Also, take note of Peter’s inspired description of the change in the life of the believer. 1 Peter 4:2-4 says:
“As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.”
Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:22-24 also clearly describe the miraculous change that takes place in Christians:
“You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Just how does this change take place?
Some make an external or counterfeit change through human effort alone. We can liken it to the many New Year’s resolutions that people make and then break. A motivational book or speaker can spur us on to make changes that will enhance our quality of life. Many cults provide guidelines toward holy living.
We know that in the flesh, through personal effort and self will, changes can be made in regard to outside appearances. Jesus spoke of the religious leaders of His day as “white washed graves, beautiful on the outside, but inwardly filled with dead men’s bones.”
Human effort without the inward power of God can be short lived and can easily fail. 2 Peter 2:22 reminds us that “a dog returns to its vomit” and “a sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”
Now, real change that Jesus, and later His apostles, spoke of was a powerful change made by God to the inner man. Paul wrote in Titus 3:5-6:
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
The Psalmist prayed, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). In verse 7 David asks the Lord, “cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
True heartfelt lasting change comes only through God’s power.
All of us are children of Adam and Eve and have been born with a sin nature. Thus Jesus came as our Savior and “bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:24)
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Jesus appeared once for all to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Hebrews 9:22, 26)
It is crystal clear throughout scripture that without our Savior, Jesus Christ, the perfect unblemished Lamb of God, we humans would be eternally lost, “dead in our sins.” But, believers in Jesus have been miraculously and powerfully made new, “alive in Christ.” He is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6)
Jesus said that a person must be BORN AGAIN to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-7).
Believers become believers by God’s appointment (Acts 13:48). Jesus says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, to bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15-16) Paul describes God’s choosing of His saints at Ephesians chapter 1, and Romans chapter 8. Also, Peter describes this election in I Peter chapter 1.
But what causes a believer in Jesus Christ to change, to become “new?”
Jesus tells us in John 7:37-39 that believers experience a miracle, receiving “springs of living water,” which is the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Look at Jesus’ last words before ascending to heaven at Acts 1:8. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be witnesses of Me.” Now isn’t that significant change? Paul says we are the “temple of God,” that the Holy Spirit lives in us. Isn’t that a divine change – God living in us! (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Romans 8:5-17)
Jesus said to His disciples, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on High” (Luke 24:49).
When believers receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, does that change make them perfect and sinless?
In 1 John 1:8-10 John writes, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.”
In 1 John 3:9, the apostle describes a believer as one who is being continually sanctified, refined, and becoming more like God. He says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him. He cannot go on sinning because he is born of God.” John is surely not saying we will become sinless and perfect because He already made it very clear in 2 John 1:8-10 that we all do sin. What he is explaining is that we don’t continue to deliberately practice sin.
Christians are changed because God now lives in them. If the Holy Spirit lives in us then we receive the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25). Also, believers receive gifts in the Spirit to share with others. All of this is to God’s glory and evidence of His power manifested in believers. (Romans 12:4-8; 2 Corinthians 12:1-31)
The apostle Paul, who was previously Saul of Tarsus, was a persecutor and murderer of the followers of Jesus. Yet this same man was later made new and was then used mightily by God.
1 Corinthians 4:16-17 he says to those in Corinth, “I urge you to imitate me.” Then he tells them he is sending Timothy. “He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” Paul wrote 13 books of the New Testament and started a multitude of churches in Greece and Turkey. Paul became a suffering servant for Jesus. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)
In Acts 20:37, 38 you see Christians at Ephesus weeping, embracing and kissing Paul. They were grieving that they might not see him again. That surely sounds like Paul was a changed person and loved deeply by his brothers and sisters in Christ. To those in Thessalonica he said, “You became imitators of us and the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
Also to the Colossians he said, “Put on the new self,” “Put to death whatever belongs to the earthly nature,” “You use to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived, but now you must rid yourselves of all such things.”These are the writings of Paul in Colossians 3:5-10 and express God’s cleansing power in the life of believers.
In Romans chapter 6 Paul again emphasizes the changed life, “dead to sin” and “alive in Christ.” In verse 4 he emphasizes living a “new life.” In verse 6 Paul says, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” In verse 11 it says, “Count yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
He continues in verse 14 by declaring that sin shall no longer be master over believers. Yet, we know that having been born in sin we will never be completely free of sin in this life but changes in our way of life will be dramatic. “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”(Romans 8:5-6) “The mind controlled by the Holy Spirit is life and peace.”
Those who come to Jesus find “rest for their souls.”
Their burdens are taken away (Matthew 11:28-30). When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. (John 8:36) Free from sin and free from guilt. For when you see yourself through God’s eyes, through His love, grace and mercy, and through the blood of our Savior, Jesus, then you know you are justified and are made clean and holy.
The scriptures are clear that all who are “in Christ” are “in the faith.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) “In Christ” means “born again.” It means Christ Jesus lives in you through the Holy Spirit. It means that believers “know” that they are one with Christ and have received eternal life! (1 John 5:11-13)
So, this is the good news – the gospel of Jesus Christ: That you have been made new, you who believe, you have received the free gift of eternal life. This gospel is the true gospel and only by it are people saved. This gospel tells all that Jesus was crucified, died for our sins, and is now the resurrected living Savior (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). He is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and God of gods. Hallelujah!! Worthy is the Lamb! Let us glorify Him and bow down and worship Him for He is the Lord of Glory, the only true God and the Great “I AM.”
He who sits on the throne says, “I am making all things new!”(Revelation 21:5)
If you have received a “new birth,” if you are “born of God,” if you received a second birth in the Spirit, then you are a new creation in Christ Jesus and are forever changed! You have been “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)