Suppose you were to be introduced to a good Christian man. A person you could really look up to. Perhaps you might ask to hear his testimony. Surely he was raised by good parents and committed to the faith at an early age. But what if you were wrong? If his story is more complex, you might quote 2 Corinthians 5:17. But does Jesus really make us new creatures? Let’s consider this thought.
Does Jesus make us new Creatures?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come.
Let’s assume our good Christian is a reformed bank robber. He was caught and sent to prison. There, through a local church ministry, he found Jesus. After a genuine conversion, he turned his life around. Moreover, he began to study the Bible and pursue an education. 10 years later he is released. 20 years after that, he continues to be a good Christian and a productive member of society. Surely he is a new creation in Christ, correct? Not so fast.
I could argue that instead, it was our criminal justice system that turned him around. It was they that forced him into a situation where he had nothing better to do than attend Bible study. Furthermore, they offered the classes that gave him his education. Therefore, Jesus had nothing to do with his turnaround.
However, I must contend with our new Christian’s personal testimony. He gives all of the credit to Jesus. Is it fair to deny his compelling testimony? Perhaps it is not. So, let’s credit this man’s story to Jesus.
If anyone is in Christ…
This leads me to a famous Christian apologist who died last year. Now, we are learning about the sexual indiscretions of Ravi Zacharias, a man who devoted his life to Jesus. Without addressing the details, suffice it to say his story falls short of the “new creation” standard. Hence, some Christians will say he couldn’t have been a true believer. However, this is begging the question.
If we presume that the statement is true, we will then use it as a litmus test. If a man is a new creation, he is in Christ. However, if he is not a new creation, he is not. Instead, let’s allow the statement to be proven or disproven by the facts.
Does Jesus make us new creatures, or simply help us become new?
There are plenty of examples of Christianity helping people to turn their lives around. However, there are also many examples of Christians who have fallen short. Hence, perhaps the problem lies in viewing this verse as an all or nothing proposition.
The Apostle Paul created this “live by the sword” approach to faith vs works. Hence, Christianity tends to die by the sword of public opinion when things don’t work out. Deuteronomy 30 tells us that the law isn’t so far removed from our mindset that someone has to ascend to heaven to bring it down to us. However, Paul contorted the context of this quote in Romans 10.
First, he replaces the law with Jesus. Then, he leaves off the most important part of the quote. You can do it, as in you can keep the law. Here’s what Paul says.
6But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.Romans 10:6-9
Faith is great, but so is accountability.
Christianity has helped many people live better, more fulfilling and meaningful lives. However, it has never beaten the sin out of anyone. If you’re looking to be made into a new creature, there’s no easy fix. However, if you’re looking to be a better person it can help. Just remember that if you want to succeed, it’s going to take some work. Moreover if you put it all on Jesus, when you fail Jesus will get the blame in the eyes of those around you.
Be fair to yourself, your faith, and those around you. Thank Jesus for the help, but take credit for your successes so he doesn’t get stuck holding your failures.