“…put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.” (Eph. 4:24)
Today we consider three things God does to restore us to His original design. This is the first, when God forgave us of our sins, He declared us innocent, or righteous, because of the blood of Jesus. Scripture says we were justified. Justification is an act of God that pronounces us righteous because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Paul explained that God “made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). We were justified when we placed our faith in Jesus as Savior.
We can’t make that claim when it comes to sin. The only analogy that would illustrate human justification in the biblical sense would be a man whose older brother persuaded the judge to let him take the just sentence of his younger brother, and the judge set the younger brother free. He could never be rearrested and serve time for the crime. It was paid for him, so he was justified. In the same way, believers are justified, judicially declared to be what we can’t be experientially. Because we have a substitute who paid our penalty for sin, we are declared innocent. So God is just and at the same time, the justifier of those who trust in Jesus: “God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). I see my sins and deeply grieve, but God, the righteous Judge, sees only Jesus. In God’s eyes I’m not a stumbling, polluted sinner but as pure and holy and guiltless as Jesus! How does being justified through Jesus’ righteousness give you hope in the Christian life?
The second thing God does to restore us to His original design is to make us a new creation. I was visiting a friend who was totally despondent. Louise asked me if I thought she had been born again. Jeda, a friend, had told her she wasn’t. “I don’t feel or think or talk like a Christian. What do you think?”
Louise reviewed the gospel with me and had no question about her faith in Jesus, her forgiveness, and her justification. But she was unsure of regeneration: “I wouldn’t be this way if I’d been born again, would I?” Though miserable and probably mistaken, she’s on to something. Scripture says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). I think Louise is a born-again believer, safe in Jesus, but she is right to ask the question because a new creation isn’t supposed to think and behave in the same ways she used to. Maybe we should join Louise and ask what evidence of regeneration is present in our lives.
The third thing God does to restore us to his original design is that new things are born in your life. The change made by the Spirit in the core person is radical—so radical that you could liken it to a death. The beloved spouse who is strapped to the hospital gurney is the same person who, moments later, is free and fulfilled in the presence of the Lord. What new completeness, dimensions of being, glorious relationships, expansion of boundaries! And so with the one who has “died with Christ” (Rom. 6:8). The old sinful nature is dead. Paul taught in his letter to the Romans that just as death no longer ruled over Christ after He rose from the dead, “you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v. 11).
The change made by the Spirit in the core person is so radical that you could also liken it to a birth. That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again to enter the kingdom of God (see John 3:5). The nine-month-old fetus and the newborn are the same person but what radical new dimensions of being! New potentials, new relationships, new systems of nourishment, new expansion of boundaries! And so with the newborn in Christ. Paul said we “put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth” (Eph. 4:24). Justified, regenerated and reborn! That is transformation! Why not celebrate today?