“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life has gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)
I memorized this verse in college. I thought I understood its meaning well. The old life was my propensity toward sin. I had no power over sin, but when I became a believer, I had the power to not sin. That concept is true; without Christ, I have no power over sin. Yet, that truth alone limits the meaning of the verse.
What does my old life consist of? My beliefs, my identity, my values, my thoughts, my behavior are all part of that old life that scripture talks about. It is too narrow to think of the old life as just my lack of power over sin. My old life had me on the throne. I was in charge and in control. I was a Queen desperately protecting her kingdom which involved portraying an image that others would accept. Deep down I was afraid I wasn’t valuable. I had to convince myself and others I was. Most importantly, I had to prove it to God.
I still didn’t understand that the gospel was proof I was valuable to God. Intellectually, I got it. But practically, I didn’t live like it. I viewed myself the same as before, like the world values people. I came up either superior or inferior in comparison to others. Pride would raise its ugly head when I felt superior to others who struggled with sins I didn’t. It never dawned on me that I was sinning by being so prideful. I felt inferior when others saw my failures and mistakes. My worth vacillated like a clock pendulum.
Before I came to Christ, Satan fooled me into thinking I was on the throne, when I was really in prison. After I came to Christ, I put him on the throne, but I went in and out of prison like a recurring convict. My unbiblical view of myself kept me in chains. I was prisoner to my sinful patterns to protect my old identity. I was changing and growing, because God never lets us stay where we are, but I was stuck in the lies about who I was for so long.
Jesus came to set the prisoners free. “I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom, and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.’ They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures and on hills that were previously bare.” (Isaiah 49:9 NLT) When I trusted in Christ, I became a new person. I became who I was truly created to be, a child of the King of Kings. I became a sheep in the fold of the Good Shepherd.
I no longer had to exist in the darkness of the lies that Satan told me about who I was. I could come into the light of the truth and be set free from my sinful patterns committed to keeping my old self alive. I was free to be who God was making me to be.
It just took God awhile to help me understand it, believe it and embrace it. Now I can rejoice in all my failures and shortcomings because they keep me humble. God uses them to change me more into the image of his son. It is so wonderful to live in the light and be set free!