Follow Me: Putting the New Into the New Man

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Putting the New Into the New Man

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Follow Me: Putting the New Into the New Man

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A businessman was selling an old warehouse property in a decrepit part of town. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows and strewn trash all over the place.

He showed a potential buyer the property, taking great pains to explain how he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage and clean out the garbage. The buyer said: “Forget about the repairs. When I buy this place, I’m going to build something completely different. I don’t want the building, I want the site.”

We think we can just fix up ourselves on our own and therefore be new and improved for God and everyone else. But it simply doesn’t work that way.

This story is a powerful reminder concerning God’s design on those who desire to heed Christ’s invitation of “Follow Me” as we fully surrender to God’s call to salvation.

The apostle Paul adds spiritual perspective to this story by proclaiming: “Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness— righteous, holy, and true” (Ephesians 4:21-24 Ephesians 4:21-24 21 If so be that you have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That you put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
American King James Version×
, New Living Translation, 1996, emphasis added throughout).

What is Paul saying? That God truly desires our lives and where we are now, but also that He fully intends to create something absolutely new and different from what existed within us before!

So how does He go about putting the new into the new man, and what are some of the obstacles and blessings along the way?

Simply repairing or willing to replace?

Let’s begin by understanding Paul’s words as to what Jesus taught. Paul is expanding on a teaching shared by Christ in Matthew 9:16-17 Matthew 9:16-17 16 No man puts a piece of new cloth to an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up takes from the garment, and the rent is made worse. 17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runs out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
American King James Version×
: “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment: for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Today few know how to sew like previous generations, and most of us don’t carry wineskins. But a figurative image from our day can help: How often do we unwittingly get out our proverbial staples, tape and paper clips to shore up our personal issues in life when God’s plan is to completely replace our hearts with something far better?

Here’s a big obstacle to consider. We can become fixated on patching up what’s already there inside us rather than stepping aside and surrendering to God’s reality to allow His sustaining grace to build a new person.  

The fundamental biblical reality is this: God didn’t send His Son to this earth to make good men better, but to save dying men.

We think we can just fix up ourselves on our own and therefore be new and improved for God and everyone else. But it simply doesn’t work that way.

How often do we go to the store and bump into age-old brand products that are now repackaged as “new and improved”? God didn’t send His Son to this earth to die for us to simply keep our brand and settle for us to be merely new and improved with spiritual food coloring, but to be something completely different from a completely different source.

The world of dust vs. the world of the spirit

Let’s understand a contrast when it comes to God being our Creator. God initially designed mankind in His own image and likeness and made this special creation out of dust (Genesis 1:26-27 Genesis 1:26-27 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
American King James Version×
; Genesis 2:7 Genesis 2:7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
American King James Version×
). That’s where He started, but the creation story moves far beyond that initial work.

God started with dust, but He has determined to develop a new creation (not a fixer-upper) of and by the Spirit— His Spirit. The prophet Isaiah hinted at this in Isaiah 43:19 Isaiah 43:19Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
American King James Version×
in echoing God’s intent: “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth: Shall you not know it?”

This intent is amplified further by the apostle Paul’s declaration in 2 Corinthians 5:17 2 Corinthians 5:17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
American King James Version×
: “Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (NLT, 1996).

Make no mistake about it. God wants our “site”—yes, your life and mine—and not simply to become vacant lots of mindless emptiness or some kind of celestial robots, but to maintain our individuality, personality, uniqueness and God-given gift of free will. And He has personally selected us to become a part of something special that He is building, not of dust but of Spirit. 

Ephesians 2:19-22 Ephesians 2:19-22 19 Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together grows to an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
American King James Version×
describes it this way: “You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God … Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

What God is inviting us to through belief and acceptance in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is entrance into a completely new existence. It’s called walking in the Spirit (Romans 8:4 Romans 8:4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
American King James Version×
; Galatians 5:16 Galatians 5:16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
American King James Version×
) versus shuffling through the world of dust.

We are to ultimately be changed from natural to spiritual—from “the image of the man of dust,” the first man Adam, to “the image of the heavenly Man,” Jesus Christ in glory (1 Corinthians 15:46-49 1 Corinthians 15:46-49 46 However, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
American King James Version×
). Yet this change begins within, so that new life is to start today.

How do you know you’ve left behind the world of dust and begun living fresh and anew? It’s when you come to fully trust that when God purchases you through and by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20 1 Corinthians 6:20For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
American King James Version×
), you have in faith given away to Him your lot in this human life and the life structure you’ve built that’s crumbling away through sin. You then begin allowing Him to build what He desires to plant inside of us—the very essence of the life-giving Spirit of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:45 1 Corinthians 15:45And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
American King James Version×
).

No more mixing and matching of old and new

The substance of Jesus’ teaching about the patch of cloth and new wine in old vessels tells us to stop mixing and matching old and new in what God has personally chosen to make His. God desires more than simply repairing us. He wants to replace the old us with something new and eternal. We need to be repeatedly reminded that we are no longer to operate in the world of dust, but of Spirit.

God desires us to be full partners in this adventure, and He never promises more than He can deliver. God doesn’t operate in a vacuum. He never requests us to leave one thing behind that He doesn’t replace by planting or giving something new.

God tells us in Ezekiel 11:19-20 Ezekiel 11:19-20 19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep my ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
American King James Version×
what He plans to offer those who hand over more than a building—those who hand over themselves —pointing out that God’s second creation of Spirit is ours to experience now: “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them, and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.”

I’ll conclude with a story of a man who had difficulty with his memory. He went to a doctor. The doctor said: “The only way I can reasonably help your memory is to impair your eyesight. Which do you want to retain—your eyesight or your memory?” The man answered: “Don’t take away my sight! I’d rather see where I’m going than remember where I’ve been!”

What’s the point of sharing this story? Simply this: What lies behind us are memories of the world of dust and its temporary, futile, patchwork existence. It’s time to escape the mix-and-mingle patchwork existence that Jesus spoke about to His disciples and heed His clear call to “Follow Me” and experience “a new creation” as we are invited to truly allow all things to become new!