In the stillness of early morning I turned to day four of Praying the Promises of the Cross and looked up the assigned verse.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
My devotional says to read verse 18 too but I get hung up here and don’t continue.
“God, I don’t feel like I am a new creation in Christ,” I admit as I read verse 17 again. All the ways I’d tried and failed to overcome my sinful nature play through my head, “clearly the old remains” I tell Him.
As I read the verse yet again, I notice the simplicity; if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. My analytical brain immediately jumps to a logical conclusion; if I do not feel like a new creation then perhaps I am not in Christ.
To clarify, I did not doubt my salvation, but rather if my life was in line with the Spirit—was I choosing to live as a new creation or putting back on my old sinful self?
I wrestled with this idea of choosing to live as a new creation in Christ for months before reaching a better question: was my heart pure?
David Guzik explains the phrase pure of heart refers to an inner moral purity; “those who are utterly sincere and not divided in their devotion and commitment to God.”
My continual struggle with sin is not what kept me from feeling like a new creation, but rather my divided heart. Even though I wanted to live completely devoted and committed to God, I had developed some bad habits, worldly habits, which held me back.
3 Habits that Divide the Heart
1. Following cultural beliefs which contradict the Bible.
Whether we like it or not, we are all shaped by where we live and how we were raised. This is not wholly bad, but we must be careful because sometimes cultural beliefs sound good, yet go against scripture.
In Galatians, Paul warns of the danger in following what other people are doing instead of what Jesus tells us: “This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough!” (Gal. 5:9 NLT). In other words, even a small step into our culture’s beliefs can lead us astray.
2. Trying to earn salvation.
We are saved by grace and nothing else. No amount of good works or “religious” activities can buy salvation. But we tend to have a hard time believing this; after all, how can something so great be free? Or perhaps we think it’s unfair to receive such a gift without earning it.
I think those are the types of thoughts which tripped up the Galatians and required Paul to write; “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one.” Galatians 1:6-7a (ESV)
The Galatians had turned to the law of Moses, just as we turn to our church attendance, hours of service, amount of time in prayer, and anything else which allows us to make a tally mark in our “goodness” column.
But as Paul points out, trying to earn our salvation is a rejection of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
3. Justifying sin.
If we all take an honest look at ourselves, I think we would discover certain parts of our sinful nature we like and are reluctant to let go of.
We justify these sins by saying, “it’s not that bad,” or by blaming someone else’s sin; “if he didn’t do that then I wouldn’t have…” We may even believe we deserve a sinful indulgence because of how good we have been or how hard we have worked.
Yet, scripture tells us all sin separates us from God.
“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:7-8 (ESV)
We cannot live as a new creation in Christ and believe some sin is acceptable.
In the months of wrestling with this topic, I read a sermon by Charles Spurgeon and found this statement helpful:
“Even though we find that when we would do good evil is present with us, yet our inmost soul longs after holiness and pines to be delivered from every evil way. At any rate, Dear friends, if it be not so with you, you may well question whether you are indeed the children of God.”
Just because we still struggle with sin doesn’t mean we are not a new creation in Christ. But if we do not desire holiness— if our heart is divided and not utterly sincere in our devotion and commitment to God, then we are submitting ourselves back to slavery instead of living in the freedom of Christ.
*If you are new to the idea of having a pure heart, check out my previous post How to Become Pure in Heart.