I love to listen to people give their testimonies and to hear how their lives have significantly changed because they have given their hearts to Jesus. Some of them recount pretty dramatic transformations—conversion from a life of crime, freedom from drug or alcohol abuse or other harmful ways of living. For some, they found freedom from their old desires the instant they accepted Jesus. Sometimes people have changed their entire focus in life, from being high finance, career-oriented business people to becoming missionaries for the poorest of the poor in Haiti or sub-Saharan Africa.
II Corinthians 5:17 tells us that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation—the old has gone; the new has come. Of course, such remarkable changes as the examples listed above are not always evident in every person who becomes a follower of Christ. For one thing, they may not have found themselves in such a dramatic position to begin with. Some of us work at putting our old habits behind us every single day. And very often we feel like we have failed because we keep fighting the same battle over and over again. Contrary to what some people imagine, life doesn’t become sweet and easy just because you decide to follow Jesus. As a matter of fact, sometimes it gets a lot harder because Satan gets a little upset when we change sides. So we will always have the battles to face. (John 16:33) The good news is that God isn’t surprised at our imperfections. He already knows all about them, and He doesn’t condemn us. (Romans 8:1) Jesus took all the punishment for all of those imperfections when He sacrificed Himself on the cross. Our penalty has been paid, and God loves us like He loves His own Son. There is absolutely nothing that we can do that can separate us from His love, (Romans 8:38-39) even if we make the same mistakes over and over again.
Becoming a new creation does not necessarily mean an instantaneous transformation from our personalities and habits. It means that we see Jesus, ourselves and other people differently, (II Corinthians 5:16), and because of this we strive to be the people that God wants us to be. (Ephesians 5:1) Our choices are based on different priorities, and we keep doing our best to make the right choices even if it is a challenge. It might take a lot of time and a lot of hard work, but there will come a day when the battles are over, and the creation that God envisioned us to be is complete. The effort will be worth it.