This is probably one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (17)
I love the Life Application Bible’s comment on this: “We are not reformed, rehabilitated, or reeducated — we are recreated, living in a vital union with Christ.”
So many times, though, that’s how people think. That God saved us to make us better people. To make us good.
But that is not his purpose at all. Rather, his purpose is to make us into something totally new.
The problem with the world’s way of thinking is that it’s based on the idea that we can be reformed. That we can be rehabilitated. That we can be reeducated. And we can to some extent. But if there’s going to be any real change, it can’t come from human efforts or human wisdom. It has to come from God, changing us from the inside out.
The Jews tried to reform themselves for years, only to find themselves in relapse time and again. The book of Judges is a constant picture of this.
God sent judges, priests, and prophets to reeducate them. For that matter, they had the wisest man who ever lived ruling them in Solomon. But not only could Solomon not reeducate his people into becoming new people, he himself fell into utter depravity and sin.
The Jews were put into longterm rehab in the desert for 40 years after their escape from Egypt. Then they went into rehab again in Babylon for another 70.
Still, nothing really changed. Oh, after the final rehab they finally came out a people that were no longer polygamous. But when their Messiah came, they rejected and crucified him. And to this day, the vast majority of them still refuse to recognize Jesus as their Messiah.
So what people need today is not reform. Not reeducation. Not rehabilitation. They need to become totally new creatures. And that can only come through Christ. Only through Christ can we become the kinds of people that God originally created to be. People who are the image of God himself.
I love the story of Eustace in C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace through his own selfishness and greed had turned into a dragon. And during that time as a dragon, he to a degree was reformed and rehabilitated. But he was still a dragon.
Then he met Aslan, a symbol of Christ throughout the Narnian stories. Aslan told him, “Go into the pool and take a bath. But before you enter, you need to undress.”
As a dragon, Eustace of course didn’t have any clothes, but he did start to peel off his dragon skin. When he was done, he was about to go into the pool, when he realized he still had another layer of dragon skin on. So he did it twice more, but still there were further layers of dragon skin. So Aslan said to him, “You will have to let me undress you.”
Aslan’s claws then cut in so deep and so painfully that Eustace said that he had thought they had gone right into his heart. Aslan then threw Eustace into the pool, and when Eustace came out, he was a boy again.
Like Eustace, we can try to reeducate, rehabilitate, and reform ourselves. But that’s not what we need. What we need is to become a new creation.
And as Lewis said of Eustace, it is only then that the cure truly begins.
How about you? Are you trying to change yourself by your own efforts? By doing that, you can only become “a better dragon.” But if you truly want to become the person you were created to be, you need to become a new creation. And that starts with a prayer.
Lord Jesus, I’ve messed up my own life with my sin. I look in the mirror, and I don’t like what I see. I’ve tried to rehabilitate myself, but it hasn’t worked. So now I turn to you. I believe you died on the cross to pay the penalty for all my sin. Now forgive me. Make me new. Transform me into your image as I was originally created to be. In Jesus name, amen.